The Upside of the Tech Revolution in Education in an Upside Down World!

August 30, 2020

 Lyall Lukey, Convenor of Education Leaders Forums (ELF) since 2007, responds to a pre-Covid article on EdTech and previews virtual live ELF20: Leading Change and Managing Transitions.  This article first appeared in Education Central

Infection Inflection Point

It is interesting to (re)read Peter Lyons’ opinion piece of 19/2/20 The Downside of the Tech Revolution in our Classrooms with the perspective since afforded by our Covid-19 lockdown experiences.

The way the world works, learns and lives has changed dramatically. The uptake of new technology, especially platforms for communication and learning, has accelerated.

But lessons learnt quickly can dissipate just as fast.  Until recently we Kiwis had become complacent after 100 days of no new Covid community cases.  In the words of medical professor Dr Des Gorman: “The horrible twin brother of complacency is you stop learning.”

We reverted to the old normal before new cases of community transmission made us confront the realities of what may be a new normal for years or indeed forever if the pandemic becomes endemic.

A Luddite?

In his dismal report card on the downside of the tech revolution in our classrooms the writer reiteratesI am not a Luddite. I’m a teacher of many years experience. I regard “devices” as a tool, not an obligatory method of education.”

Of course devices are tools and not methodologies.  But we look sideways at tradesmen who don’t keep up with developments in the tools of their trade.

Luddites were understandably defensive in the face of industrial developments which would dramatically transform their livelihoods. They had good reason to fear displacement through innovation. The technological genie could not be put back in the bottle. They faced the choice of adapting or dying.

So do we all. Those who work with children and young people surely have a special responsibility to help them build resilience and adaptability in the face of a tsunami of change. At the same time we all need to strike a balance between hi-tech and hi-touch.  Some of us can remember the Eagles’ 1977 lyrical warning in Hotel California  “We are all just prisoners here of our own device.” 

 

Moving with The Times

The Times Higher Education website features a Covid-age Practical Guide To Digital Teaching And Learning. The pandemic will prolong the need for remote and distanced learning in many places.

Educators have become much more au fait with choosing applications, designing online courses and enhancing engagement with learners with short, formative assessment activities that ensure that learners are fulfilling their increased co-responsibility for their own learning.

“If the objective is to develop creative problem-solvers and effective communicators, online presentations that mimic industry presentation styles should be encouraged. These fast-paced presentations include Pecha Kucha, or ‘lightning talks’ (for arts and design), elevator pitches (for technology) and other forms of peer teaching that promote active learning.”

At the tertiary level this is the antithesis of formal live 50 minute lectures.  It requires open-minded teachers to try new ways of learning and add to the growing evidence base for the effectiveness of experimental approaches.

Adapting to Change

This active learning approach focuses on question posing, problem solving and knowledge sharing across disciplines rather than on navigating neatly boxed academic “subjects”. It fosters deeper understanding and incremental skills development.

The spark that ignites the process often comes from an enthusiastic educator.  Peter Lyons would no doubt agree that, whatever methodology and technology are employed, enthusiasm is a contagious ingredient. But so is ho humdrumness.

If educators themselves are unwilling to keep learning and trying new things, “many years experience” may simply be annual repetition on a dreary Groundhog treadmill. This is to be avoided as much as the dark satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution.

In adapting to change and trying new things, with variable success, I can draw on both my own ancient secondary classroom teaching experience as well my more modern experiences in creating digital and other learning resources and events for adults in the changing workplace and marketplace.

Goodbye Mr Chips, Hello Silicon Chips

My own 13 year classroom teaching career started 55 years ago. In the early days using colour marker pens on butcher’s paper and contriving mnemonics seemed to be a great learning leap forward, even if they were the media and not the message.

Graduating from grinding out History task sheets via the methylated spirits-infused Banda copying machine-which made users smell like Bowery drunks- to using the inky Gestetner stencil machine was also a big DIY printing advance, if not quite on  par with Gutenberg or Caxton.

Pressing an old reel tape-recorder into service to capture role-plays by senior History students meant that to participate they had to first assimilate a lot of historical information.

Ordering 16mm films months ahead of their use and grappling with threading or splicing errant spools of film brought historical archives to black-and-white life; ditto some co-educational adolescents as the lights went down.

In the meantime the overhead projector took over from the epidiascope and the Kodak Carousel did a great job projecting photos, so long as you inserted the slides up the right way and didn’t tip up the carousel and destroy the slide sequence. The portable data projector was not even a dim gleam in the eyes of corporate presenters.

Then, in the twilight of my teaching career, came the reproductive breakthrough second only to The Pill: the photocopier, which could copy right but not always entirely legally.

Digital Encounters               

It was a full decade, after I left the classroom in 1978 to start my own training and events business by using the undervalued skills I had learnt in the classroom crucible, that I encountered the personal computer and the graphic user interface.  The digital rodent made it possible for the enumerate and the non-technical to become digitally dexterous.

When, as a first year teacher, I flatted with a Canadian Engineering postgrad. student who had special access to The Computer in a large room at UC and punch cards to prove it, I never imagined that he and I would bridge CP Snow’s “Two Cultures” by both using the same democratised, miniaturised and mobilised information technology to plan a university ski club reunion for, as it turned out, the very day in 2001 that the planes struck New York and Washington, to the accompaniment of graphic live global coverage.

When I made my first analogue training videos in the 1980s I had to employ off duty TV videographers and technicians. DIY wasn’t an option.  In a pre-digital age just to change a letter in a VHS video title was a time-taking technical challenge.

Now, if we wish, we can capture a range of marvellous visual and other digital resources on a pocket-sized device. We can edit, store, retrieve, use and share with a few finger clicks. We can collaborate with colleagues to share learning design and with learners to share the pursuit of research findings and learning objects.

Engaging adult learners

Pedagogy the blanket term for the study of how knowledge and skills are imparted in an educational context, is more often used in relation to children and young people. The name for adult learning methodology is, of course, Andragogy, not to be confused with Androgyny, as David Bowie fans will attest. Andragogy emphasises more the process of engaging adult learners in learning experiences.

Before leaving secondary teaching I had experienced some adult teaching and communication through six years Polytech UE History night class teaching, a year as a UC Visiting Teaching Fellow in History and three stints of teacher recruitment. Running my own business cranked up the learning trajectory. I had to recruit my own learners and funders and develop my own “curriculum” based on their needs, with an emphasis on creating resources for people to turn ideas into action and develop skills. I also worked on fostering collaborative knowledge sharing within organisations and facilitating visioning and strategic planning sessions.

In the last 25 years I’ve also run more than 300 open events, forums and seminars for the public and private sectors under our SmartNet events banner, including 13 annual Education Leaders Forums since 2007 for present and aspiring New Zealand education leaders.

BC, Education Leaders Forum 2019: Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers  offered a balanced perspectives of the benefits and downsides of information and communication technologies in an educational setting.

These were all in-person events, though several included live video presentations from as far afield as the USA and Israel.

ELF20: Surfing the Tsunami – Now Virtual Live

The live events game changed rapidly with the looming lockdowns in March this year. Because of Covid-19 past disruptions and future uncertainties we made an early decision that Education Leaders Forum 2020 Leading Change & Managing Transitions would be a spaced series of 5 x weekly 90 minute interactive Zoom online sessions from 9 September to 7 October.

That decision has been vindicated by recent events but there are other reasons besides health imperatives to consider a judicious use of the Zoom platform.

The only reasons for one, two and three full day in-person talkfests-feasts followed by famines- are the physical and logistical constraints of travel, accommodation and venues.

If, rather than go to an event, the event comes to you online in a digestible series, the time and money costs are much less. The spaced menu of food for thought and action is more sound educationally than big dollops.

ELF20: Zoom Meetings Platform

The ELF20 Zoom Meetings platform democratises the whole process not just by being location and device neutral but also by allowing registrants as much or as little interaction as they chose via voice and screen sharing and especially by small group Zoom conversation breakouts.

A designated video conference room and industrial scale technology are not required.  Instead a free Zoom app with a very intuitive feel is readily available for a range of devices. Present and aspiring education leaders will be enabled to share knowledge and network safely and economically from wherever they are, on their own devices, in registered individual Zoom “virtual seats” with voice and video sharing and other functions via the Zoom app.

Zoom Meetings, the free app for ELF20, is more personal and interactive than Zoom webinars. It is designed to be collaborative.

Virtual ELF20 Benefits 

  • Virtual Live ELF20 comes to each registrant’s device via the free Zoom Meetings app
  • Registrants can safely share leadership knowledge and network in an uncertain Covid environment
  • Lower registration fees plus group discounts and no travel, accommodation or reliever expenses make virtual total costs much lower than in-person
  • A critical mass of senior colleagues can thus participate economically and build momentum for positive change
  • A spaced, digestible series of 5X 90 minute weekly sessions avoids the feast/famine syndrome
  • Small group Zoom breakout conversations after each input session help process key points and build professional relationships
  • Post-session digital resources, including presentation videos, enable reinforcement and collegial sharing

 

Have you been inoculated against the real benefits of Zoom?

Zoom Meetings are much more than webinars and quite different from the Lockdown use of Zoom for informal virtual catchups, with no clear purpose or protocols.

Many Zoom social users haven’t experienced the Zoom meeting breakout function which puts larger groups into ”Zoom rooms” and fosters high level small-group conversations to process prior input. In fact, there can be more high quality dialogue, networking and online collegial relationship building than is afforded by in-person events.

