Learning design with Christian Long

Today, I, and colleagues from CORE Education, were lucky enough to spend a morning with Christian Long (@christianlong) who was over in New Zealand for the Learning@School conference (#lats12). It was an inspirational shot in the arm – it’s good to lift one’s head up over the parapet and get the long view, and horizon-gaze. Day-dream. Imagine.

Opening questions asked us to imagine A snapshot of our childhood when learning was exciting, and to imagine what the future of learning might look like. By the time we had shared stories, patterns were forming, a set of values that might form a bedrock for designing learning:

  • High motivation comes from following one’s passion
  • Authentic, what’s in-it-for-me? contexts spurred us on, especially those that had positive human impact
  • We loved choice, pathways, opportunities
  • We want to be empowered – and beyond that, we want to self-determine.

When we articulated what was important, we didn’t talk about architecture, or building design, or technology. We focused on the values. And we felt like a united team by the time we were done.

Christian took us through a journey, exploring the need for children to feel heroic (with reference to Matt Langdon’s Hero Workshop initiative), the need to face learning as design problem that must start with empathy and that has a human impact. We explored school design that allows for creativity, freedom, change, including New Zealand’s Albany Senior High.

And here were my three takeaways

  1. We can’t rebuild every school building – but we can look to put the values-driven learning first. If we are not making space so learners can access authentic experiences that are relevant to their lives, what are we doing?
  2. We can see learning as perpetually iterative, in beta, that deserves a personalised, agile response. Allow ourselves to forget the ‘problem’ of resources (no money, no time, old buildings, exams systems) and embrace the ‘design question’.
  3. That there is no definitive pedagogy. It’s not about ‘either/or’ – sometimes the sage on the stage can inspire us beyond imagining – but about the ‘and’ that suits the learner.

TEDxOverlake – Christian Long – Re-imagining Students As Agents Of Change – YouTube.


2 thoughts on “Learning design with Christian Long

  1. Hi Karen

    Good points to ponder. “Perpetually iterative” makes sense, as it is not so much about reaching a pre-determined goal as it is about an ongoing process of exploration, discovery, and reflection.

    I’m still carrying an idea around that I heard from Stephen Downes (I think from a conference presentation I downloaded): “The product of learning is not knowledge, the product of learning is a transformed learner”. No doubt, the teacher is also transformed in the process. Without transformation there is no change, and without change we are no longer “living” in the full sense of the word. So, how do we engage most effectively? I caught the following link to an article in the Chronicle (which poses good questions more than supplying answers):
    @Chronicle: “A Tech-Happy Professor Reboots After Hearing His Teaching Advice Isn’t Working” goo.gl/9pzxl

    Best wishes,



  2. Thanks for stopping by, Mark:-)
    …and thanks for the link, will investigate. The iterativeness (if there’s such a word…) is inherent in the NZ curriculum, in the form of inquiry, and it is spilling slowly into people’s practice and processes. That teacher transformation to which you refer (and I also admire Downes’ work) reminds me of the phrase “scarred for life” that I recently saw in a research piece on teacher professional development (Lamont, 2010)….the concept that a teacher is so transformed that they can never see their practice in the same way again. Powerful imagery….


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