“learning is a dance but sometimes we forget the music”

the offer

#freelearning John's new method

wait till you see it sideways :)

see the future clearly

"John prevents you wasting money on resources that will not help learning  and helps you focus on the tools

& activities that make a difference"

( Doha, December 2010)

•strategic reports

• pragmatic action plans

•senior team mentoring, briefings & awaydays

Powerful Learning tools

Challenges that get you making and learning outside your comfort zone. The aim is to nudge you deeper in your understanding by having to explain something in a new way – brain numbing challenges for groups – because we have this theory that in the setting of activities we expect much too much from individuals and way too little from groups. The design of learning activities is often an afterthought - we need to turn it into art form – in the classroom – or the boardroom.The first iteration of the Learning Event Generator is curated here along with long hyperlinked wordlists for the component challenges. Here is a simple  online version of the LEG so that you get the idea.  Editable versions are also available from us.

John talks learning score

Hello welcome to our  blog from John Davitt & the team that pulls together all that we do and allows us to tell you about our work and current  projects in a more joined up way. All views and ideas are our own and the only commercial services mentioned are those we have tried and tested. Treat the contents of this blog as a series of permission slips for the future.

If you want to enquire about booking John for an event in 2014  click here for the enquiry page

John Davitt is a teacher, inventor, broadcaster and digital toolmaker. He has worked in the international education sector for the last twenty-five years and is a specialist at cutting through the mystique to assess the practical potential of new resources. John has worked alongside teachers in schools in UK, Africa, USA and China and he is committed to levelling the playing field regarding access to new learning opportunities.

Davitt is the author of the book “New Tools for Learning” (2006) a practical guide as to how to make the technology fit the learning need, and WordRoot an interactive CD guide to words and their etymology. In 2006 he also invented and developed “The Learning Score” (www.learningscore.org) a visual tool that maps out and shares learning intentions as a graphical event – rather like a music score.

His latest project is the  Learning Event Generator and “the LEG” – an interactive learning tool for mobile devices where you literally shake up a learning challenge.

John’s most recent work with education centred around “Designs for active and affordable learning” (D4AL). As well as work with individual governments and consortia John took D4AL on the road as an Active Learning Roadshow.

In his keynotes & training sessions John champions a pragmatic and realistic view of the new technology revolution. His approach is one that fuses intermediate and advanced technology approaches/where we keep the best of past practice and augment it with the benefits that new tools have to offer.

First my possessions then they came for my ideas

Last Monday I had my van stolen – I was travelling across England and had stopped to deliver a workshop. The van was loaded with possessions, all my hi-fi, hard drives, software and furniture polishes gone. A particular loss was an Arezzo record deck – I’d suggested the name (after Guido Arezzo the Italian monk who invented the musical score) to a friend  who runs SRM Tech when he developed a  wonderful perspex vinyl record player a few years back. You will see why the name is significant in a moment :) After saving up and paying him in instalments I had  the third prototype S/N3 in the van. The other big loss was my inheritance,  Dad’s table saw an Elu flip over 171 no less, and lots of furniture thats probably part of a roadside pyre by now.

I had one of those jaw-dropping moments as I walked across the car park and realised I wouldn’t be driving to deliver my keynote. I won’t say where it happened – suffice to say it was mainland UK and I continued my journey home to Ireland as a foot passenger. It took a few days to recover and realise that all I had lost was stuff and you work – and recover.

Then Friday it got worse – I had my ideas stolen. Somebody dropped me an email suggesting I check out the Larnaca Declaration. A group of  academics  had gathered in Larnaca in autumn with  their leader publishing the rather grandly named “Declaration” in December 2012. Why didn’t they call it a “proposal” and carry out a little more research into what already existed in the field I wonder. Basically the big idea in the paper is a direct appropriation without attribution of my Learning choreography /  Learning Score idea – the idea of laying a lesson out in time and composing it as you might compose a piece of music. I developed it  in 2004/5 as a concept and piece of software in Flash – before the later Learning Score software and imminent Windows 8 app (www.learningscore.com). Even more troubling is that many of the delegates were personally familiar with my ideas and tools – I’d done presentations for them. I talk about the Musical Score for lesson planning idea here

The “Declaration” asks?