In the words of Dr Karl-Erik Sveiby, an early SmartNet speaker on knowledge sharing and innovation: “…unlike conventional assets, knowledge grows when it is shared.”

ELF20: Remotely Interested?

If you would like to find out more about Virtual ELF20: Surfing the Tsunami -Leading Change & Managing Transitions visit https://www.smartnet.co.nz/elf20/ 

Lyall Lukey, ELF 20 Convener   lyall@smartnet.co.nz

 

 


REVIEW- ELF19: Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers

July 31, 2019

How a cross-section of New Zealand educators shared insights and strategies for optimising the positive learning benefits of digital learning developments while minimising harmful effects. This article first appeared in Education Central  on 30 July 2019.

The 50th anniversary of the Moonwalk reminds us that Apollo 11’s inboard computing power for the amazing return journey was less than we each carry in our smart phones.

Real lunar crusaders in 1969 were followed a decade later by fictitious galactic raiders like Darth Vader and addictive arcade games such as Space Invaders.

The portable touchscreen device, hardly a teenager, denotes another chapter in an interwoven science fact and fiction narrative. It is a double-edged lightsabre.

Educators from across the learning spectrum and around New Zealand met at the thirteenth annual Education Leaders Forum: Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers in Dunedin on 17 & 18 July to grapple with digital issues and opportunities.  The focus was on strategies for bridging digital divides, unlocking digital dividends and avoiding digital dangers.

ELF19, the 13th in an annual series, was run by SmartNet and hosted by principal sponsor Otago Polytechnic. Te Kura was a sponsor and supporters were Enterprise Dunedin (DCC) and the Ministry of Education.

The forum was timely because of digital developments and topical concerns which have dramatically altered the online environment.

In response the Ministry of Education has revised and strengthened the National Curriculum to include Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko learning, effective 2020. Whatever pathway they choose to take, children and young people will be equipped with the necessary digital skills to take part and thrive in a fast-evolving connected world.

Technology

After several billion years the last few human centuries have introduced into the equation of Planet Earth’s evolution an exponential factor- technology. Digital and other technologies have transformed the way we learn, work and take time out.

Advances in Artificial Intelligence and engineering mean science fiction is now science fact. Drones, electric cars, 3d printing, hover boards, augmented and virtual reality are fast becoming our collective reality. Netflix recommends the movies we view and Spotify organises the personalised sound track of our lives.

Educators feel the depth of digital challenges. They can either be overwhelmed by them and opt out or share and implement strategies to cope.

 

Democratisation of Learning

Phil Ker, CEO of Otago Polytechnic opened ELF19 with a keynote on Integrating Learning and Work in the Digital Age. Information technology has led to a democratisation of learning. “The digital transformation of life enables individuals to play a bigger role in their own learning and careers, in partnership with educators, who have an important role to play helping learners integrate learning and work.”

However, highly relevant learning is often not captured in the workplace, despite the fact that there are severe labour and skills shortages. Two of Otago Polytechnic’s innovative services remedy this by using digital tools for learners to personalise learning and capture evidence of an individual’s knowledge and skills.

Edubits (also known as digital micro-credentials) allow learners to show what they know by submitting examples of their skills to be assessed and recognised. Each assessment is small enough to be manageable for busy people, but big enough to be meaningful to employers and give them a better picture of an individual’s potential to add to an organisation’s productivity.

CAPABLE NZ assesses and values the prior learning of individuals who want to become qualified, and support the workplaces that employ them. The service measures a person’s existing capability, gained through years of work and life experience, against an actual qualification and give academic credit for what they already know.

Digital Divides

Access to technology and digital skills have become increasingly essential for people to fully participate in society and the economy. Digital exclusion is a new measure of poverty. The poor and low skilled are being left behind in the digital world. 100,000 students in New Zealand do not have access to internet from their home.

Irihāpeti Mahuika, Director of Learning at Haeata Community Campus shared Haeata’s experience with ConnectED, the Greater Christchurch Schools’ Network Trust programme of Equitable Digital Access for learners and their community. Launched in 2018, in partnership with Chorus, N4L and MoE, Project ConnectED connects students and whānau to their education from home and has had a positive effect on the whole school community.

Internet access is one key indicator of digital inclusion, but as well as access people must also have the motivation, skills, and confidence to go online. It is important for learners to be digitally savvy and creative in an online world. There needs to be a bigger shift from digital consumption to creative production. The focus on access is now shifting to building and assessing digital capability.

Bridging digital divides and digital inclusion is also a challenge in respect of some teachers, education leaders and policy makers.  An increasing number of schools are turning their classrooms into BYOD environments, with financial demands on parents to buy prescribed devices.  University of Auckland researcher Jiansheng Cui says we need to be aware of whether teachers are fully prepared and well supported to make the most of this.

Digital Dividends

With the ongoing shift from paper to digital and from traditional classrooms and lecture halls to more flexible learning environments with big and small group activities and individual learning spaces, blended learning approaches are improving  learner engagement and learning outcomes. The experience of learning itself as being profoundly changed by immersive technology.

The challenge is to balance access via connected digital devices with the mediating power of human cognition and imagination.

The promise of lifelong personalised learning pathways is increasingly being turned into practice with learners becoming more autonomous and powerful in shaping their own learning and career destinies, in partnership with responsive educators.

Nicola Ngarewa, Principal of Spotswood College spoke at ELF19 on DISRUPT-ED: Embracing the future. She shared the transformative journey from a traditional learning context to a future-focused educational model, drawing on her experience of leading this shift in two schools of different contexts – an underperforming decile 1 area school, and a high performing decile 5 traditional high school.

Mike Hollings
, Chief Executive of Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu shared experiences from Te Kura’s transformative shift online in using digital technology to enhance learning in terms of access, engagement and learner agency.

Te Kura’s award-winning online learning environment “My Te Kura” provides engaging, accessible personalised learning opportunities, adapting the international Big Picture learning approach to each learner’s context.  Students engage in real life learning opportunities, with their passions and interests at the centre and their whānau and community connected to their learning.

Learners develop relevant skills and knowledge with learning that extends well beyond the traditional concept of the classroom. The music video ‘Echoes of the Sun’, was created through online collaboration in My Te Kura between more than 50 students.

Cheryl Adams, CEO, Animation Research and Jimmy McLauchlan, Business Development, Methodist Mission Southern demonstrated their joint Prison Virtual Reality Learning Project.  65% of people in New Zealand prisons lack NCEA Level 1 literacy and numeracy skills, severely limiting their educational and employment opportunities on release and increasing their risk of re-offending on release.

With support from University of Otago Information Science Department and Ngāti Kahungunu, the two organisations, are working alongside prison-based learners at Otago Corrections Facility to co-design, develop and evaluate virtual reality learning tools – with the aim of significantly improving engagement, completion and achievement rates for learners in prison literacy and numeracy programmes.

Jessica Tulp, Business Associate, Soul Machines spoke on Humanising Technology via the world’s first Digital Brain™. She demonstrated how Soul Machines’ breakthroughs in Experiential Learning add Human intelligence to AI, taking interactions beyond algorithms and enabling “digital humans” to “accumulate experiences, learn, and respond emotionally”.

Paul Stevens, GM, Open Knowledge Group at Catalyst surveyed Education and Open Source IT Innovation. Kiwis have a unique perspective and are famous for their ingenuity and innovation. As a young country we’re not constrained by the same boundaries as others.

NZ-headquartered Catalyst’s solutions reflect this. The Open Source organisation has implemented some of the world’s largest Learning Management Systems using open source technologies to outsmart larger international competitors. Paul also had some lessons for educators in how to avoid digital lock-in to proprietary platforms and ensure delivery flexibility.

Fraser Liggett
, Economic Development Programme Manager at Enterprise Dunedin, DCC spoke on education-business links and the fostering of innovation. He also updated participants on Dunedin’s evolving Centre of Digital Excellence. The business case for CODE is being led by Enterprise Dunedin. “Once developed the Centre of Digital Excellence will build on the city’s entrepreneurial and digital strengths, particularly in game development and associated sectors, including education and training,” said Mr Liggett.

The CODE initiative is one of the projects tagged for funding through the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund. A robust application is being developed before plans to invest $10 million over 10 years to enhance Dunedin’s thriving gaming industry can be confirmed.

Prof Tim Bell, Department Computer Science and Software Engineering, University of Canterbury emphasised that the New Digital Technologies Curriculum sounds like it would be mainly about devices, but in fact it is more about people because devices aren’t an end in themselves, but a means for helping people to achieve their goals. He clarified ideas and terminology key to digital systems and reflected on how to help teachers get up to speed with the changed curriculum.

Tim is involved in the Kia Takatū Ā-Matihiko Digital Readiness Programme which the MoE has put in place to support the implementation of Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko (DT & HM) learning.

Andy Kilsby, Director Employability, Otago Polytechnic ran a workshop on EduBits – a new way for learners to show what they know. EduBits is a micro-credentialing service which Otago Polytechnic provides to partner educational delivery beyond the classroom, making learning accessible and visible to industry and learners. This can dovetail into the Polytechnic’s CAPABLE NZ assessment service.

Digital Dangers

All technologies have downsides as well as upsides. The new technologies of today grow faster and affect more people more quickly.  This leads to big challenges as well as big opportunities.

The business models which support a largely free and open connected world, where people can use technology to empower themselves and have their voices heard, can also be used by the unscrupulous for nefarious purposes via digital addiction and improper sharing of personal data with third parties for political or commercial purposes, as in the Cambridge Analytical Scandal.

