“Literacy is essential, but a passion for ideas and culture, learning and curiosity is far more important. Kindle that passion and you are making a large difference in the life of an individual and our society.” – Darcy Moore, Australia

“I feel passionately that educators must be tech-savvy and have nurtured this whenever and wherever possible,” says Darcy Moore. “Technology is changing how we learn and also the nature of our democracies. We need to understand this and assist students to be good digital citizens. We need to model and be the change we wish to see in others.”

Moore, now a deputy principal, began his career teaching English. “My focus at school is on teaching and learning using technology,” says Moore. “I am particularly interested in the transformation of learning that must happen in high schools and how digital technologies can be employed to this end.”

Moore has been blogging since 2004, and is a skilled photographer. He credits his blogging with allowing him to connect and share — by modeling reading and writing — using technology. “My skills with creating images, especially via photography, have grown greatly since I started teaching in 1991 when very few tools were affordable,” adds Moore. He won an Edublog award for the Best School Administrator Blog in 2010 and also in 2012, and was a finalist in the Best Australian Blogs 2011. He is also an Adobe Education Leader.

Today, Moore shares his story of developing from a teacher into a leader, and how “opening himself” to others has enriched his profession, as well as the lives of his students.

Can you describe how your professional achievements have advanced innovation in education?

Many senior leaders and experienced teachers “talk the talk” but are not demonstrating how technology is changing their own teaching, leadership or life. Five or six years ago the concept of a PLN (Personal Learning Network) or PLE (Personal Learning Environment) was clearly an important one for teaching and learning. It was a concept to be championed at conferences and in schools. It is evident now that tools like Twitter have allowed educators across the world to connect and share. Social media has transformed commerce and travel, politics and slowly, education too. It is rewarding to see the growth in educators connecting after many people could not see how these tools meant anything for classrooms.

In 2005, I was instrumental in having Wikipedia —  that wonderful collective enterprise that aims to share all knowledge — added to the prescribed texts list for senior HSC English study in NSW. At the time many were shocked that such a website would be listed with Shakespeare and Austen for 17 to 18-year-olds to study. Clearly, something was happening that had never happened before and it was, against the odds and dictates of common sense, actually working.

I always feel disappointed that more progress is not being made in our often-vexed field of education. It would be nice to sit back and watch our success in changing how learning and schooling works practically for students. Much has changed but there is much that needs to be done. The “product” is never completed and our “business” always needs to be more profitable.

What has changed as a result of your efforts?

I am not sure that anything has changed as a “result” of my efforts, but it is wonderful to feel connected to so many educators and learning professionals who are striving to make a difference in their schools and institutions. I am a much more skillful person with technology than what I was when the century opened and my leadership and teaching is changed. I feel certain that many colleagues and students, including pre-service teachers, have been motivated by my passion for using technology to connect and share ideas.

Due to a leadership exchange with a colleague in a Danish school, I became passionate about improving how our schools assist students to understand the importance of participating in our democracy. Our school now has a student leadership team that is connected to all our local politicians, including the federal and state members, local councilor and Lord Mayor. These students are learning about leadership and paradox as well as our democratic systems from community leaders. We are sharing the model widely.

Often students and younger teachers have appreciated that I am into contemporary culture whilst valuing the more traditional areas of education, especially wide reading, history and literature. It is much easier to motivate a student when you value what they do and have experience with those popular cultures, too. Many a student has been surprised at the computer games and music I liked. To be truthful, overhearing a student say, “Mr. Moore is up to Level 26” did give me a sense of satisfaction.

How can others facing similar challenges implement what you’ve learned through your work?

Read! Write! Get connected! Be passionate about what you do! Model what you believe! Share!

How have you applied technology in innovative ways to support your work?

Our school is acknowledged, not just for our enthusiastic uptake of technology for learning and administration, but for the leadership of the senior executive in supporting risk-taking and innovation. I like the idea of allowing staff to try out ideas and take risks knowing that the leadership of the school is holding a net, not digging a pit (with stakes). Staff see our public advocacy on many issues, not just about technology but using tools to communicate ideas to a wide audience of parents and citizens, students and teachers. They know we wish to support all to be resilient and optimistic with practical assistance and help.