Can we apply the lesson of music notation to education? Could we develop a way to describe the activities of educators and learners in classrooms (and online) so that great teaching ideas could be conveyed from one educator to another? Can we help to make implicit, private teaching ideas into explicit, shared ideas?

How novel ! The answer of course is yes we could and I have already done it.

I wrote to the author James Dalziel and said I was concerned that the ideas contained are represented in my Learning Score idea and the software . So far – no answer. I would appreciate any colleagues familiar with the Learning Score (currently in use by 1500 teachers around the world) having a read of the Declaration and emailing me a short thought on whether they think it uses my prior and declared ideas.  I may need some support as these are large institutions. You can read the whole declaration here http://www.larnacadeclaration.org It also  gives a useful summary of current developments in Learning Design.

As luck would have it I’m on a short lecture tour to Australia in February/March 20013 – I think I’ll be popping into  Macquarie University to discuss this further. Email me if you fancy a PerkyLearning workshop looking at how we up the challenge, build struggle and broaden the bandwidth of learning opportunities.

I’ll also be having a chat with  Australian Government “Office for Learning and Teaching” (who part  funded the paper) to let them know that they are unwittingly funding conceptual land-grabbing with scant research.

Can some good come out of this? – I’m sure it can – I have learned afresh that our ideas are more important than our possessions.
I am also happy to work with all parties -to bring powerful tools to teachers and learners  -  The Learning Score and the Learning Event Generator are provided free to educators around the world – but not for much longer I’m afraid. At the moment I’m finding  it a little hard to keep confidence in the education world where ideas are not respected and attribution is rare .

Watch this space – I’ll keep you posted. If anyone has a contact for a good international IPR lawyer I’m in the market. I’m also in the market for a VW T4 Transporter van – old & cheap please:)




Strong smell of Struggleware in the air

The concept of struggle is fairly central to deep and powerful  learning opportunities.  I wanted a word to describe the process of “scratch your head” challenge that occurs when you are trying to do or make something new that requires deep thought, iterative experiment and heavy doses of failure on the way towards deeper understanding. If a Google search is a paddle in the “shallows” where you barely get your feet wet – struggleware is swimming and looking for a landing place on that farther rocky shore of deeper understanding.

The idea came to me as I interviewed an eight year old girl, who was using Flash in a Redbridge school about eight years ago. She was working under the guidance of the  deep-thinking Geoff Dellow – who saw the value of using complex and challenging tools like Flash with young students. She fixed me with an unblinking eye and said ‘Don’t think this is easy for us. Don’t tell people this is easy. This is a struggle for us.’ And I thought “Alleluia!”.  Struggleware was born.

HTML5, Java,  Scratch, Flash, Minecraft and the now defunct HyperCard (Apple never realised the power of the tool it gave away and let die) all qualify as struggleware in my book. (A teacher builds a demo of De Bono’s Thinking Hats in Minecraft  here). So do the small computer devices like the arduino board  and raspberry pi (now in production) that can be built and hacked to carry out any number of  computing & control tasks. Schools will soon have hack zones where things can be taken apart and learning shared. That’s the thing about Struggleware –  it needs space – space in the curriculum and space in the school.

The idea of Struggleware also led me to the development of the Learning Event Generator. I wanted a tool that broke the cycle of monomedia research and presentation and nudged the learner into deeper challenge based learning. In other words it seems that too often learning activities revolve around text research leading to text presentation. The learning event generator breaks this cycle by making you present your learning in over 310 different ways and only four of them involve writing directly. The aim is to up the challenge and hit the media shift key for learners.

Thinking we need a wikipedia entry for struggleware anyone help with that ?

PerkyLearning Spring 2013

PerkyLearning new for 2013 -  10 key ways perk up your learning

January 2013 Wales
Febuary 2013 Australia
March 2013 Australia/Singapore/KL

Suitable  for Schools / Education Authorities / cohorts / companies

An opportunity  to work with John Davitt  on PerkyLearning  – a series of  workshops, masterclasses and outdoor learning adventures.  Plan for a future of active learning in a connected world – contact John if you’d like to consider hosting a workshop in your region.
Remember you are PerkyLearning as soon  you escape the gravitational pull of the “always do” the ennui of the everyday.  In addition we wanted to find space for the conviction that  the ultimate resource of another, the outdoor world and new technologies of connection all have a significant part to play in building the most delightful learning opportunities.