At the personal level the deleterious effects of technology binging are exacerbated in still developing young brains. There has never been a greater need to invest in digital capability and protection. All learning communities need to develop strategies to support their students’ development of digital skills, citizenship, online safety and wellbeing.

Dr Mary Redmayne, Independent Researcher at Victoria and Monash Universities, addressed The Dangers of Screen Overuse and outlined the emerging effects on child development in terms of physical and mental health. Extensive screen time can lead to behavioural problems, anxiety and depression. Without conscious steps to be in control of one’s use of screens, the journey to screen-dependence can follow.

Netsafe education advisors Anjie Webster and Pauline Spence picked up on topical issues of Online Safety and Wellbeing in a presentation and a workshop. There is a need for all learning communities to develop and update strategies to support student development of digital citizenship, online safety and wellbeing.

Netsafe provides resources and funds and runs workshops with interested schools and groups, either after social media incidents which may have occasioned adverse publicity or as proactive learning sessions linked to challenges presented by digital technology. The focus is on raising awareness of challenging digital issues and providing resources for developing appropriate school and home strategies.

Donald Matheson, Media and Communications at the University of Canterbury spoke on Fake News and Flaky Views. Educating young people to stay safe and not do harm is important, but just as important is educating them about how to participate and share constructively online, listen across differences, think critically and access credible sources of information.

Social media platforms bring huge benefits such as a more open and inclusive society and opportunities for collective action. But they also diffuse responsibility for the public good and remove filters.

The March Christchurch terrorist attack has prompted more urgent debate about regulating social media sites and educating users to tackle online prejudice by handling information critically.

Technology Uptake

Amara’s Law states that we tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

The hype cycle encapsulated in Amara’s law depicts the maturity of emerging technologies through five phases: 1. A technology trigger with early interest in a potential technology breakthrough; 2. The peak of inflated expectations through early success stories; 3. The trough of disillusionment as implementations failed to deliver; 4. The slope of enlightenment as understanding of how the technology can benefit becomes more widespread; 5. The plateau of productivity when mainstream adoption starts to take off, with the technologies relevance clearly paying off.

Educators need to be adaptive and adopt proven edtech from the ‘plateau of productivity’ to help grow brains and open minds in order to develop in their learners the mix of knowledge and technical and soft skills necessary for an innovative economy in an open society.

A balanced learning diet is the key, incorporating an appropriate mix of hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech learning resources and activities aimed at inculcating self-knowledge, deepening scientific knowledge, sharpening digital skills and developing soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, empathy, collaboration and decision-making.

Natural Intelligence > Artificial Intelligence

By analogy some products of the Age of Artificial Intelligence can help us better understand and appreciate Natural Intelligence: the power of the Spine-Top Computer and the importance of human development in the first 1,000 days.

Machine learning has advanced in quantum leaps to resemble aspects of human neural activity. For highly focused tasks like playing chess AI is now demonstrably better than humans. Two decades after IBM Deep Blu’s chess victory over Gary Kasparov in 1997, Google’s AlphaZero programme comprehensively defeated the then world computer champion the Stockfish 8 programme by winning 28 games and tying 72.

The latter had access to collated human chess experience as well as computer experience. The new digital champ was not taught any chess openings or strategies by humans. Instead it used the latest machine learning principles to teach itself chess by playing against itself.

From total ignorance to creative mastery this took the programme 4 hours, without the help of any human guide.

But in a far wider range of human tasks the human brain is still impossible to match, especially in synthesising sensory and mental information to make reality intelligible and being creative, asking questions and making predictions. But it must be constantly challenged and kept active throughout life.

As Michael Hewitt-Gleeson warns “If you don’t do your own thinking Artificial Intelligence will do it for you.  But, there is no guarantee that AI will think in your own interest at all.”
Lyall Lukey convened Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends &  Dangers  Dunedin 17/18 July, 2019.


TOMORROW’S SKILLS, YESTERDAY’S BUREAUCRACY

February 27, 2019

 Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers, argues that while there are undoubtedly big system and funding issues to address in the vocational education and training sector, the centralisation concept announced on 13 February is not the most effective way forward.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo credit: Andrew Lukey   Post Quakes1

Guns not Roses

Echoes of Chicago 90 years ago: just in time for St Valentine’s Day, Industry Training Providers and Industry Training Organisations were lined up side-by-side, with large targets affixed, blinking in the media spotlight.

Triggers were not yet pulled but fingers were twitching as Minister of Education Chris Hipkins announced the vision of an over-arching New Zealand Institute of Skills & Technology.

NZIST-not to be confused with Winston’s mob- would replace the 16 autonomous institutes of technology and polytechnics, (ITPs) and 11 industry training organisations (ITOs ) with a single entity to establish a “unified, coordinated, national system of vocational education and training” for around 200,000 New Zealand students by the end of 2020.

But does this display 20/20 vision?

Polytechnics employed 8,150, and ITOs 1,300, full-time-equivalent staff in 2017. In a double bureaucratic whammy the current roles of ITOs would apparently be split between the new national organisation and the Tertiary Education Commission.

The role of the TEC in ensuring the integrity of funding via trough protection and snout muzzling has already expanded after it swallowed Careers New Zealand in 2017 to become a hybrid funder/provider.

Absolutely Negatively…

Try this thought experiment, with last week’s eighth anniversary of the lethal February Christchurch quake in mind.
Can you imagine happening, under a centralised governance model, the same kind of prompt response as actually occurred through collaboration between Christchurch Polytechnic (now Ara)  and local ITOs  to address the skills needs of devastated Christchurch businesses?

If you can, Christchurch people with experience of especially created central government bodies like Cera and  Ōtākaro,  with a focus just on Christchurch’s  recovery not the whole country, will quickly disabuse you. These entities often sidelined local knowledge and input.  Even local civic governance bodies have been left incommunicado. Que Cera Sera.

Roger Smyth’s recent EC article tells how it took a seismic crisis for key parts of the vocational education system to work really effectively together, despite funding constraints, on the skills needs of the Canterbury rebuild.

There are lessons to be learnt. Those immersed in the local knowledge ecology, with an understanding of local business needs, trump absent planners with whiteboards and spreadsheets every time.

The Empire Striking Back?

The Minister acknowledged that the proposed changes are significant. “However, the risks of not making changes are also significant,” he said. “Disruption now will strengthen the vocational education system for the long term.”

Sceptics may point to the infamous quote in Peter Arnett’s 1968 AP Vietnam dispatch: “It became necessary to destroy the town to save it.”

The aim is to create a new, more streamlined and sustainable funding system and a more co-ordinated sector that can better respond to technology-driven workplaces. Both are long overdue and are changes the sector itself has long proposed.

The aims are forward looking, but the organisational solution proposed is a bureaucrat’s retrospective damp dream. In 2018 the Minister himself said that a highly centralised system faced issues relating to a lack of flexibility

Innovation

In a digitised world the nature of learning, work and everyday life is changing rapidly, with huge implications for education and training.

There is a direct link between a nation’s future prosperity and its ability to develop the knowledge and skills that deliver innovation. The ability to identify and prepare for present and future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations, businesses and individuals.

Specific hard skills and soft skills sets are in increasingly high demand. There is a growing emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, digital literacy and career and life skills, with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, initiative and cross-cultural interaction.

In the words of the Minister “Instead of our institutes of technology retrenching, cutting programmes, and closing campuses, we need them to expand their course delivery in more locations around the country.”

Some are doing exactly this now and are performing well, having succeeded in spite of, not because of, the present funding model.

Ara Institute of Canterbury has reported surpluses since its 2015 amalgamation and name change. Chief executive Tony Gray has expressed concern about how effective the proposed regional leadership groups would be.

A Balanced Alternative

Another well performing ITP is Otago Polytechnic. Here are some excerpts of what CE Phil Ker said in a post-announcement interview on Radio New Zealand: 

Q: Are the proposed changes good for the sector?

A: Yes and no.

“Yes . . . Polytechnics are haemorrhaging because of a grossly inadequate funding system that’s not fit for purpose.”

Yes . . . we applaud it being fixed. Ironically, if the funding model had been fixed 2-3 years ago, we wouldn’t have had this haemorrhaging.”

Yes . . . we applaud the intention to move towards more seamless learning via institutions and work-based solutions….”

No . . . the proposed model of one institution – head office and branches – completely removes the autonomy of the current institutions. We thought there might have been a move to a model that combined the best elements of a centralised system approach with a semi-autonomous institution approach….”

“Under a combined model, certain central functions could have been mandated – buildings, back-of-house systems, staff training are a few examples. But the combined model meant we could also have the autonomy to offer programmes of learning that made sense to local regions. That autonomy would also mean we could respond not only locally but nationally – to areas where there’s a need but perhaps a relatively low volume…”

Q: Do you think such centralisation and rationalisation threatens the local characteristics of polytechnics?

A: “… It’s a model-of-delivery issue. I’m arguing for the retention of autonomy – to enable institutions to respond to industry demand. I think the proposed model will, in fact, drive out responsiveness and innovation…” 

His subsequent ODT comments had this postscript “…I am not opposed to rationalising and a degree of centralisation of our polytechnic system. I am opposed to the particular model proposed by the Minister – it will throw out a lot of babies with the bath water. There is an alternative model which will still see a unified system, but which also preserves the autonomy of the individual institutions… We can have the best of both worlds.”

Civic Support

In support of Otago Polytechnic Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said ”The proposed merger risks undoing a lot of good work and would see Otago Polytechnic potentially being subservient to an organisational structure that may not understand or care about our local needs…We need Otago to remain autonomous, and flexible and responsive to local needs.”

