In the Realm of the Senseless

When we first met Sandra Milligan, “Enterprise Professor” at the University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education, she was ringleading a bunch of school principals in a campaign against the ATAR. The Age‘s Adam Carey gave Milligan and her cronies a free kick article, because of course it’s not the job of an education reporter to question whether their primary source might be a know-nothing ideologue. Now, Milligan is back in the news, partnered with something called Realms of Thinking, with the free kick “exclusive” provided this time by The Educator‘s Brett Henebery.

God only knows what Realms of Thinking is. The website is a glitzy, unnavigable maze of grandiose claims supported by nothing of substance. We could find no information on mathematics other than a happy testimonial. Which is maybe no accident, since stodgy old disciplines are not really what RoT is about. From Henebery:

The platform provides a pedagogical teaching framework for creativity, innovation and entrepreneurialism that can be applied to every area of the curriculum from the 1st year of school to Year 12.

If it is not clear what RoT is, it is pretty clear what RoT is selling. The About page of the RoT website begins,

Realms of Thinking transforms the professional practice of educators and grows the capacity of every student to think creatively.

Realms of Thinking is playing a vital role in influencing the broader education landscape of Australia. It is doing this by challenging many of the preconceived norms associated with education through the preferencing of creativity, innovation, imagination and future-oriented thinking.

The Think System comes to mind. And for long-term readers of this blog, the calls for “innovation” and “future-oriented thinking” and so forth will ring a familiar and depressing bell. It is all highly reminiscent of the “21st Century Skills” and other nonsense championed by the Center for Curriculum Redesign, the American clowns contracted by ACARA to prepare the quicksand foundations for ACARA’s inevitably ramshackle curriculum.  And, according to Henebery, ACARA is in on the RoT scheme as well:

The [unexplained] software, linked to ACARA, will also provide schools with invaluable data about practice in classrooms and curriculum areas so they can target and improve teachers’ professional development.

Of course. Because ACARA is so future-oriented.

Why do this? According to the Principal of the school in which RoT was developed,

[the world has] entered a period of change like none other in human history … The rate of change is accelerating …

Really? The rate is accelerating?  As it happens, the third derivative of position is referred to as the jerk. Anyway, the Principal explains:

As advances in AI are made, education can no longer be primarily about content delivery and content regurgitation. We have to change the way we educate young people, or they will be unemployable.

Again with the AI mongering, and always with the straw. Milligan then runs with the ball:

Realms of Thinking is giving us an opportunity to develop some assessment methods and approaches that will enable schools to measure the things they really value that cannot be measured using traditional methods of assessment

Ah. So, the traditional methods of assessment don’t apply. How convenient.

These are the competencies and capacities that students will need to thrive in an unknown world in the future.

Milligan and her colleagues seem to know a surprising amount about this unknown future.


There is plenty more, in Henebery’s article and on RoT’s hilariously bad, tellingly bad website. None of it contains anything of sufficient substance to contest. Not that Milligan or RoT care, since they’ve got their money and they’ve got ACARA on board. And Henebery doesn’t care, since he got his exclusive. No one cares that this is nothing more than the glossy selling of something no one can even be bothered to state clearly enough to be evaluated. Which, to be fair, demonstrates an impressive level of entrepreneurship. At least of the P. T. Barnum variety.

6 Replies to “In the Realm of the Senseless”

  1. “As advances in AI are made, education can no longer be primarily about content delivery and content regurgitation.”

    Hmm. If anything, AI is encouraging the teaching of knowledge and the face-to-face, in-person assessment of knowledge (written or otherwise). Assessments completed outside supervision are more likely to have not been completed by the student than before.

    I say “…encouraging the teaching of knowledge” because the way I see AI being incorporated into standard software is as tools that will suggest elements of something that you are writing/creating, or templates for such, given some training data. The workflow for writing an email may change to being able to see suggestions based on the subject line, and then choosing a good one to start with before editing it appropriately. Knowledge is the only way you will be able to meaningfully use these tools without falling the obvious pitfalls.

    How does the argument against “primarily content …. regurgitation” work with AI? People should be taught to… what, generate good queries for the AI? That’s not a very deep skill. Is there more to it?

    1. I can see AI changing a lot of things. I cannot see it changing school education except because people such as Milligan use it as an argument for what they already do.

    1. Assuming your question is serious – I would suggest that this is beyond the job description of a Mathematics teacher.

      If your question was in jest, ignore my response.

      1. @RF: My question was not in jest – although I think that nobody will take it seriously. However I was referring to what students learn at school generally, not only in mathematics. The question would not have been out of place in 1923.

        1. I was not teaching in 1923, so I cannot say with any experience what was or was not relevant to be teaching.

          War, it happens. Chances Australia will be involved in a major war in the next decade? Pretty high.

          Am I going to amend any lesson planning as a result of this? Nope.

          Why not? I do not know enough about war or how to prepare for it. I will stick to what I know (although, to be fair, with the new VCE curriculum documents, that is a smaller set of ideas than I would like). If students ask, there are plenty of people I can direct them to who have far superior knowledge to my own. Does this mean I am preparing them for war? I would suggest not.

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