In 2013, our youngest students will be issued laptops through an innovative program to ensure that there is no gap between the technology used in primary school and the high school. A BYOD policy permits students to use what tools are right for them, too.  “Learning how to learn” is our mantra. Students at our school can gain international Microsoft and Adobe certification. We are the only state school in NSW that is also an examination center for this Microsoft Office Specialist certification.

“Lecturing” pre-service teachers at university is fraught with challenges, especially in using technology to model how learning can be supported effectively. Often it is talked about rather than used. My course supports students to use technology by insisting that they use it every “lecture”, as does the lecturer. Edmodo, WordPress, Twitter, Voicethread and a plethora of tools are used to share learning. We connect with experts outside our lecture hall.

What is the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome to ensure students are receiving a quality education?

Community attitudes in Australia are often very positive about education and parents support their schools. However, we do have an attitude (and obstacle) that says that learning is something done at school formally, not generally. Parents really need to encourage their sons and daughters to read and write more for pleasure. This is a key issue for Australian students. The best way for this to happen is that parents’ model reading and writing for pleasure. This is challenging for many parents.

What is your country doing well currently to support education?

There is a general acknowledgement that we need to do better as a community in our attitudes towards learning. The vast majority of professional educators, parents and politicians know that we need to reform and change quickly to maintain our quality of life in Australia. This attitudinal change is an important one and will continue to assist us to progress.

What conditions must change in your country to better support education?

Equality of access to educational resources and opportunity is skewed towards the wealthier members of the community. We need to ensure that all have access to quality education and resources, not just pay lip service to the issue. It is ridiculous that students and teachers do not have access to a device and the World Wide Web in every classroom. This must change yesterday.

What is the best opportunity for innovation in education?

Model what you believe. The ubiquitous tools that allow us to design and create are free or very inexpensive and allow all to publish and share. There is no excuse for learning to be a dusty chore trapped in a classroom on a spring day. Live a life that demonstrates the passion you have for learning generally, our culture and your subject areas. Live your innovation and share it with students and colleagues. Get your students creating and sharing.

What advice would you give a new teacher (or to anyone wanting to make a difference in education)?

Read widely and communicate that passion to all, students and staff, parents and community members. I read the other day a pithy quote, “today a reader, tomorrow a leader,” which I like very much indeed. Our democracies really need an informed citizenry and the cold hard reality is that, as Mark Twain famously said, the person “who does not read,” has no advantage over the person “who cannot read.” Literacy is essential, but a passion for ideas and culture, learning and curiosity is far more important. Kindle that passion and you are making a large difference in the life of an individual and our society.

What educational “trend” do you think is helping students? Is there a trend that is getting in the way of learning?

Data is an important tool for educators and administrators, as well as political leaders. However, this trend is often disingenuously used, especially when inconvenient data is ignored or used for political rather than educational purposes. Data is essential but it needs to be used and discussed honestly to make policy.

If you could give one educational tool to every child in the world, what would it be? Why?

Opportunity through Internet access to the World Wide Web is essential for all. Many children on our planet do not have access to the basics of life or education. Opportunity and literacy go hand in hand, but access to the most omnipresent of our learning tools is essential. Food, water, nurturing and online access to learning, knowledge and information are all essential.

Darcy Moore

  • Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
  • Current residence: Kiama, NSW, Australia
  • Education: St Nicholas Primary School, Old Bar Public School, Murrundi Public School, Taree High School, University of Newcastle.
  • Website I check every day: My Google Reader for 100s of RSS feeds
  • Person who inspires me most: David Attenborough – I love how he teaches, travels and continues to learn into “old age.”
  • Favorite childhood memory: There are many, of course, but a simple one of “rotating” to the high jump on a sport afternoon when I was about 9, running straight at the bar, sailing over it, then discovering it was higher than the older kids who had just been competing.
  • Next travel destination (work or pleasure): Walking with a friend in the Picos de Europa, Spain.
  • When was the last time you laughed? Why? My youngest daughter (6) often makes me laugh very hard. She is a wit with a keen eye for the ridiculous. Recently, while travelling in Japan, she had us in hysterics over her ‘favorite’ billboard.
  • Favorite book: Jonathan Livingston Seagull but here’s many more: http://darcymoore.net/my-favourite-books/
  • Favorite music: Too many to list but I always come back to Nick Drake’s three albums and the haunting Symphony No. 3 by Gorecki.
  • Your favorite quote or motto: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” OR “Fight evil, read books.”
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