The promoters of the current government’s Provincial Growth Fund talk about getting “buy in from local communities”. But vocational education demands more than that from regional stakeholders: it needs active collaboration, participation and partnership.

Dunedin’s digital ecosystem provides great examples of the cross-fertilisation between the education and business sectors.  Innovator of the Year Ian Taylor,  Animation Research has worked in this space for a quarter of a century.

He first came to public attention in the 1990s by making America’s Cup racing watchable via digital graphics and animation. He is currently working in Dunedin on a Virtual Reality prison literacy programme, in collaboration with the Methodist Mission South.

Alignment of Education and Training 

The Review of Vocational Education inevitably spawned the acronym ROVE. Perhaps the more appropriate acronym is RIVET for Review of and Intentions for Vocational Education and Training.

But just how riveting is the announced vision?

While the words “education” and “training are often used as synonyms it’s useful to  distinguish between them. The difference is evident when comparing “sex(uality) education” with “sex training”. (Now there’s an industry which missed the opportunity to set up its own ITO.).

Oversimplified, but the distinction does help clarify aspects of the respective roles of ITPs and ITOs, the first institution-based and the second located in the workplace.

The two vocational sub-sectors have often been like two trains travelling on parallel tracks to the same destination but with often poor communication between the respective drivers, to the detriment of passengers.

Integration of learning with work

The ROVE document says that the system needs to increase the amount of vocational learning that takes place in the workplace. Phil Ker agrees with better aligning trades training with polytechnic study, ”… integration of learning with work is critical. But that has to be designed for; staff have to be trained to do it.”

The most effective learning comes from a parallel process of knowing and doing, not through an analogue approach of accumulating lumps of knowledge first and then focusing on thinking skills and problem-solving.

But progress in integration does not require a single governance body. Joining the dots is not the same as erasing them. 

Qualifications and Employability 

According to the OECD, “Skills are the new world currency”. There is a growing demand for just-in-time learning to meet changing skill needs.

How do you improve knowledge and skill acquisition and make it easier for learners to demonstrate what they know and can do? 

National rationalisation of the tangled mess of qualifications is long overdue and now underway A big benefit in having a more integrated vocational education system is that it will make overhauled vocational qualifications more relevant and attractive-and more manageable time-wise.

Micro-credentials are an increasingly valuable part of the new skills currency. They enable people to show what they know and can do through digital certification, validating new learning as well as skills and knowledge already acquired.

Learning institutions handle quality control. For example, Otago Polytechnic’s micro-credential service EduBits works closely with the business sector and helps employers focus on their particular requirements.

Micro-credentials make visible employees, present and potential, who have got key skills or knowledge not indicated by conventional qualifications.

Trading Up 

One aim of the vocational shake-up is to correct the tertiary/ trades imbalance. According to the Minister of Education “Our thinking needs to shift from the idea that the ultimate goal of senior secondary schooling is to prepare young people for university,” 

Shorter workplace-integrated programmes will distinguish more clearly the offerings of polytechnics from those of universities.

Important v Urgent

Just as Wintec’s dirty washing was being re-aired publicly may have seemed to be a good time to play a reverse trump card and make a wall demolition announcement.

Minister Hipkins said that the vocational education sector is currently unsustainable and financially unviable “and the Government is moving to find a solution quickly”.

But the 6 weeks allowed for feedback is derisory, especially when contrasted with the timeline and process for the Tomorrow’s Schools Review.

Reform of the fragmented and competitive vocational sector may be well overdue but the important shouldn’t be dressed up as the urgent. It is not a National Emergency; rather it is a national opportunity to come up with an appropriate confederate balance of regional and national arrangements.

A large degree of governance autonomy, separate identities and distributed leadership models are the keys to credible local engagement in a networked digital age.

At the same time, curriculum and qualifications  reform,  professional development, digital  learning resource sharing and physical infrastructure, HR, health and safety all lend themselves to more national “back office” co-ordination and cost saving, so long as the “front office” identity and professional and business relationships are maintained where they are demonstrated to be working.

If not, some further amalgamations may be required such as those which over the last 4 years have led to the formation of Toi Ohomai Institute of Technology and Ara Institute of Technology.

Leading not Imposing Change

“People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord
Finding appropriate solutions to real issues is not just about why change should happen. It is about what change happens, how it happens and when. A  Roger Douglas big bang approach may force things through, but with unacceptable collateral damage.

The fallout after a policy announcement bombshell needs time to clear for the way forward to crystallise. More time needs to be spent on the vision and strategy, working with all the key players, before the focus turns to implementation.

The effective way to bring about change that lasts is to really engage with key players in order to do more of what is working well now. This is the Appreciative Inquiry approach to organisational change. It focuses on strengths rather than on weaknesses, deficits and problems.

As Industry Training Federation chief executive Josh Williams points out, the reforms should aim to strengthen industry-led training organisations rather than dismantling them.

Warwick Quinn, Building and Construction Industry Training Organisation chief executive says that while he understood the need for change, “We must be careful not to throw the baby out with the bathwater…”. The changes needed to protect what was working well, and retain the positive aspects of on-the-job training and apprenticeships, especially in high-needs areas, such as building and construction.

Removing system blockages is a valid activity for political plumbers. But while it is important to repair, rejig and replace some parts of the present vocational reticulation system, it is just as  important  to reinforce those parts which are working well and so avoid  disrupting the flow of skills acquisition.

What is not required is a KiwiBuild-type approach, giant in concept but pygmy on delivery, for instilling the skills of the very people required to build houses and the nation.

Mobilising knowledge and expertise

At Education Leaders Forum 2018, UK speaker Prof.Toby Greany  explored the    intersections between policy, practice and evidence and the ways in which knowledge, expertise and capacity moves around within and between organisations.
His models for knowledge mobilisation, the development and impact of networks and collaboration, along with his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive step changes in regards to vocational education and training.

The cold logic of ideology and the selective use of financial data from a chronically underfunded sector should not drive out the knowledge and experience of key players.

** https://conversation.education.govt.nz/conversations/reform-of-vocational-education/have-your-say **         (You’ve only got until 27 March!)

Lyall Lukey Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2019 Digital Divides, Dividends & Dangers Dunedin 17&18 July.

 

 

 


NCEA Trivial Pursuit?

November 18, 2018

Exams-Getty

“New Zealand students say word ‘trivial’ in exam confused them.”
  BBCNews Headline 16/11/18

Year 13 Level 3 NCEA exam students (usually aged between 17 and 18 at exam time) were recently asked to write a History essay based on the Julius Caesar quote: “In war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes.”

More than 2,600 people signed an online petition over the “unfamiliar” word, demanding not to be marked down as a result of their lack of comprehension.

Examiners said the language used was expected to be within the range of the year 13 students’ vocabulary. However, in a statement, the New Zealand Qualifications Authority [NZQA] added: “If candidates have addressed the quote and integrated their ideas with it, then they will be given credit for the strength of their argument and analysis and will not be penalised for misinterpreting the word ‘trivial’.”

That’s all right then-and at least the petitioners displayed some digital and collaborative skills as well as their surprising semantic deficit.

But perhaps the old-fashioned exam format, involving writer’s cramp-inducing marathons for those who use pens of any sort infrequently, is the real trivial pursuit.

All concerned will watch the continued roll out of the NZQA’s digital transformation process with interest.

20/20 Vision

NZQA’s vision is for NCEA examinations to be made available online by 2020.

The approach to online examinations reflects the teaching and learning happening in classrooms and the capabilities of the technology to support a good digital examination user experience in a given subject. This means that it may be some time before all subjects are available for online examination.

While the approach is currently focussed on digitising the paper-based examinations to help schools manage the transition, the opportunity exists to support a transformation in the way in which external assessments when digitally supported teaching and learning is pervasive. See https://www.nzqa.govt.nz/about-us/future-state/digital-assessment-vision/.

At the same time, since 2017 NZQA has been digitising its approach to external moderation of internally assessed work, since learners are increasingly producing and submitting learning evidence digitally. The vision is to see 100% of moderation materials, in subjects where it’s appropriate, being submitted digitally by 2020.

A more effective and accessible digital system for accessing and sharing learning evidence from internal and external assessment will benefit learners, educators  and employers alike.

Lyall Lukey 18/11/18

[Lyall Lukey was a History teacher and external  History exam marker many moons ago. He still holds the world records for the number of pages he filled in his own School Cert. History Exam and for the smallest fraction of a mark awarded per completed page. He has given up playing Trivial Pursuit. Among other things, since 2007 he has been  the convener of  annual NZ-wide Education Leaders Forums .]

 


Miss Snuffy and Mr Snake Oil on 21st Century Learning

June 30, 2018

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2018, examines some of the views expressed by among others London Headmistress Katharine Birbalsingh and her host Roger Partridge, the New Zealand Initiative, before, during and after the recent researchED conference. This article was first published on Educational Central on 29 June.

Among the pigeons

The researchED conference on 2 June set the cat (and a partridge) among the pedagogical pigeons. It was no surprise that 21st century skills and modern learning environments were discounted or deplored.

Key speaker at the event and guest of the New Zealand Initiative was controversial Kiwi-born Katharine Moana Birbalsingh, the founder of “Britain’s strictest school” Michaela Park Community School in North West London.

New entrants attend a week-long military-style boot camp to learn the school’s strict rules, which include no talking in the corridors and demerit points for forgetting a pen or slouching.