I wanted a model for thinking about learning that lets “creativity in the door and innovation through the window”

Also why not consider a  standup for learning event in the evening for parents / school supporters and  the wider community on hte night before your event

Permission Slips for the future

“thanks for the ideas”

Sessions Include
10 ways to energize your curriculum / company  and refresh teaching and learning & information flow
300 new learning trajectories from John Davitt
Practical useful and achievable models of managing and thriving in the information age
How to hit  the TM shift key and turn takers into makers
1 hour guide to best of  the web resources – all the bits you might have missed

Free Resources
Walkthroughs (screen recordings / bookmarks and annotated suggestions)
key issues/phroases  to watch eg blended learning
Copy of John’s New Tools for Learning
Learning Event Generator for all departments – break out of that inertia box

If you get the chance to hear John Davitt — take it
this visionary highlighted……..

“John Davitt is the best keynote I have ever heard”
Hague, Netherlands  International Schools Conference

tapping into the potential of each other – illegal professional development

activity design from afterthought to art form

stop measuring start challenging – yourselves and the learners  you work with


small and subtle feedback

After a number of requests I thought I’d better write up the Minificates and provide a template idea for others to adapt. The idea is simple – you make some very small (and subtle)  certificates – a little bigger than a thumbnail for all the achievements and behaviours that you want to reward – then as the targets are met you leave a minificate on the desk – a voucher page can be made (with outlines) for students to stick them in (a la Green Shield Stamps)  and reclaim against rewards or they can go straight into their notebooks along with an annotation as to why it was awarded. Minificates also have a roll in formative assessment and could combine with the four word feedback idea written up last month. How do your minificates look? Why not get students designing their own minificates ? Less paper used for more feedback and celebration. Send me a sample of your ideas and I’ll set up an exchange forum on Google Docs.

click here to download Minificates as a PDF

Some reflections on typethetalk

During a recent visit to the Czech Republic I had the pleasure to be involved in a wonderful math’s lesson at the International School Prague. Students were divided into three teams and the leaders were emailed the task (to work out the area & length of hypotenuse of three triangles drawn around the school grounds in Google MyMaps) After a short planning session and some desk-based research the teacher, Anne Flaherty set the students free to choose their location and method. I watched as they then went on location and deployed over 10 different learning tools in their problem solving – from hand calculators to laptops by way of measuring tapes & metre wheels & iPhones. I have rarely seen such effortless and appropriate use of learning tools.

At the end we gathered back in class for a perceptive 10 minutes dialogue on the methods used and the results found. To make myself useful as students discussed their findings  I started to type in what they said – using the word processor and a large font size connected to the class projector  so that the students could see their views and the views of others in text in an almost live stream up on the big screen. This typethetalk approach clarifies and focuses the talk and also helps to hold important ideas and stops them vanishing into the air from which they came. I’d used the approach before but here it really seemed to help develop the ideas and the quality of response.

It struck me that this “typethetalk” technique has much to offer – it’s a sort of live blogging for the room – and of course the results can be emailed to all or even annotated as part of formative assessment. The next time there is a bit of useful dialogue going down why not jump on the word processor – it also moves the teacher to the sidelines as the talk starts to flow and sometimes this in not such a bad thing. Over time you might want to use tools like Cover it Live to broadcast the results on a live blog  – you could also  take it further by pasting in the odd picture etc. 
10/3/11  Thanks to Simon Knight via twitter for the link to the work done by Gerry Stahl and the Virtual Maths Team Project an idea that includes chat in a live collaborative environment

Here’s a sample of some “typethetalk” from the session some verbatim quotes and some general points

Typethetalk 17-2-2011 Maths, Prague ISP
“we presumed right angle
measured it on the ground
Google earth doesnt lie
we used a metre wheel
easy to follow lines”

“we used Pythagoras for right angle triangle\we had problems with terrain
so we redrew triangle in Google my Maps\
team 3”

3 methods
measured in google maps
measured in field from a new point
took co/ords north and east from Google earth then matched them via compass in iPhone
averaged this with our other answers &used calculator

best method ?

