Sunday, March 30, 2014

Technology and the transparency of knowledge flows

During this past month I've been meeting with every teacher to review progress towards the tech integration goals they set at the start of the year.  Last week I was talking with a teacher about her goal to using technology to improve communication with parents - and how important it is to communicate with them in the spaces where they already are.  Then this weekend I read the chapter in George Siemen's Knowing Knowledge about how technology helps us with today's knowledge flows.

Let's step back a little.  Today our technology tools are simply an extension of ourselves.  I rarely go anywhere without a mobile device of some sort.  Siemens asks:  What happens when we become integrated (implanted) with technology?  One of his arguments is that the capacity to do runs ahead of our understanding of the implications.  He writes, "morality and ethical discussions are trailing behind progress of science and technology".  The interesting thing is that technology permits both individual control and power at the same time that it allows others to control us.  He writes:
The desire for centralization is strong.  Organizations want people to access their sites for content/interaction/knowledge.  People on the other hand, already have their personal online spaces  As a customer they want to experience your company through their medium ... Most individuals have a scattered identity and presence [and] want the connection values of communities to be available to [them] in [their] own online space and presence.  Today, communities are about end-user control.
This bring me back to my discussion with a colleague in the week.  How best can teachers use technology to communicate with the parents of their students?  Should we be pushing out our communication to them in the spaces they already are (eg Facebook, Instagram) to show them how their children are making progress?  Or should we still expect them to come to us via a class or school website?  Siemens argues that often we are simply duplicating the functioning of physical activities in our virtual spaces - the example he gives is of online encyclopaedias  mirroring the structures of physical ones, when in fact we need something different that allows us to "step into the knowledge stream and capture points of interest for immediate use and future reference, and a connection to inform us if the knowledge source itself has changed.  We need the ability to capture and express our knowledge in a manner tha permits others to see what we are all about.  The capacity for shared understanding today does not arise from being exposed to the same resources.  It arises from being transparent with each other.  A tool is required that allows us to manage our identity and share what we wish with those we wish."

How can we as teachers be more transparent with our parent community?  How can we share what we do better with them in the personal spaces where they are and which they have control of?  How can we use technology to give them a better insight into what their children are doing and the progress they are making?

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Sunday, March 23, 2014

Approaches to teaching and learning

So often I've been asked what it is that I really love about the IB programmes that I've taught for so much of my career.  What is it that makes them so different from national educational programmes or "regular" methods of teaching?  It's hard to put my finger on just one thing, but I think that I really like the fact that the IB pulls on best practice and pedagogy from around the world, I like the way that it is forward thinking and takes account of the important future trends in education.

Around the world we are seeing a movement away from a knowledge-based, exam-driven educational system to one that is more performance-driven and student-centred.  I've just read back over that last sentence and now I'm not sure if that is really true.  I do hear a lot of talk and read a lot about the movement towards more critical thinking, creativity, metacognition and so on as important goals for education - but is it really happening?  Let's examine some of these trends:
  • Multiple intelligences:  I first came across this theory when teaching at ISA when we had a guest, Dr Thomas Armstrong, who introduced us to Howard Gardner theories.  Later, when doing the Harvard Project Zero summer school I had the chance to revisit this theory.  I think it is true to say that this has had an impact around the world, and that as a result education has become more student-centred to take account of the different learning styles of students.
  • Critical thinking:  regarded as a 21st century skill, the ability to pay attention to details, select relevant information, analyze and evaluate it and then reflect on it are all regarded as higher order thinking skills that are the goal of many different education systems.
  • Creativity:  another 21st century skill as we want students to be able to look at problems in new ways in order to come up with different ideas and original solutions.  Research tells us that constructivist approaches are more likely to help learners to become creative thinkers.
  • Metacognition:  when I first saw this term as a PYP thinking skill I was surprised - could primary school children really be aware of their own thinking?  Now I have come to see that in fact they can - and as a result they can take control of their own learning.
  • Social skills:  another area that is becoming increasingly important in education along with becoming a self-directed lifelong learner.
  • Constructivism:  the idea that knowledge is constructed rather than transmitted/received.  This perspective has the teacher moving more to the role of a facilitator and emphasises the social aspect in the construction of knowledge.
  • Student-centred/differentiated/individualized/personalized learning: which highlights the importance of inquiry and project based learning in a collaborative environment with students working in small groups to solve authentic problems.
  • Technology:  is becoming increasingly important around the world in the design of learning environments and curriculum.
The above ideas have been taken from an IBO publication by Na Li about Approaches to Learning.  I'm interested to read on about curriculum, pedagogy and assessment.