Sniffy with Miss Snuffy

Birbalsingh’s Twitter handle is @Miss_Snuffy – “Headmistress/Founder Michaela: free/charter school doing it differently. Believe in freedom from state, truth on race, common sense….”

Some TV1 viewers got sniffy with her pre-event TV interview  though others sat up very straight.

Birbalsingh supports the traditional teaching methods of E. D. Hirsch in The Schools We Need and Why We Don’t Have Them (1999). She argues that education should be about teaching children knowledge, not learning skills.

Jude Barback’s Education Central piece on I June encapsulated Birbalsingh’s fears for New Zealand’s education system:   “You’re about to go off the edge of a cliff”.

The video of the cliff-hanging researchED presentation has now been “removed by the user” though other conference  presentations are still viewable.

Luckily New Zealand is devoid of lemmings.  It is also the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping and other innovations which use applied knowledge, a range of skills and plenty of initiative.

Content with content?

There was a quick response from Dr Michael Harvey:
“The key claim that Birbalsingh makes is… the paramount importance of content over skills …[ but] it is a misnomer to say that skill is not knowledge. Skill is knowledge, just of a different form. The fact-based knowledge that Birbalsingh champions [is] based on declarative memory (knowing that) whereas the skills she decries are procedural memory (knowing how)…”

The key to developing a skill such as playing the piano is practice and reinforcement. Knowing music  theory is not the same as tinkling the ivories. This is no black or white distinction but a reinforcing dynamic.

First cut isn’t the deepest

“At… researchED ‘Festival of Education’ conference in Auckland, 250 teachers and educationalists from around New Zealand had an opportunity to expose a modern-day version of Stanley’s snake oil: the so-called ‘21st-century learning movement.’” 21st century snake oil   Roger Partridge

What expanded the current education debate to a new, largely business audience was this opinion piece on the New Zealand Initiative website on 9 June and then on the NBR website.

Written by Roger Partridge  chairman and a co-founder of The New Zealand Initiative and a former commercial lawyer who led law firm Bell Gully from 2007 to 2014, it recounted the story of American Clark Stanley who created a dodgy medical cure-all he named Snake Oil Liniment .

In cutting to the chase the Stanley blade-wielding Partridge followed in Birbalsingh’s footsteps. He said 21st century learning adherents advocate ‘modern learning environments’ instead of classrooms, with 80 or 90 school children and a few ‘free-ranging’ teachers. The teachers are expected to promote child-centred, ‘inquiry-based learning’ rather than teacher-led instruction.

“There is only one problem with 21st-century learning; despite its seductive underpinnings, there is no scientific evidence it is equal, let alone superior, to more traditional, teacher-led instruction. And there is lots of evidence it fails children, particularly the disadvantaged. So 21st-century learning is seductive snake oil, not science.”

 Exposé or pose?

Partridge claims that limiting their exposure to the wealth of knowledge their parents gained at school a generation ago is dumbing down children’s learning.

“Now this wouldn’t matter if this 21st-century snake oil was simply being promoted by a few Mr Stanleys.  But it is not. It is advocated by our own Ministry of Education. Even the briefest foray onto the ministry’s website reveals how embedded 21st-century notions have become in the ministry’s approach to education.”

It was a very brief foray, not getting as far as the Best Evidence Synthesis section . The Ministry, via its internationally respected BES publications, makes accessible bodies of evidence about what works to improve education outcomes.

For more than 15 years New Zealander John Hattie has also done a great job, via his Visible Learning project, to collate research about what works best for teaching and learning in schools.  TES has called him “possibly the world’s most influential education academic”.

The snake oil metaphor may shed a little light in one or two dark corners but, like 19th Century whale oil, it is not very illuminating overall.

False Dichotomy

“[A] false dichotomy of reform versus status quo fails to capture the rich perspectives of teachers who believe in education improvements that are grounded both in research and in their own experiences with successful student learning.” Give Teachers a Voice in Education Reform

Birbalsingh’s very old school approach may demonstrate the magnetic power of a leader able to articulate shared values and practices, whatever their evidential foundation or fashion status, in order to attract funding in a low socio-economic catchment area and enthusiastic teachers and parents  who share her education philosophy.

A coherent learning culture in one school might be in complete contrast to a different mix in another. Each may get some effective outcomes for at least some learners by “the way we do things around here”.

Vive la difference!

Modern Learning Environments

“There is always more than one side to an argument; always more than one good solution to a problem – often many. Learning is a complex matter…. The issue isn’t Traditional Classrooms OR Modern Learning Environments. It is about what works for each individual child and having highly effective teachers trumps everything!” Dr Lesley Murrihy 

In the current debate there has been a lot of emphasis on physical learning environments, for example Kia King’s interesting parental perspective . This may have overshadowed discussion on other well researched teaching and learning factors. 

Dr Murrihy, Principal at MLE Amesbury School has written on the limitations of a binary argument between the traditional classroom and a modern or flexible learning environment.

She points out that John Hattie shows that what really makes a difference is what happens in the classroom (presumably of whatever configuration). Within-school variation, the difference between the most and least effective teachers in a school, is much greater than between-school variation.

As one might expect education quality largely comes down to the quality of its teachers. There are more effective and less effective teachers in traditional classrooms just as there are in mles.

Murrihy continues  “… it is not so much the architectural environment that matters in terms of outcomes for students; it is what we do for students within those physical environments that makes the real difference.”

We could add, plus what learners are encouraged to learn and do for themselves, either individually or in small groups, in a flexible range of learning settings, from teacher-led input to personal and team projects, with or without the use of enabling technology.

The process is just as important as the outcomes in terms of acquiring and accessing knowledge and developing hard and soft skills. 

The Digital+ Revolution

“The true revolution of digital technology’s effect on culture is not that it replaces what has gone before, but that it shatters it like a supercollider, reconstituting the fragments into many different forms, some familiar and some completely new. ”  Michael Lascarides 

We all know that in a digitised and globalised world the nature of work and everyday life is changing rapidly with huge implications for education and training. What are we doing about it?

There is an accelerating fusion of technologies across the physical, digital, and biological spheres. This includes Artificial Intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, 3-D printing, nanotechnology, biotechnology,   energy storage and quantum computing.

“Tomorrow’s Schools”, soon to be yesterday’s, was implemented a quarter of a century ago for a world which no longer exists, despite the apparent yearning of some to recreate it. 

Disruptive Workplace Change

“Many of the major drivers of transformation… are expected to have a significant impact on jobs, ranging from significant job creation to job displacement, and from heightened labour productivity to widening skills gaps… the most in-demand occupations or specialties did not exist 10 or even five years ago…” World Economic Forum 2016 report The Future of Jobs

Since the 1980s governments internationally have attempted to develop strategies to help present and future workers meet the demands of rapidly changing workplaces. 

The WEF 2016 report points out that the ability to identify and prepare for present and future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations, businesses and individuals, both to seize the opportunities and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

But Roger Partridge seems to disagree. 

21st century skills

“What is even more concerning is the cult-like status the 21st-century skills approach occupies within many schools. Teachers at the researchED conference talked about being afraid to express their concerns that modern learning methods were not working. It is as if the 21st-century skills approach has a sacred status; anyone questioning it is at best a Luddite and at worst a traitor to progress.” 21st century snake oil

It might help to define the catch-all phrase. 21st century skills comprise skills, abilities, and learning dispositions that have been identified as being required for success in 21st century society and workplaces.

They are complementary to basic building block knowledge and skills like literacy and numeracy, not substitutes.

Specific hard skills and soft skills sets are in increasingly high demand.  There is a growing emphasis on critical thinking and problem solving, communications and collaboration, creativity and innovation, digital literacy and career and life skills, with an emphasis on flexibility and adaptability, initiative and cross-cultural interaction.

Far from “dumbing down” education many of the 21st century skills are also associated with deeper learning based on mastering skills such as analytic reasoning and complex problem solving.

The focus is not on content for its own sake.  The test is understanding why and demonstrating how, not regurgitating what. As Henry Ford has it “An educated person… is one who not only knows a lot, but knows how to do a lot of things.”

The sequence is the secret. The most effective learning comes from a parallel process of knowing and doing, not through an analogue approach of accumulating lumps of knowledge first and then focusing on thinking skills and problem solving.  

Out of step with his peers? 

“65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist.”  WEF ibid

Given the business antecedents and membership weighting of the New Zealand Initiative, one would have thought that its chairman would feel at home with the sentiments expressed in the WEF’s report. A Partridge, as it were, in a peer tree. Why is he out of step with the denizens of Davos?

Perhaps because until quite recently he was a senior leader in a well known law firm. By its very nature the legal profession encourages retrospective thinking. It is hardly at the cutting edge of innovation, apart from IP policing duties.

The profession also seems to find it difficult to keep up with social change, witness the unseemly scrambling for fig leaves in the wake of revelations about dodgy legal workplace cultures which senior leadership in some blue-ribbon firms had failed to address.

Many lawyers do a little better in adopting new information technology, but Partridge himself is critical of 21st century learning tools:  “In place of exercise books that help students remember new knowledge it favours digital devices, in which students record their individual learning journeys.”

Do lawyers and accountants still use quill pens and parchment to track their transactions? What about remembering new knowledge?   In 1775 Samuel Johnson said “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.”

Partridge gives the example of “the blacksmith’s son.”  Perhaps he is struggling to come to grips with the 20th century, let alone the 21st?  Maybe he is even more at home with 19th century Gradgrinds?  (Thomas Gradgrind, you’ll recall, is the school board Superintendent in Dickens’s novel “Hard Times” who is dedicated to the pursuit of profitable enterprise via a repressive approach to education and a limited focus on cold facts and hard numbers).