“Google is a pro company with satellite tech should be simple for this to be the best method”

“you cannot use measuring tools with map”

“you have to measure from a point the ….there is margin of error with maps..”

“we used an app for Phone using three methods and averaging together”

“Doing both ways a good idea – scientific proof works like this”

“Getting outside was a good way to do maths integration – we got more out of it because I had to go out and do something – when we go out and measure something we saw real life surveyors in front of the school – it clicked it was a real job using maths.”

Read more about the work I got up to at ISP from John Mikton’s Blog and from Patrick Green’s Blog (you can see me typing the talk in the corner of one of the pictures here :)

John Davitt March 2011

Time to draw a line under formative feedback

Formative feedback .. offering some thoughts to the learner so that they can change and develop what they are doing (while they are still doing it)  is one of those areas of education that everyone is in favour of.  Listening to speakers at conferences however I often think that many “talk a good formative assessment”  but far fewer leave you with some simple steps to help in the classroom. With this in mind I was thinking that a simple list of four columns could be used to give feedback and set targets for the next stage of learning. I have called this approach four word feedback and the idea that learners or groups are given a grid as the key and then a piece of tracing paper that the teacher or tutor has drawn a line on that links the four words together with something of the brevity of an old telegram ...”Good answer consider conclusion” or “Beautiful review consider comparison” The idea is that the student has to overlay the line to decode the feedback – a nice activity to bring attention to the feedback and all the teacher has to do is  just  draw a line.

I’ve been using it with groups working on tasks from the learning event generator in the last few months and it’s been working rather well. More work to do but thought it a good time to share the idea and a Google Doc to share some 4 word feedback grids – please feel free to add your own http://bit.ly/4wordfeedbackgrids

Finally thanks to Katherine Davitt who did me a quick film to illustrate the idea – sorry I look a bit shifty (it was early in the New Year and I’m better now) I would be very interested in some feedback from teachers trying the idea with students and letting me know what the results were. All you need is a grid – hand written or printed and some tracing paper.

“The Learning Dance” my talk at #WISE2010

How we made the WISE School of the Moment I  went to Google Docs – signed up for a free account then made three columns name, idea and  place in room:contact. I then selected Form from the menu and followed the simple steps to make a form. I then pasted the address of the form into www.bit.ly.com and shortened and customised the link to


You accessed that link, made a contribution and we built a “school”

Here are the contributions Our WISE School of the Moment

Link to learning event generator (with assessment) is here

I mentioned the backchannel behind the Generator has reached 300 ways to show what you know today www.bit.ly/300ways Like the Learning Event Generator this is an open source licence share and share alike – if you use it try to add some more ideas to the wiki.

The Presentation was 8 minutes and concerned the following key points

•acknowledge difference..build on it – give permission
•Know that where the internet falters the pocket might prevail
•Keep turning tools to purposes the makers never expected
(mobile  micropayment / health advice/pest control on crops in Punjab)
•Take time to find your own digital longitude / from fragile to agile
We looked at the RAG and finished with a quick dart around the Internet of Things Looking particularly at QR codes and how these will allow access through visual literacy and the labelling of resources.
Links for QR codes
Make your own codes here
List of Readers for Different Mobile phones
I ran out of time to show how the RFID tag on my umbrella opens up the BBC weather forecast  the kit I was using was $30 from Touchatag
In Conclusion I noted

Minimally Invasive Education, the work and the research findings of Sugatra Mitra  and the history of the Hole in the wall is here.