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Scientist -v- artist

Here's an interesting thought.  Daniel Pink writes that we are moving from an age defined by logic to an age defined by creativity which he defines as the ability to see new connections between existing ideas and concepts.  Being creative involves being able to form, breakdown and rebuild, which sort of reminds me of what we did as children playing with Lego - this was in the day when you just got boxes of bricks and no plans of how to assemble them.  By the time I had my own children, however, Lego came as kits - pirate ships, castles and so on.  There was a huge booklet showing where every brick had to go.  There was structure and consistency, but not a lot of creativity.

This is what George Siemens writes about the science and art of learning:
It's important to understand and measure ... the impact of training and learning.  Unfortunately the scientists of learning have the dominant voice in the learning space.  The artists are not being heard.
The scientist's role is one of determining best approaches to knowledge discovery, creation and dissemination .... What is the role of the artist in the learning space?
The artist is the individual who sees the magic in learning.  They may not know exactly why something worked well, but can see that the learners are changing, growing and developing ... the artist sees the beauty of uncertainty and values learning as both a process and a product.
We need the voices of both the scientist and the artist  Nether one is necessarily better than the other.  Both, held in balance and for appropriate task, are needed for learning and knowledge sharing.  
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Reflection and blogging

After a week's holiday in northern India I'm back, continuing to read further in George Siemen's Knowing Knowledge and I'm at the section that deals with emotions and creativity.  As I read through the chapter, two things struck me and made me think about why I blog and the value of reflection.  Siemens writes:
There is something rewarding about having an idea - owning it, being recognized for it.  Even when we share we attach identity to what we have crated.  In creating knowledge, we experience life, identity, hope.  To contribute to the public space, to be recognized, to be a part of something bigger - these motivations drive us.  
We want to belong.  We want to be a part of the many, but only if we are ourselves.  We do not want to face and cease to exist as we meld with the crowd.  Our tools are about individualization and personalization, but we individualize so we are a (unique) part of the crowd.
Although I couldn't have written something quite so profound,  this quote does summarize a lot of what I feel I should have said several years ago when asked why do you blog?  Why do you feel the need to blog under your own domain name?  At the time I focused on the reflection, but I think it is true - the motivation to continue to write is the need to explore my thoughts for myself, and not just accept the standard "educational theories".  Essentially it is all about being a learner:
When a learner sits down and thinks she/he is engaging in a reflective process.  Nebulous thoughts and feelings are put into words.  External ideas are scrutinized.  The natural capacity of harmonizing our emotions and thoughts with ideas and concepts is evoked - a small cognitive and emotional oasis in the desert of busyness, and, I imagine more learning occurs in only a few minutes here than hours anywhere else. 
Photo of the Taj Mahal taken on Wednesday. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

16 Trends: # 16 the demand for teachers

This series of 16 trends, based on the work of Gary Marx, finishes with the trend that is closest to my heart - the increasing demand for teachers in the face of competition for those very "knowledge workers" in other industries.  The ability of schools to attract outstanding educators is crucial to the future.  Worldwide there is still a shortage of teachers and school administrators and one possible reason is that teaching salaries are not competitive with salaries of other professions that require the same level of academic preparation.  So at the same time that more teachers are needed, there is increasing competition for these people from other industries.

Attracting teachers is not enough - as well as recruitment there needs to be retention.  Of all my friends who started teaching with me in the 1980s, none of them is still teaching full time in schools.  How can schools convince teachers to stay?  Statistics point to about half of all new teachers leaving the profession within 5 years.  I've also noticed a large interest in teachers deciding to move internationally to search for work.

I'm reflecting on my own experience.  I've had a number of positions where I've stayed for 3-4 years at a school and one where I stayed for 16 years.  What made that one different?  First of all I think I loved the sense of school community and of being part of an institution that was moving forward.  Secondly I think that professional development was a factor in keeping me at the school.  I loved the growth mind-set.  I loved the way that the school brought in world experts and sent us to international conferences where we could learn more and become even better at what we did.  Above all, I think, I loved the sense that I was valued, that the school would invest in me, and that the school would allow me to follow my own interests and passions.

