Assistive technology and the age of the ‘device’

NDCO—Assistive Technology Session 20th July 2017

Big thanks to the Albury Wodonga Dyslexia Support Group for inviting me along to one of their monthly session this July. It was great to pass on my knowledge re the importance of the new technology advances (the role of the device) when it comes to people who experience communication hardships – often labelled ‘Learning Difficulties’.

With around 50 people in attendance it was fantastic to reach such an enthusiastic audience. I look forward to hearing back from the group about any advances they make on behalf their students and/or children as a result of the information provided. For those that couldn’t make the session, or if you have an interest into this subject I created a short video capturing the first part of the session and I also  posted a copy of the resource sheet featured on the night. Click here to view it on the NDCO region 15 webpage. (“Dyslexia Assistive Tech overview”).

If you would like to connect with a fantastic support group I would also highly suggest linking into the AWDSG via Facebook: Albury Wodonga Dyslexia Support – or  click here.

Don’t forget that if you would like me to come and do some hands-on sessions with your group, school or other, just let me know.


NDCO region 15 eDIN news 40th edition

The 40th edition eDIN news is now available.  Click here

As I indicated last month, I have included some extra references to the budget although the main impact points regarding school education and higher education funding were already pre-released prior to budget night.  I am also mindful of my comment  that just because it was indicated in the budget, doesn’t mean it is real. Except for the bit were it talks about the NDCO program being funded (ha).

In other news, it has a been a big month regarding Aboriginal Affairs with a major focus on the talks happening at Uluru during May. Interesting to see a push towards treaty rather then recognition. This is something that Victoria has been contextualizing for at least the last 12 months.

One of the behind the scenes issues I have been focusing on through this month is the impact (issues and opportunities) of the NDIS on the VET sector. I look forward to bringing readers a comprehensive overview in the near future. Already I am seeing the opportunity for positive change in the sector for all and the crucial role VET/Further Education may play for all mainstream connections with NDIS.

NDCO region 15 Mark Cottee

Big vision small steps matter continued – collective impact

On the 15 March 2017 I attended a strategic planning session hosted by NE Tracks LLEN as part of their overall review of reference groups throughout their footprint in the Hume region. Big thanks to Danny O’Donoghue CEO for the invitation and the facilitator Rob. Rather than give a straight overview of the session I have used it to reflect on what has become a major focus for me over the past several years as the NDCO – Collective Impact.

My first real encounter with this term came about as a small group of us local stakeholders went about setting up a network group to support local disability services. As part of that process I came across the Tamarack Institute. The Canadian based organisation professes, “Tamarack’s goal is to equip you with the skills, knowledge, resources and connections you need to make lasting change in your community. We support you in a number of different ways, wherever you may be in the world.”  Having waded through their resource, guides and practices it was evident that to solve complex community problems you needed a collective approach and I now carry this with me whenever I attend (or consider attending) strategic planning or problem solving community based networks.

In the past working as a Police officer I had been instructed to meet problems using the process of ‘SMEAC’ which is; Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration (logistics) and Communication. I have noticed this is not a long way from the Collective Impact ideals of; Common Agenda, Shared Measurement, Mutually Reinforcing activities, Continuous communication, Backbone support. I  think about this as I sit down for the session where the group will be covering; Current context, Where do we want to be, How will we get there, Next steps.

Let’s have a look at the current context – Benalla is hugely representative of a lot of regional towns throughout Victoria and this group collected here today had the prime focus of how to provide options, pathways and supports for the youth within their community, especially when it comes to transition from school to work life. This includes positive health and well-being outcomes through community engagement and belonging. Following the traditions of most network type meetings we started with the ‘circle of death’. (For some reason I always have a mini anxiety attack waiting for my turn as we move around the circle of introductions. I’m not sure if the longer you have to wait for your turn is better or worse. My mind rehearses what I am going to say and then ignores it as I catch the waiver in my voice). So considering the  areas of community that impact on the topic it was good to see representation from the following: The Centre (Adult learning), Department of Employment (federal), Victorian Police, MADEC (Employment Agency), GOTAFE skills and jobs, Benalla Council, Recruitment Select, DHS Centrelink, Tomorrow Today Foundation, The Personnel Group (Ticket to Work program), Benalla Library, Department of Education (state), Mayor of Benalla, Benalla councillor, Benalla P12 (School), Benalla flexible learning (School), Catholic college, Worktrainers (‘geared for careers’ program), several representatives from the LLEN as hosts.

Previously, representatives from these above organisations or services would meet in two different groups to provide advice, actions or platforms for advice or actions as to the question proposed above regarding youth. So the question immediately before us was around the positives and minuses of these two groups. Note, in simple terms, that one group (Education action development team) had been dedicated to education engagement and the second group (Jobs and skills action development team) was focused on the post school process.