Knowledge Navigators

Savvy teachers are more important than ever as knowledge map-makers and navigators in a world awash with digital data.

Recognising this is not the same as insisting that teachers themselves are the storehouse of all knowledge which they impart, mother bird-like, to passive pupils with open mouths. Growing open minds is the thing. So is understanding the hierarchy of data, information, knowledge and wisdom.

Of course teachers should not just leave learners to their own devices. These are simply tools to be used selectively, in an action learning setting, to create and produce not merely to search and play.

A recent Education Central item said “There are some fantastic initiatives afoot, from an amazing STEM programme that sees students working on projects to help their community to a pilot to provide home internet access to students who currently don’t have access.”

But beyond the use of enabling technology the real focus should be on developing the critical and creative thinking power of the free neck top computer with which every human is equipped. New neuroscience insights can help teachers and learners alike tap this amazing resource.

Performance Indicators and Comparisons

“Not surprisingly, the 21st-century results of education’s embrace of ‘21st-century learning’ are damning. Since the turn of the century, the performance of New Zealand school children in reading, maths and science has fallen dramatically in international tests. And the decline is not gradual,it is startling…21st century snake oil

Partridge states that “whether it is the PISA, PIRLS or TIMMS rankings, since the beginning of the millennium our children have been sliding down the international league tables-and not just falling behind the rest of the world, they are falling behind their 20th-century predecessors.”

Representatives of employers, universities and trade training have also expressed recent concerns about literacy  and preparation for tertiary education and the world of work.

A quick scan of some symptoms and an off-the-cuff diagnosis is not the same as an in-depth exploration of causes and effects  inside realistic time frames. Nor is it a reason to accept the Birbalsingh and Partridge prescription for improving teaching and learning is the only treatment.

The great majority of New Zealand learners have not been and are not in mles, which are still evolving, as is collaborative teaching expertise. 21st century learning principles and practices are not stirred, bottled and dispensed from Wellington through a monolithic pipeline.

In New Zealand’s highly autonomous education system, with wide ranging curriculum choice, a smorgasbord of resources and vastly differing teaching and learning practices, the uptake of anything pedagogical or technological is uneven- and even capricious.

As well as crunch education challenges such as quality teacher recruitment and retention, salary revaluation, leadership development and on-going professional practice development there are also complex economic and social issues affecting cohort learning.

These include the developing trend of extreme behaviour among ever younger children with significant behavioural needs, including conditions like foetal alcohol syndrome and “P babies”.

Embracing the Future

“…the choice between cocooning ourselves in the past and shutting out all the inconvenient noises of change, or embracing a future based on innovation, disruption and using our brains is stark. Alex Malley CE, CPA Australia

According to Malley there is a direct link between a nation’s future prosperity and its ability to leverage innovation and change to improve international competitiveness.

Focusing on the downside of technological change deflects debate from the more important topic; how to best take advantage of the opportunities arising from the digital and other revolutions.

We don’t want to squash the initiative of any young New Zealanders by confining them, however upright, in neatly aligned single desks in passive one-dimensional learning settings.

The challenges of now and the imperatives of the future demand better.

Lyall Lukey  Convener,   Education Leaders Forum 2018: Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education

 

 

 

 


May the Taskforce be with you!

May 23, 2018

Beyond the Education Summits

 “The primary purpose of the review of Tomorrow’s Schools will be to consider if the governance, management and administration of the schooling system is fit for purpose to ensure that every learner achieves educational success.” Tomorrow’s Schools Review

In the wake of Education Minister Chris Hipkins appointing a high-level taskforce of five educators to lead the review of the school governance structure that has been in place since the 1980s, Katie Fitzpatrick offered some food for thought in an Education Central piece on 2 May headlined Tomorrow’s Schools being reviewed by yesterday’s experts.

She concedes that each of the appointees is respected within the education community and, as a group, they appear to be reasonably diverse. “However, a closer look reveals that they are all representatives of educational institutions, most of which are partially or entirely funded by the Ministry of Education or the Government in some way… they largely represent existing sectoral interests…”

Taskforce Members

The Taskforce chairman is Bali Haque, an independent consultant who has worked for NZQA, NZ Principals’ Association and PPTA.  Members are Dr Cathy Wylie, NZ Council for Educational Research; Professor Mere Berryman, Waikato University and Te Kotahitanga; Professor John O’Neill, Massey University and NZ Association for Research in Education; and Barbara Ala’alatoa, chair of the Education Council.

Katie Fitzpatrick goes onto say that “The review is about repurposing schools for the 21st century and it requires, by definition, new and innovative thinking. As a person ‘inside the tent’ … I think it is imperative to have outside input into a systemic review such as this. Representation is also needed from other sectors with youth interests at heart.”

I couldn’t agree more. The challenge is to get a dynamic balance between those inside the tent and those outside– and between the mature experience of those who lived through and learnt from earlier system changes and the fresh ideas of those who didn’t.

But while there certainly needs to be a good mix of ages, experience and ideas in people contributing to and advising the Taskforce, not to have educators with mana and experience leading it would be to show a lack of trust in a sector which needs to be highly trusted not tightly trussed.

Advisory Panel Members

At the first Education Summit on 5-6 May the Minister of Education announced that he had also appointed “a diverse group of knowledgeable and passionate New Zealanders” on a cross-sector Advisory Panel to help the Taskforce and the Government guide the reform of the education system.

The Advisory Panel, led by Children’s Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft, will ease some concerns about the range of input. It includes former National education minister Sir Lockwood Smith, former Labour minister Marian Hobbs, Victoria University professor Rawinia Higgins, Pacific health consultant Debbie Ryan, Auckland University of Technology professor Welby Ings, playwright Etta Bollinger, and the chief executive of the Centre for Gifted Education, Deborah Walker.

Trial by fire

No shrinking violets, the members of the Advisory Panel will provide cross-sector perspectives in advising the Taskforce on the strengths and challenges of the current system, the changes required to ensure equity and excellence for all children and young people, how they would work in practice and with what impact.

It is also prepared to get fired up if necessary. Panel Chair Judge Becroft says the challenge of providing a world-leading education system is an issue for the whole community and will need the perspectives of all of us, including the voices of children and young people.

“As an advisory group, we are tasked with ensuring all of these voices and perspectives are heard and acted upon, across the full spectrum of the work that government is doing in education….In that sense, the group is both guardian of these voices, and a watchdog in the best sense. We intend to hold their feet to the fire to ensure that the future of education in New Zealand reflects what people are sharing.”

During 2018 this group will provide a high level overview and help connect strands coming out of the education conversation and summits with the development and delivery of the Government’s strategic education work plan, which includes the reviews of Tomorrow’s Schools and NCEA.

The latter has a separate group of innovative advisers to help review the NCEA process; Jeremy Baker- Chair, Barbara Cavanagh, Pauline Waiti, Michelle Dickinson (“Nanogirl”), Jonathan Gee, Arizona Leger, Charles Darr, plus an NCEA youth advisory group of students . Again there is a good balance of experience and youth and different perspectives.

Given these counterweights, having well regarded representatives of public education institutions at the top Taskforce table might avoid some of the uneasy compromises which led to the changes three decades ago which are now under the spotlight.

Picot Task Force

It is instructive to look at the genesis of many of the changes now under review. The Picot task force was set up by the Lange Labour Government in July 1987 to review the school system and draw some new lines in the sand.

Chaired by businessman Brian Picot its members were Peter Ramsay, an associate professor of education at the University of Waikato, Margaret Rosemergy, a senior lecturer at the Wellington College of Education, Whetumarama Wereta, a social researcher at the Department of Maori Affairs and Colin Wise, another businessman.

They were assisted by staff from the Treasury and the State Services Commission, with the Department of Education sidelined advice-wise but squarely in the cross hairs of the reforming sights of the then Treasury’s Billy the Kid sharpshooters.

There were only two, not particularly high profile, educators in key review positions. This was not the case with the Education Development Conference working parties of the previous decade, in which Prof. Phillip Lawrence, University of Canterbury played a key role, nor is it the case with the make up of the current taskforce.

So those selected for the 2018 Tomorrow’s Schools Review Taskforce appear to have somewhat more collective and diverse knowledge of things educational than their Picot predecessors.

The governance philosophy of the 1980s was based on the tenet that management skills were interchangeable Lego-like between industries. When it came to dealing with groups like teachers and doctors  it was thought necessary to avoid “professional capture” and ignore engaging properly with professionally credible people. Change had to be engineered speedily to head off defensive reaction.

Administrative Focus

The 1987 mandate was to review management structures and cost-effectiveness, but it did not include curriculum, teaching or effectiveness. Over nine months the commission received input from over 700 people or organizations. The Picot Report Administering for Excellence: Effective Administration in Education was released in May 1988.

For slow learners administration was mentioned twice in five words in the title, which still sends a shiver up the spine of those who are wary about too much horse-scaring change management and administrative oversight at the expense of professional leadership which directly enhances teaching and learning.

The report was highly critical of the Department of Education, which it labelled as inefficient and unresponsive. How many education bureaucrats did it take to replace a light bulb in a school? From memory 18 or so, but that may have been a suburban myth.

The Picot report recommended a system where each school would be largely independent, governed by a board consisting mainly of parents, although subject to review and inspection by specialized government agencies. The Labour Government accepted many of the recommendations in their response Tomorrow’s Schools, finally drafted by two officials from the Treasury and the SSC but no educationalists. It became the basis for educational reform in New Zealand starting in 1989 though some key elements in the report were never implemented.