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16 Trends: # 15 from preparation to adaptability

When I first started teaching in the 1980s I spent quite a lot of time talking to my high school students about getting ready for the world of work.  Society expects that schools will turn out students who are employable - and yet with a rapidly changing job market this can be difficult to do.  One thing we do know, however, is that the future will be multidisciplinary - whole new industries are coming into being by combining various disciplines and industries such as bioinformatics and telematics are ones that didn't exist several years ago.  There is increasing competition for well-educated and flexible people, who can trade in their old skills for new (for example librarians becoming cybrarians).

We are also becoming more mobile.  People are easily able to work from home.  I have started teaching online courses as well as face to face ones, for example.  I can carry my "office" with me wherever I go and last year even tried running an online course from my mobile phone while holidaying in Goa.

Trends 1 and 2 looked a population.  With an aging population there are shifts in students, workers and jobs.  Retired people in their "third age" are just as likely to want to pursue education, or second careers.  An elderly population will also place more demand on several caring and medical professions.  Some weeks ago we looked at What If scenarios in an R&D meeting.  One question that was asked was this:
What if ASB was Pre-K through Life, instead of Pre-K through Grade 12?
An interesting question, especially in the light of schools and colleges becoming centres for continuing education, training and re-training.

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16 Trends: # 14 poverty

Living in India I'm closer to poverty than almost anywhere I've lived before.  In the neighbourhood next to my home there are people who live on the streets and are really destitute.  Yesterday I was reading statistics that show that almost half the world's population is living on less than $2 a day, and over a billion people are living on less than $1 a day.  The gap between rich and poor is getting bigger, despite the fact that governments around the world have set the goal of reducing poverty.  One issue (as mentioned in trends 1 and 2) is that the world's population is getting bigger.  In fact the % of people living on less than a dollar a day is around 15% of the world - this % has fallen in recent years - but because the population of the world has grown, the absolute numbers of those living in poverty remains the same.

Let's think about how this affects education.  Poverty determines the number of children who do not attend school (because they are doing other things).  The figures from the UN show that 10 years ago over 100 million children were not receiving even an elementary education - most of these were in Africa and south Asia and there was a much higher proportion of girls who did not attend school than boys.  This is a vicious circle because without education there is little chance to breaking out of the cycle of poverty.  Poverty limits education, and a lack of education leads to an increase in poverty, which in turn could lead to frustration, anger and instability.  The essence of this is that poverty makes us all poor.  Let's hope that people and governments become aware of this trend - and that they have the will and the resources to tackle it.

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16 Trends: #13 the search for meaning and balance

Trend 13 is about the way that people are seeking more personal meaning in their lives in response to an intense, high-tech, always-on, fast-moving society.  This reminds me of balanced, one of the IB Learner Profiles.  Balanced people understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance and the part they play in well-being for both themselves and others.

Daniel Pink writes about how autonomy, mastery and purpose are what motivates us, and we are constantly hearing about how people are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives.  Sometimes this can be looking outwards to help others, other times this may involve looking inwards to personal relationships.  People are discovering that money and possessions don't make them happy and that meaning or purpose is more difficult to find than material possessions.

A couple of weekends ago my husband and I, along with several Middle and High School ASB students, took part in a Habitat for Humanity build in a small village about 3 hours away from Mumbai.  Although this came at a very busy time for us (and right before ASB Un-Plugged for me) it was really satisfying to do this volunteer work.  Helping to improve the lives of others is part of ASB's Mission Statement.  Interestingly enough ASB recognizes the importance of balance too.  One of our Core Values is this:
  • A balanced lifestyle is the essence of well-being.
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Thursday, March 13, 2014

16 Trends: # 11 and 12 International Mindedness

The management of our diversity is critical to our future.  If we manage it well it will enrich us.  If we don't manage it well it will divide us.  - Gary Marx

The IBO has an idea of the type of students it hopes will graduate from its schools: the kind of student who "in the struggle to establish a personal set of values will be laying the foundation upon which international-mindedness will develop and flourish."  One of the ways that international-mindedness can be encouraged to develop is to "provide students with opportunities for learning about issues that have local, national and global significance, leading to an understanding of human commonalities."