(+) there is a strong commitment/ wide variety of stakeholders/ great opportunity to share and network / provided a forum to act collectively / good introduction platform / good stuff is happening

(-) where are the young people within the process / stronger purpose and follow on communication required / lack of awareness re the reference group members and broader community / poor continuity of services re outreach / greater potentials for collaboration/ in built barriers within program members / not being a true representation of a collective action required / gaps of representation / lack of measuring what is success.

The next part of the process involved rating the following systems or categories – as either broken, weak, normal, or strong. Education (school /tertiary / community), Youth services, Health services, Social enterprises, Foundations, Disability services, Employment services, Community, Networks and partnerships, Government, Media where all canvassed with a distinct theme of broken and weak dominating. Although the group did add a caveat to there judgment and added the word ‘improving’ to many of these fields of activity. Note the addition of ‘Transport’ as major underlying area of commonality for these broken and weak systems. One of the other dominate aspects, other than transport, was the continued reference to ‘outreach of services’ that come from other areas in an inconsistent and ad hoc nature.

But where is the ‘gut instinct’ of labelling coming from? Are we working too close with the stereotypical ideal of what constitutes the young person? My comment is that the problems faced are all normal because this is happening at a macro level in a lot of circumstances and in most locations. (Or if I had my cynical hat on I would have just said normal in the context of ‘SNAFU’). Whilst I am mindful that this exercise is there to drive the conversation I reflect back on my recent experience with the process undertaken by Deakin University and the ‘Leave No one Behind’ series of workshops with Wodonga Council (see here), and the more intense mapping process.

Immediate question – where do the two reference groups sit in relation to the overall community map (other networks, initiatives and projects) noting that the LLEN as an individual sits separate to the process. After some discussion it is deemed that there is no need for two separate groups.

Given a one group scenario, how do we capture the intent of this single reference/advisory group. The follow draft statements came from the floor – ‘Better youth outcomes, social and economic, by raising valid aspirations, through informing youth of their potentials, building community ownership and awareness, building sharing cohesion of support, advocacy for young people.’ So we had the basis of a vision and mission statement, with due consideration the following – the need to refocus on the spheres of influence and capabilities of the collective. In summary, “better social, educational and economic outcomes for young people.”

But what does the group do? The first and loudest ideal from the floor is NETWORKING. When broken down this encompasses the below;

  • Provides a collaborative space / Host discussions for joint problem solving.
  • Sharing ideas and knowledge / Analysis gaps in the system
  • Discussions for collective actions / Analysis impacts of actions
  • Encouraging best practices of service delivery / Establishes partnerships.
  • Guides strategic direction / Advocates for an improved system

I see the similarity to the intention of other networks in the region and I recall the recent presentation on partnerships from Dixon Partnering Solutions at our recent NDCO conference. In that context there is one underpinning word that drives the efficiencies and effectiveness of all such networks and that word is ‘TRUST’. For these networks to succeed and thrive trust has to be at its centre. What I have noticed is that there is a collective drive within our communities to work much more collaboratively and I have sensed a definite shift in this space. I do have real hope that the collective impact change is coming, is happening and I would like to finish by saying ‘trust me’ but no, more accurate is trust one another with the big vision and pay attention to the small steps that matter. I look forward to seeing how this group proceeds out of the reinvigoration process and also how its outcomes align with the other similar workshops being conducted in the Wangaratta and Mansfield locations.

NDCO region 15 Podcast # 2 featuring Kelly McGregor

This month I caught up with Kelly McGregor, Adult English Migrant Program teacher at Wodonga TAFE. This thirty minute session continues my investigation into the  CALD further education and employment experience. In this months episode Kelly walks me through the process of arrival and initial integration into local communities undertaken by refugees and migrants. We also cover some of the demographics, common and not so common experiences. Big thanks to Kelly for given me her time and also sharing her valuable insights.  Click here to access the audio file.


NDCO region 15 Podcast #1 featuring Sarah Whitling

Late last year I sat down with Commercial Cookery Teacher and good all round egg Sarah Whitling from Wodonga TAFE to discuss her recent experience working with a group of African students. This recording goes for around 30 minutes and covers a range of topics, challenges and successes as she endeavours to bring new skills to the students, and more importantly, find a meaningful work experience opportunity for them. Please enjoy my first outing in the world of podcasting and a special big thanks to Sarah for letting me pick her brain and sharing her time.

You can download the file from the following link – click where indicated in the appropriate article:



Wodonga TAFE Teacher Sarah Whitling – receiving a special recognition award the day after the podcast recording.