Blaming an inefficient centralised bureaucracy for slipping school standards, the government disestablished the Department of Education, replacing it with a slimmer Ministry of Education and moving the governance of state schools to their individual school communities.

The Department of Education was replaced with six new siloed bodies, the Ministry of Education, the Education Review Office (ERO), the New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA), the Tertiary Education Commission, Careers NZ and the New Zealand Teachers’ Council.

Curriculum reform tinkering occurred in the 1990s, followed by more comprehensive and innovative reform a decade later to update what was being taught in schools in and for the 21st century.

The pendulum had swung radically as pendulums do when given a good shove. Schools scrambled to find property management, financial and HR expertise among their staff or board, particularly in lower decile catchments and struggled with professional development and learning culture change.

To balance their books many schools, particularly at the secondary level, became engaged in what some considered unseemly domestic and international competition for students.

2018 Terms of Reference

The 2018 Taskforce, like 30 years ago, is tasked with looking at “the changes needed to governance, management and administration to better support all learners throughout their schooling” .

Per its terms of reference  it is expected to consult widely with all stakeholders, including representatives of teachers, principals, boards of trustees, the LGBTQIA+ community, parents of children with learning support needs, employers and young people.

The term “Tomorrow’s Schools” still has some surprising currency three decades later, at a time when, according to the OECD, “Skills are the new world currency”. New Zealand’s state schools have hardly been “tomorrow’s schools” for a long time. There is a pent up need for a review of the administrative weight, formerly regionalised or centralised, placed on schools.

No one wants to go back to the constricting confines of the old Department of Education. Its occupation of the reputed biggest wooden building in the Southern Hemisphere made too emphatic a bureaucratic statement.

But while distributed leadership is crucial and empowering in domains such as professional development and curriculum application, when it comes to things like physical infrastructure, HR, health and safety, more regional collaboration and national co-ordination is long overdue and would take pressure off principals and boards.

In the face of a growing quantity and quality crisis a vital national priority like teacher recruitment is still largely devolved to autonomous tertiary teacher education providers.

Senior leadership teams in schools need to be able to focus more on professional development and support, the keys to a quality learning environment. There have been some  promising collaborative initiatives in recent years like the establishment of Communities of Learning involving local primary and secondary schools and sometimes early childhood centres.

Despite  scepticism in some quarters this is a welcome development to encourage knowledge and resource sharing, grow professionalism and develop education leadership. This is also a key strand of Education Leaders Forum 2018: Valuing Educators- Revaluing Education to be held in August.

CoLs give educators the opportunity to model the soft skills like collaboration, knowledge sharing, problem solving, creativity and innovation which are increasingly required in the modern earning environments to which their learners gravitate.

More input and feedback

“The essence of feedback is that the effect of an action is fed back to alter that action.” Edward de Bono

What is needed downstream of the two recent Education Summits, book-ended by The Education Conversation -Kōrero Mātauranga which closes on 31 May, are on-going live and online opportunities for continuing dialogue and feedback on pending reforms.

This could involve using distributed education facilities throughout the country plus interactive platforms like Zoom for focussed live and virtual meetings on key topics.

As well as wider involvement it would provide platforms for special interest groups and experts to pick up in depth on the threads that have evolved so far. It would build in a feedback loop that would go a long way to improving the productive outcome of the education conversation by helping to focus the minds of those on the Taskforce and the Advisory Panel.

To have only a “tick the box” online questionnaire and two invited Summit audiences involved for two days providing input and feedback would be a missed opportunity in terms of continuing real dialogue and feedback.

As always in education discussions there needs to be an adjustment for the Dunning-Kruger effect and its Socratic corollary: “The less you know about something, the more you think you know; the more you know about something, the less you think you know”.

Piloting the next stage of the ambitious millennial education reform juggernaut should not yet become a Han Solo effort. In order to escape the gravitational pull of old systems and outdated mindsets, the energy required to fuel lift-off needs to come from the continued involvement of those affected by or interested in the outcomes of the reform process.

The bandwidth of knowledge is trust. May the Task Force be with us all!

[ https://educationcentral.co.nz/what-do-you-think-about-tomorrows-schools/ 12/6/18-Have your say.]

Lyall Lukey   Convener, Education Leaders Forum 2018


Tomorrow’s Skills: Action Now

July 13, 2016

“…we’re about to be late for tomorrow.”  Alvin Toffler
 Toffler, the author of Future Shock who died at the end of June, issued the famous wake-up call above to an earlier generation. Will  too many learners currently in New Zealand’s education system be late for tomorrow’s  new world of work?

Education Leaders Forum 2016 Tomorrow’s Skills will help educators  understand the implications for all learners of technological , economic  and social Shift and the  fragmented future of work , which will bring both threats and opportunities.  Forum participants will also access timely strategies and resources  for preparing learners now to adapt to the future by developing an appropriate skills portfolio.

Yesterday’s Schools?

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn,” Alvin Toffler
 “Tomorrow’s Schools” was implemented a quarter of a century ago in a world which no longer exists. Drones, electric cars, 3d printing, hover boards and virtual reality will all be our collective reality as we move into in the Fourth Industrial Revolution which transcends the digital revolution of the last 50 years.

Wireless farming  is a reality in the Waikato and an example of much more than number 8 wire ingenuity. My stepfather, who immigrated as a 10 Pound Pom in 1951 and got his first job as a tie-wearing herd tester in the Waikato, would be flabbergasted.

In a digitised and globalised new world the nature of work is changing rapidly in terms of what is done, where and by whom, with huge implications for education and training. As technology becomes more pervasive, traditional trades disappear and a different mix of skills is demanded by employers .

The ability to anticipate and prepare for future skills requirements is increasingly critical for education and training organisations in order to seize the opportunities presented by these trends and to mitigate undesirable outcomes.

21st Century Skills: A different mix

In today’s world, technical and digital literacy is of equal importance to English literacy and it is essential that progress be made in the way we educate and prepare our children.” Ian McCrae CE, Orion Health
The term “21st Century skills” contains the idea that the demands of the 21st century are sufficiently distinct from those of the previous century to make educational reform a necessity. Instantaneous access to information and the speed at which it dates have rendered an information-based education system redundant.

Education is not only about preparing people for the world of work, but employment readiness and adaptability are imperatives. Laying and strengthening the foundations for transferable cognitive, social and ICT skills is a lifelong journey from early childhood.

A 2015 Economist Intelligence Unit report sponsored by Google Driving the skills agenda: Preparing students for the future shows how evolving business needs, technological advances and new work structures are redefining what are considered to be valuable skills for the future.

The EIU’s extensive research programme examined to what extent the skills taught in education systems around the world are changing. It inquired into the extent to which 21st Century skills, such as digital literacy (including coding), creative problem solving and live and distance teamworking and collaboration are complementing traditional skills such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

The recent – and some would say belated -announcement that digital technology is to be formally integrated into the New Zealand Curriculum picks up on the importance of preparing children and young people for a future where digital fluency will be critical for success .

The integration of skills

“Teachers need to understand that these are not taught skills but modelled skills,” B. Schreuder
Are young people learning the skills they need to adapt to New Zealand’s rapidly changing workplace?
21st Century skills cannot be taught in isolation: they must be integrated into every learning area via group projects, not bolted on as additional subjects for individuals, so that social and cognitive skills development becomes inseparable from knowledge sharing.

To be work ready students need to understand deadlines, to be able to work under pressure and to prioritise. They also need ongoing opportunities to gain experience of public speaking, networking, multimedia production and non-digital creative pursuits in music and the arts.

Opportunities and Threats

“Recent discussions about the employment impact of disruptive change have often been polarized between those who foresee limitless opportunities in newly emerging job categories and prospects that improve workers’ productivity and liberate them from routine work, and those that foresee massive labour substitution and displacement of jobs. Both are possible. It is our actions today that will determine whether we head towards massive displacement of workers or the emergence of new opportunities.’  World Economic Forum report The Future of Jobs 2015

People are on the move, changing jobs more often and switching careers or taking a portfolio approach to how they earn their living.

Work changes bring both opportunities and threats. There is the obvious risk of increased employment insecurity. More than half of the new jobs in advanced economies since the 1990s have been temporary, part-time or self-employed. At the same time the “portfolio economy”, self-employment and new business startups present big opportunities not available a generation ago.

Up to two thirds of new job entrants are getting their first job in roles that will either look very different or be completely lost in the next 10 to 15 years due to automation.

The changing economy certainly creates risks for individuals as well as organisations. As business models change, often abruptly because of disruptive technology, people will have to master multiple skills if they are to survive in such a world—and keep those skills up to date.

Microcosm or Time Capsule?

L > C  For an organisation to survive its rate of learning must be equal to, or greater than, the rate of change in its external environment.” Reg Revans
How well is the education system preparing young people for the future of work? It would seem that many young people are not being prepared for the right jobs and roles. Many are enrolled in fields of study that will be radically affected by automation.  They will need to learn how to learn and how to unlearn.

For all the outlier progress in some pockets of educational innovation, the world of education is not changing at the same pace as the world of work and the rate of technological disruption. Education at all levels needs to be a microcosm of the changing world not an anachronistic time capsule.

All involved in education and training need to reinterpret the world through new lenses not extrapolate the future from past experiences and present perceptions. Only then will they be able to truly help learners navigate their personal pathways to the future.