Trend 11 considers the movement from narrowness to open-minded.  Gone are the days of sole superpowers and a bipolar world - now countries are more likely to see themselves as interdependent and understand the need, therefore to join together to take on the challenges and opportunities that are facing everyone on the planet.  Schools can contribute to this in a small way too.  In our recent Tech Audit I've been talking to teachers about the NETS-S Standard 2C which encourages teachers to use technology tools to develop cultural understanding and global awareness through engaging with learners of other cultures.  This could involve a classroom to classroom exchange of stories and information about their lives, communities and culture through blogs, email, video chats and so on, eventually leading to working on global collaborative projects.

Trend 12 looks at further at the movement away from isolationism and independence and towards interdependence.  It notes the strengthening of relationships between governments in areas such as peace-keeping, environmental issues and human rights.  The business community is also seeing the advantages of coming together to develop, sell or purchase products and services.  In the scientific and educational worlds we are seeing huge face to face and virtual conferences as well as many smaller projects to share information, conduct research and "meeting" to discuss areas of interest, for example in Twitter chats.  In this way I have built many personal relationships with teachers around the world whom I have never met, but whom I interact with regularly.  Scientists and educators alike see the need for working together to advance scientific discoveries or to share educational knowledge and expertise.

Gary Marx writes that in the future: "Growing numbers of people will live and work outside their home country, hold a job with a multinational organization, have their lives affected by social or economic conditions in another part of the world, or realize they can only be successful by working with people from many different cultures and who are different from themselves."  He goes on to argue that students who leave school without some grounding in international education may turn out to be the new disadvantaged.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Rigor and Relevance

During this month I've started meeting teachers to check-in on how they are doing with adding student artifacts into the Tech Audit based on the NETS-Ss.  We started this last year - collecting and analyzing artifacts in order to examine the rigor of technology use, and then using this information to create a PD plan personalized to the needs of each of our teachers.  Last year we categorized each artifact according to Bloom's Digital Taxonomy, however this year we are starting to consider a new model and whether this might be more appropriate.  This model, called the Rigor/Relevance Framework, which was developed by the International Center for Leadership in Education, has two dimensions.

Knowledge:  This continues to use Bloom's Taxonomy of low and high order thinking skills.  The lower end of the continuum involves acquiring knowledge and being able to recall or locate that knowledge, while the higher end is concerned with the more complex ways that knowledge is used.  At this end of the continuum students can combine knowledge in new and creative ways - this is called the assimilation of knowledge.

Application:  Looking at artifacts through this lens involves considering action or putting knowledge to use.  This continuum was created by Dr Willard Daggett and has 5 levels:
  • knowledge in one discipline
  • apply in discipline
  • apply across disciplines
  • apply to predictable real-world situations
  • apply to unpredictable real-world situations
In the diagram below knowledge is the vertical continuum, and application is the horizontal.

Here is how this model could potentially be used to assess the student artifacts collected during the Tech Audit:
  • Acquisition - these artifacts would be those that demonstrate inquiry and the gathering and organizing of knowledge and information in one discipline.  This would correspond with remember and understand on Bloom's Taxonomy.
  • Application - these artifacts would exemplify problem solving across disciplines and would show knowledge being applied to new situations.  The skills involved would be mainly comprehension and application.
  • Assimilation - artifacts would be demonstrating analysis and problem solving in order to create a new solution.  The skills we would be looking for would be analysis, synthesis and evaluation.
  • Adaptation - these artifacts would show that students are able to use their knowledge and skills in creative ways in order to take action.  The artifacts would demonstrate the skills of evaluation and creativity.
Would you like to know more about the Rigor/Relevance Framework?  Click here to read the full article.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Maker and Creativity in Grade 4

In a previous blog post I wrote about how our Grade 4 teachers planned to give students more voice and choice in the tech tools they were using (see the following blog posts:  part 1, part 2 and part 3).  Today we had an elementary assembly and students shared their reflections of this new model and the process they went through in order to become more creative and have more choices.  This post is about the students' perspectives.

In early December, students chose to learn or practice 3 tech-projects for a week each. The original options were, Weebly webpages, Powtoon, Green Screening, Paper Slides, and Stop Motion videos. In January we added in Maker Faire activities such as Arduino Circuitboards, Cardboard construction with MakeDo and Rollobox, arts and crafts, and LittleBits and SnapCircuits. For our third session 2 weeks ago we included Code Academy, Google Presentations, Prezi, and Lego. Students now have a greater sense of creativity, tools to make the products, and technology to share their learning.