Put simply he found teachers didn’t want to go to areas where they were needed – true in UK as in the world generally so he sent a computer instead and found that children self-organised their learning. Now he is adding mentoring in the shape of a Granny looking over the shoulder literally and at an intercontinental distances via Skype. The next question of course of how do we build and assist the fragile developments and turn them into agile learning communities

Final Thoughts from “The Learning Dance”

“We need to invest in the sharp-end working with local groups that work perhaps with self-organising learners helping them with the choreography  of how they might organise their learning in a world that offers them increasing torrents of  content / OER but little help on approach paths to or advice on how to  journey through”

“Out there learners are dancing best hurry up if we don’t want to be late to the party”

freelearning with John Davitt

we invite you to discover freelearning
five simple steps to powerful learning from John Davitt

freelearning keynotes & workshop
an ideal way to put learning first and foster creativity for the new academic year
wait till you see this sideways :)

Put simply the shackled column is the default setting -  what we do on a daily basis -
Freelearning provides a method for considering how we can adjust & extend opportunities
across the five strands and in just changing a little – start to change all

“The freelearning model gives you five points of access where you can adjust the  range, power and the trajectory of the learning experience.
It’s a model for thinking about learning that lets creativity in the door and innovation through the window”

John’s freelearning method  combines  powerful learning, new technologies & common sense

“John prevents you wasting money on resources that will not help learning
and helps you focus on the tools & activities that make a difference”
Doha, January 2011

“John got us learning by doing so the “mists of uncertainty” quickly cleared”         Amsterdam Nov  2010

“John Davitt shows you how to move activity from afterthought to artform
and all thet tools and ideas are free”
Moscow March 2011

The sessions show staff
• how to adjust the cycle of  shackled learning
• how to preserve “the will to learn” for more learners
• how to share as a freelearning organisation
• how breakthrough education projects fit into the model

freelearning events include
• how to unlock & foster creativity
• how to build powerful group learning
• how to build outdoor learning adventures
• access 50,000 learning challenges
• getting up, out  and actively involved
• set of John’s Learning Event Generators & Learning Scores for all staff
•  guidance on how to integrate 30 free tools & web 2.0 resources

what we cover…
Creativity & Struggleware TM
Learning Event Generation
3000 Learning activities in Numeracy, Literacy, Science
Literacy  through telling stories & making things
Register your interest / BOOK event
WORKSHOPS limited to 35 delegates (5 tables of 7)
Keynotes audiences up to 150 – Let Eliza know your particular needs
She can arrange a Skype call with John to refine a particular programme


upcoming freelearning tours from John
June 2012 UK  & Europe
July 2012 USA
October 2012 Far East & Australia.

to make a booking or enquiry
visit  www.bit.ly/davittbooking

freelearning  tools (provided free to all delegates)
Davitt’s Learning Event generator
300 ways to show what you know
an example of  freelearning
currently in use in 1000s of
organisations worldwide
see it at www.bit.ly/legwork

the Learning Score
John’s latest software invention “the Learning Score” turns lesson planning into a creative graphical event  and allows teachers and learners to make a lesson in the same creative way they might edit a movie. Someone has called it “GarageBand” for learning. Find out more and download your  version in advance of John’s visit at www.learningscore.org

Want to know more or make a provisional booking www.bit.ly/davittbooking

Living powerfully in both worlds

One of my key themes at present (especially on the Designs for Active Learning tour) is the need to work at the point where “two worlds meet” My favourite example of this is the notebooks that have lived in my back pocket for 30 or 40 years. At first the cheapest wire bound versions – most recently (when funds allow)  slim and flexible A6 (ish) Moleskine cahiers
creased and loved

These notebooks act like a memory prosthetic and make me step “out of the moment” and note down a key idea or an intended action. A few years back going through an airport I noticed how quickly they could scan passports and searched Google for Passport Scanner. Up came the Fujitsu Fi 60 F. Ibought one and within a few hours of the scanner’s arrival I had scanned in a few year’s of my life. For the last two years these notes have lived on the shelf in old notebooks and also on my computer and phones as JPEG images or PDFs. Most recently I got a loan of an iPad and downloaded 10 notebooks as PDFs – they appear “on the shelves” in the bookstore with their battered brown covers.
all the notebooks up and ready to read

What a revelation to be able to read the notes at high res in larger than life mode – and scroll and zoom with fingers. On a recent flight to Australia I reviewed ten year’s of notebooks browsing back and forward by finger on my iPad
living in both worlds