By having more tech options children are able to enhance their learning and expand their level of creativity. Students were allowed to pick one tech tool that they were interested in. This is the part where curiosity is included. After teachers guide the children and show them different tools they leave the students to explore and experiment with the equipment in order for the students to understand why this tool is useful and how it makes the project better. This also gives the students a chance to think abut ideas that they can use in their project. By having choices of technology we also learn different things that we can also teach to others.

Two weeks ago on Thursday, teachers from all over the world came to visit our school for ASB-Unplugged. They came to see our creativity learning with high-tech and low-tech tools. Students chose 2 things to do during the afternoon. The teachers went around watching students enjoy their time. Here is a video about those tech sessions and maker-space creations. Please note: in the middle of the video there is a black screen for about 5 seconds.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

16 Trends: # 10 threats or opportunities?

Recently our Grade 3 students engaged in a Project Based Learning unit to try to answer the question will Mumbai run out of water?  Access to clean water is a huge issue here - in many apartments the water tanks are filled up once a day and people have access to water for a limited number of hours.  As I've thought about water, it reminded me of a presentation I went to at an ECIS conference many years ago where an Swedish water expert (whose name I unfortunately can't remember) spoke to us about how future wars may well be fought over water.  At the time I thought she was exaggerating - now I'm not so sure!  It occurs to me that access to water is a very important issue for students to study - after all these students will be the politicians of the future, or maybe the scientists who will be working on solving some of these issues - they need to have some understanding of these global problems that may threaten our quality of life and even our survival in the not too distant future.

As discussed in Trends 1 and 2, population is increasing.  In the first half of this century (2000 - 2050) the population of the world will increase from around 6 billion to 9 billion - an increase of 50%.  All of these people will have needs and wants - and current trends show that the gap between the haves and have nots will increase.  More people will put more pressure on food production, global warming, access to water, the spread of diseases and so on, and at the same time more and more people and governments will have access to weapons that could wipe out the planet.  The generation of students in our schools today will be the ones making the decisions about destroying or saving our world - so it's important to consider what education they are getting to help them deal with these issues in the future - are they seeing these issues as threats or as opportunities?

Here's one example:  when I was in school most of the oil we used in the UK came from the Middle East.  During the 1970s, however, the price of oil increased so much that expensive and previously uneconomic sources, such as beneath the North Sea, became practical for drilling, and with more supply of oil the price dropped.  Since then wars have been fought over oil and countries invaded or corrupt regimes propped up to maintain access to oil.  It seems we can't do without it, and yet 200 years ago we didn't even know it existed or what we could do with it.  Now we hear the oil is rapidly running out - scientists are going to have to come up with news forms of energy.  This could be a problem when looked at one way, or it could be an opportunity when looked at from another perspective.  One thing is sure - we need to educate students to be creative and innovative, to be problem solvers and critical thinkers - one of today's students could well be the person who discovers a new source of energy that will become to the next generation what oil is to us today.  Are we encouraging such thinkers?

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Wednesday, March 5, 2014

16 Trends: #9 being ethical

Yesterday I was working with a group of teachers to develop a new unit of inquiry about beliefs and values.  We had a great discussion about what beliefs and values are and how they look to an 8 or 9 year old.  We decided a belief is something that we accept to be true or real and that values are what forms the basis for our ethical action.  We also discussed whether it is easier to describe what you believe or what you value, and whether it is easier to notice what someone else believes or what they value.

Ethics in fact are a sort of code of conduct - something that you do or don't do because of how you believe you should behave yourself, regardless of what is legal.  For example when I lived in Bangkok it was possible to buy pirated movies and CDs on the street - in fact it wasn't illegal to buy or sell them in Thailand.  However considering this I still discussed this with my children as I believed it was unethical to buy pirated copyrighted material.

In my role at school I'm often talking to students about digital citizenship, about digital rights and responsibilities especially when using media in their products - hopefully this allows students to think about the effects of their actions on others and the consequences of their own actions and come to understand the need for ethical behaviour.  Having these discussions at school will hopefully help students to make good choices when they face the ethical dilemmas of our our global world, for example in science and technology, development, business, finances and the environment.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

16 Trends: # 8 continuous improvement

I'm halfway through looking at the 16 trends that will impact education and society in the coming decades, and Trend 8 is one that is close to my heart.  There are schools that are striving for continuous improvement, and there are others that don't want to admit that they need to improve as this implies that they are not as good as they tell people they are.  Several times I've looked at websites or visited schools in person that claim they are excellent, outstanding and wonderful, but when you scratch the surface you see a very different picture.  They think they are successful and effective and so don't see the necessity for change.  My feeling is that I'd much rather work at a school that is always trying to do better, than one that tells me that it is already excellent and that this is as good as it gets.

Gary Marx writes "Continuous improvement should be be one of the prime values embedded in the culture ... a commitment to becoming even better tomorrow than we are today."  I think this is why I love working at ASB - I so often hear people saying "this is the best place I've ever worked - people know what they are doing, they care about quality and about people" and at the same time we are continually looking to see how we can do things better.  At the weekend we opened our doors to the world - and educators came from places as far away as Brazil, Australia and Europe.  At the end of the conference one of our visitors said to me: "Not many schools have the set up you do, if any."  At ASB people really go the extra mile - they are loyal and caring and committed and because of that we are able to offer a top quality experience.

Trend 8 is about the movement away from the status quo and towards continuous improvement.  Schools that aren't able to make this shift will fairly soon become obsolete.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

16 Trends: # 6 and 7 standardization -v- personalization

Many of the first trends that I've written about over the past week or so are not directly connected with education, however Trends 6 and 7 definitely are.  When I worked as a teacher in the UK there were some national tests (CSEs, O'Levels and A'Levels) but no standardized tests for students below the age of 16 since the abolition of the 11+ exam in the early 1970s.  Sometime after I left and became an international teacher, standardized tests were introduced, schools were put into league tables, and schools that didn't do well on tests and inspections ended up in something known as "special measures".  Schools, teachers and students were seen as failing if they didn't do well on tests and this led to narrowing down the curriculum (spending more time on reading, writing and math and less on subjects such as the arts) and teaching to the test.

At the same time, in the international schools where I've taught, there has been a move away from summative assessment and towards formative assessment.  Teachers are concerned about knowing what students are finding difficult as it helps to inform their practice and planning - there has been a shift from the assessment of learning to assessment for and assessment as learning and a movement towards giving students choices about the ways they show their understanding - away from a cookie cutter approach where all students are expected to do the same thing.  More and more teachers are asking whether the move towards standardized tests prepares students for the future or simply freezes the students in the "traditional" education system.  In countries like the UK and USA, where teachers are leaving the profession in huge numbers, questions have also been raised about whether the pressure to "perform" on standardized tests is driving talented teachers and administrators out of education and putting off young people who may be considering a career as a teacher.

Last year one of our goals at ASB was to personalize learning.  We know that students are unique and that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work best.  We are also aware that we want to encourage creative and innovative students, not just those who can give the right answer on tests.  As we discuss educating students to be future world leaders we know that rigid systems inhibit us - our students need to be flexible to be able to thrive in a changing information age - they need to move forward not by regurgitating the status quo but by creating new knowledge and solutions.

At school both last year and this year students have engaged in Curiosity Projects and Day 9 "passion projects".  Recently we've also discussed the importance of qualities such as persistence and resilience.  In schools that have adopted the PYP and MYP programmes I've also seen a move towards transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary and multiisciplinary learning where connections are seen as increasingly important.  The world needs creative and ingenious people and there are many examples of education systems that are valuing a more personal approach - however the general trend of the past few years has been towards more standardization.

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

16 Trends: #5 shifting generations

On the header of this blog you will see the phrase "the future, now" which I added on some years ago as I thought about my aim of using technology to transform learning.  The future, now can also be applied to a group of people called the Millennials - the people who will be making up the governments of the world in around 30 - 40 years time.  The Millennials are in our education system now so it really is up to us to shape this future through the education we provide today. My generation (the Baby Boomers) will all be retired by 2030.  What changes are we likely to see as the power and influence and decision making shifts from the Baby Boomers to the Millennials?

The people of my generation have been influenced by many things - prolonged peace and generally stable economies.  We have seen space flights, moon landings and the civil rights and women's movements.  The Millennials have been influenced by different things:  a more multicultural society, a new world order and the rise of terrorism.  Things such as high speed computers and being able to communicate with anyone around the world at any time are normal to them.  This evening as I was skyping with my mother (who at 85 is part of the "Silent Generation") she asked if "phoning" from India to the UK was very expensive.  Using skype to her landline costs next to nothing, something she finds difficult to believe.  My Millennial son, on the other hand, really does use his mobile phone to call her, but with an unlimited data plan this costs nothing either.  Such things are hard for my mother to understand.