I am now experimenting with the  PDF Highlighter App so that I can add notes and draw over the PDF of the notes on the iPad – I’m beginning to think that all students should get little notebooks that can live in back pockets along with guidance on the skills of notebooking like collage and colouring in :) on all courses now I invite delegates to make a doodle and if they want we make a PDF Book of group wisdom at the end of the day.  More to follow soon on the Notebooking front we will be running a Notebooking session as part of #lob11 in Mulranny Mayo Ireland at the beginning of June 2011.
John Davitt Nov 2010

Learning on the Beach Adelaide October 2010

Henley Beach Adelaide October 2010

During a lecture tour to Australia in October John worked with some teachers to plan and run some outdoor learning adventures.

The brief for us was to derive an outdoor learning adventure that would reinforce some of the work that students were doing in trigonometry – a scan of the online syllabus showed that Pythagoras’ Theorem was clearly in the frame.

We carried out a quick audit of site two days before taking a good few pictures so we could find five locations to hide the little plastic containers that would hold the learning challenge for each group. There was considerable potential in using the sea front with an outdoor meeting place  (especially the small amphitheatre) with an open municipal power supply that worked! Next I went to my Google home page signed in and then went to Google Maps and chose the tab “my Maps” There is an excellent tutorial video to take you through the process of making a Google My Map

We then made a map of the local area with five location pointers one for each group. For extension work I drew two large triangles over the area using the pier/jetty as a long side. Each group would also receive a challenge to work out the area or the length of the hypotenuse on these triangles in  addition to the challenge in their canisters.

can you work out area of top triangle? click to enlarge

It was simple job to connect a wireless router – the wireless network covered an area of 40 square metres. Students arrived with their own laptops  as they are part of a year 9 cohort that had all been given their own standard PC laptops in year 7 (so now they are two year’s old and well used)

We set the students into five groups of 5, each group given their own positional marker in a Google map that I had created for the event. Using their laptops and with careful use of zoom and by switching on of the satellite view this was enough to get a fix within 5 metres of where I had buried the clues capsules. We didn’t tell them any of that of course! We ran two sessions for two different classes and each session lasted 90 minutes.

Once found each capsule contained a few props pencils, printout of the rudiment of geometry rolled up small and a challenge. One family came to the beach for a picnic and sat straight on top of one challenge canister – luckily I had a spare challenge to hand – otherwise all capsules were found

Challenges included.

“Tell the story of Pythagoras’s theorem as a drawing with sticks in the sand”

“Conduct a radio interview with Pythagoras on the beach”

“Tell the story of Pythagoras through the eyes of Euclid or another contemporary

“Illustrate the theorem as an animation using materials found on the beach – led to a lovely seaweed enhanced version of the proof”

more work goes on in the background

One of our key learning intentions was that the challenge would help transmute whatever students already knew (or found via a quick Google) into a product that demonstrated the beginnings of group moderated learning.

Each student could get their clues then groups either went to the beach to film or back to the 40 metre square wireless zone to research and publish results. They were given the responsibility to get their final work onto my laptop via Bluetooth or memory stick. We opted for a mix of online and hand- held clues this seemed to help share the load and introduced a nice variety with students having to move between the two sources.

Great activity ensued, areas of triangles researched online then worked out on scraps of paper, some students using the key in Google maps estimated the length of the giant triangles others paced out the two sides not in the water. Even the head teacher took some time out to come and see what the students were up to.

At the end in a quick poll 70 % of students said they now had a clearer idea if the theory and how they could explain it to others. Possible follow up work will be to adjust the map so that students can click on parts of the beach where they did their work and see the movie that they made. We finished with a celebratory look at Rosie my old dog who had a particular knowledge in this area :)

Some comments

“That was great – can we do more learning outside?”

“How can we make our own maps?”

“Thanks for choosing our school”

“The search and the challenge were the high points for me”

Many thanks to Michael Shaw ( and all of the DECS team) and to the staff and Students of Henley High School for their positive “can-do” attitude they brought to the design and the adaption of the task

Want us to help run an outdoor learning adventure for you contact us here