The book Sixteen Trends: Their Profound Impact on Our Future raises an interesting question:  do generations shape events, or do events shape generations?  My mother lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s and World War II in the UK with years of rationing and shortages.  This has made her especially frugal and something of a hoarder (she finds it hard to throw anything away!)  Growing up in the 1960s and 70s certainly influenced me too.  I became the first person in my entire family ever to go to university.  I'm curious to see how events are shaping this new generation that my son and daughter are in.  I've heard that events are leading to this generation becoming confident, sociable, moral, optimistic, accepting of diversity and civic minded.  Looking at my children I would say this is pretty accurate!

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16 Trends: #4 size and speed

Trend 4 is this:  technology will increase the speed of communication and the pace of advancement or decline.  Right at the start of the chapter on this trend is the amazing assertion that "80% of all the scientists who have ever lived in the history of humankind are alive today, and they are on the Internet."  I heard a similar statement from David Warlick this weekend that related to the spread of and access to knowledge - he said that he carries around in his back pocket the entire knowledge of the human race on his phone.  Technology is getting both smaller and faster and nanotechnology has been called the next revolution with a potentially huge effect on medicine, economic productivity and the earth's environment.

Let's take just one example.  On Thursday evening we hosted TEDxASB.  One of the presentations was a recording of Richard Resnick's talk about genome sequencing and its impact on healthcare. Today we can use gene sequencing as a diagnostic - and as a result we can expect to live longer.  Genetic modification will also allow us to grow more crops to feed this growing, longer living population.

Resnick talks about how in the future we will look back at cancer treatments and they will look like bloodletting. Craig Johnson, our Superintendent at ASB, took the same analogy and applied it to education - in the future will we look back at what we are doing in the classrooms today and be equally appalled?

There is also an ethical question here:  the technologies that can save and improve lives can also be used to destroy them.  The same technologies that can transfer information, can also be used to spread intolerance and hatred.  Schools have an important role to play in not only nurturing the future scientists who can develop the new technologies that our world needs, but also in promoting the digital ethics that our future world will need to use these technologies wisely and responsibly.

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16 Trends: #3 creating intellectual entrepreneurs

Yesterday ASB Un-Plugged ended with an inspirational speech from our Superintendent, Craig Johnson.  Craig had surveyed both teachers and school leaders about the things that keep them awake at night about the challenges facing education.  The teachers came up with an interesting list:

  • serving students with special needs
  • implementing good ideas
  • shifting pedagogy based on an information society
  • transitioning students between schools
In addition teachers worried about the lack of focus on:
  • parent education
  • crafting school culture
  • assessment of innovation
  • hiring for innovation and change
School leaders worry about a lot of things too: mostly teachers.  Are they able to identify the skills that students will need for the future?  Do the teachers have these skills themselves?  Are they able to teach them?

A few days ago I wrote about the book Sixteen Trends:  Their Profound Impact on Our Future by Gary Marx, which our R&D task forces are reading.  Recently I read over Trend 3, which is about social and intellectual capital (what you know and who you know) and how they are becoming the "prime sources of wealth in our new economy".  This is the knowledge, information and experiences that can be put to use to create wealth, and the networks for transmitting that information and knowledge, but it also includes the time to think and develop new ideas.  Without this time to think, we could be missing out on the innovations that will take us forward.

One statement that I think is especially important, and which has some relevance for the problems that keep school leaders up at night since it refers partly to hiring practices, is this:  "to capture the brilliance - the intellectual capital - we need to broaden the social circle .... limit the circle and you narrow the range of ideas that will refresh the organization.  Broaden it and intellectual wealth blossoms, paving the way for creating a future."  This is important as it is school, ultimately, that will be creating the next generation of intellectual entrepreneurs.  Without these people "the old will not exit; the new cannot enter".  Can schools shift to help students develop the skills they will need to become intellectual entrepreneurs:  time management, money management, being able to work as part of a team?  It seems that schools are being pulled in two different directions:  the demand for standardization - to prepare students to do well on narrowly focused tests, yet at the same time to personalize learning to meet the interests, talents and abilities of each individual student.  In a situation where schools are being faced with very contradictory demands, it is worrisome that they may not be ready to meet the challenges of Trend 3.

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