*Upcoming Event The tenth annual Education Leaders Forum Tomorrow’s Skills-Pathways to the Future will be held on 23 & 24 August 2016 at the Waipuna Conference Centre in Auckland. ELF16 is about the seismic shifts happening in the world of work, the demand for different skills and the implications for education at all levels. More at http://www.smartnet.co.nz/ 

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2016- Tomorrow’s Skills

 

 

 

 

 


Novopay: An Incis-ive Report from Muddle-earth?

June 16, 2013

“The problems with Novopay have affected public trust and confidence in the Ministry of Education and also the wider public sector.”                  Novopay Report

Apart from those numerically numinous teachers who like an activity-based approach to the study of statistics and probability, Novopay’s game of unders and overs has been very annoying, especially for many of their colleagues. But it’s time to come in spinner and get some perspective.

So far the Novopay system has cost $24 million more than expected, though the blowout was likely to increase even further. But on the political Richter scale it is a mere 3.4 compared to an INCIS 9.1

INCIS was the name of the Integrated National Crime Information System designed to provide information to the New Zealand Police in the 1990s, but which was abandoned in 1999. By then it wasn’t integrated, it wasn’t national and it certainly wasn’t a system providing much timely information, but it really raised the bar in being a criminal waste of taxpayers’ money. By some estimates NZD$110 million swirled down the INCIS gurgler in the 1990s. Though the project was abandoned, parts of its hardware and software infrastructure are still in use today.

Edge of Chaos

At least Novopay lumbered into flight, if somewhat prematurely. Post-Report it is no dead duck, despite the guns being pointed collectively skyward from early May with people waiting for a different kind of report. There was plenty of ducking for cover.  Not getting all the ducks in a row in the first place was the big problem, as the Novopay Report makes clear.

Not Novopay ducks

Not Novopay ducks

There is a web-footed welcome to the finished product: “Welcome to the Ministerial Inquiry into Novopay website. The Minister responsible for Novopay, the Hon. Steven Joyce established the inquiry to address the issues and concerns surrounding Novopay – the education payroll system.”

Joyce is, of course,  the Minister responsible for the Novopay mop-up, not the cock-up. The role of the Ministerial Inquiry was to conduct a fact-finding investigation into Novopay from the outset to the present day and was led by the Lead Inquirers, Mr Murray Jack and Sir Maarten Wevers, to the accompaniment of Goodnight, Irene.*

Educhaos

The inquiry found Talent2, the Australian contractor tasked with implementing the system, has been swamped with technical difficulties which built up a tsunami of compounding errors. This was not entirely news: “The impacts of the well-publicised Novopay failures have reverberated across New Zealand”  for months. Those at the whiteboard face have not been backward in forwarding their error ridden payslips to the media*.

It has all very annoying and very time-wasting, but it is not quite in the league of, say, formerly Solid-as coalminers being wrenched from the coalface by sudden redundancy.

Just after the report was released Anne Jackson Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary (tertiary, international and system performance)  chose walking over planking by responsibly tendering her resignation. She said the decision to resign was hers alone and that there was no pressure put on her to quit. “I remain deeply committed to education and the principles of public service. That is why I have taken this step today…” A colleague followed last Friday. In fact there have already been three major MoE resignations, counting Secretary of Education Lesley Lonsgtone, though that was not solely Novopay inspired, nor pressure free.

Other colleagues will be squirming. Even if they weren’t trying to string along their political masters and mistresses, it does seem that the advice proffered to ministers was, to coin a phrase, ropey. Some advisers obviously gave themselves more than enough rope.

Unsurprisingly, responsible ministers of all persuasions since the Novopay behemoth lurched out of the laboratory were not fingered; it was all down to dodgy advice, the biggest sin for any public servant.

A Class Action?

The class action by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association on behalf of 18,000 members against Ministry of Education acting secretary Peter Hughes is a further waste of time and resources which should never have been started. In the wake of the latest resignations, it should be abandoned forthwith.

The Association is fighting to have a statutory declaration from the court that Hughes, who has only been in the acting role a few months,  has breached his Education Act obligations to pay school staff.  The union said it wants the ministry to shoulder the blame for the fiasco. Vampire movies are inexplicably still popular, but how much blood is enough?

Perhaps it’s really a classic class warfare action ahead of next year’s general election.  On a National Radio  item on Novopay PPTA president Angela Roberts talked about “the workers” as if she’d forgotten who she was representing. “Education professionals” and “support staff” would have sounded better.

Perspective

It really is time for a bit of perspective. Frustrating though the Novopay saga has been it is not payola. There has been some accountability, with at least two out for the count, even if the lighthouse keeper’s role of the State Services Commission hasn’t really been  put under the spotlight.

It is a fact that one teacher’s bungled pay slip was just 1c.  But alongside people facing the challenge of school closures and mergers, or those suffering genuine hardship in Christchurch because of EQC and/or insurance battles, these indubitably annoying errors pale into insignificance, especially given that many schools made temporary arrangements for those whose pay was cocked up. They should be compensated for wasted administration time, but litigation is a different matter.

The Biggest Issue

The biggest issue is why in the first place the Ministry looked off-shore for a tweaked, out of the box system when clever Kiwi IT and payroll firms could have delivered the goods in a more timely and user-friendly fashion.

That’s not to say there would have been any teething problems, both system and training, which is par for the course in any large change like this which shifts a largely manual system onto an integrated digital platform. All IT systems would be absolutely fine if it weren’t for the users. But at least the support would have been at hand and the chosen IT partner better vetted.

When she resigned Anne Jackson’s role was the development of strategic direction for the education system, including links with economic policy, skills and innovation. It’s a pity that MoE didn’t activate those links closer to home. As I said in an earlier Novopay blogpost* we have talent too.

Give Kiwi skills and innovation a chance!

*Blinks

http://inquiry.novopay.govt.nz The Ministerial Inquiry
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8782110/Novopay-claims-major-Education-Ministry-scalp
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/politics/8782186/Education-Ministry-manager-quits-over-Novopay
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/8799149/Off-to-court-as-teachers-pay-rounded-to-1c
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLvk-qsKonQ    Vid  The Weavers Goodnight, Irenefrom their historic re-union concert in 2008.-about the time Novopay kicked off.
Education Novovirus spreads in Muddle-earth My earlier blogpost on this.

#Lyall Lukey  16 June 2013
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


The Education Cluster Bomb and the Parata Principle

October 1, 2012

 ”This will enable decisions about the schooling network to consider housing developments and surrounding infrastructure. It will also facilitate engagement with parents and learners to ensure they play a significant role in deciding the type of education provision that meets their community’s needs,”  Hekia Parata, Minister of Education

Engagement with parents and learners? What about principals and teachers?  More like enragement over the last fortnight because of the way the seismic shake up in education in greater Christchurch has been mismanaged.

There have been enough recent Big Brother announcements on the wider earthquake front without a Big Sister pronouncement to boot. Still feeling rather bruised and fragile, citizens have had to be passive recipients of recent proclamations on the 100 day Central City Recovery Plan, more residential red zoning and the off hand extension of the timeline within which democracy is going to be returned to regional government in Canterbury. The latest shock waves affect several schools, the hearts of their communities for young families and the not so young.

Missed the Cluetrain

As the tsunami of letters to The Press attests the natives are restless but not voiceless about “we know best” decisions, especially if information on which they are made is partly withheld rather than being fully shared. The Cluetrain Manifesto is now 17 years old but some organisations still haven’t got a clue.

Ministers like opening schools, not closing them-ask Trevor Mallard. But for obvious geological, geographic, and demographic reasons there has to be some major post quakes rationalization of education provision in the wider city, with 4400 unused desks.  Many families have left the region; others have moved west and teachers and resources have to follow.

It would be unreasonable to expect a continuation of the post quakes moratorium on staffing changes. Resources have to flow to where the people are now-and where they’ll be when the much vaunted rebuild gets into full gear, with more than 20,000  new workers in the city, many with families.

The sad thing is that the bungled announcement of the initiatives may have inoculated some school communities against some real education changes needed, earthquakes or no earthquakes.

The Pareto Principle

The Pareto principle, also known as the 80–20 rule and the law of the vital few, states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The principle helps manage those things that really make a difference to results. Business management consultant Joseph Juran named the principle after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

The Parata Principle

The Parata Principle states that 20% of each Ministry of Education policy announcement will cause so much smoke and fury by the way it is arrived at and delivered that it will be difficult to see any virtues, let alone necessities, in the other 80%.

So it was with the withdrawn class size averaging proposal earlier in the year when the Minister was given a statistical hospital pass by her ministry. Parata initially said that about 90 per cent of schools would either gain or have a net loss of less than one full time equivalent teacher as a result of the combined effect of the changes, hardly justifying the-sky-is-falling-again response in some quarters, but omitted to point out the somewhat larger effects on the other 10%.

So it also was with Canterbury education shake up announcement on 13 September. 173 schools out of 215 were not affected by the announcement-exactly 80%.

Schools assembly
…Blue’s the colour of the sky In the mornin’ when we rise … Green’s the colour of the sparklin’ corn In the mornin’ when we rise…”
Colours  Donovan & Joan Baez 1965*

When they rose that morning, many principals had little idea of the scale of changes about to be detonated. As they arrived at the schools assembly to hear an announcement marred by confusion and mired in bureaucratic terminatorology, principals were given colour coded name tags according to whether their schools were in the proposed optional (or optional proposed) categories of purple “rejuvenate” ( eu-than-ase); orange “consolidate” and green “no change”. The use of colourful weasel words didn’t help schools given a Don’t Come 2013. The blues were soon on parade.

In a (very) mixed media combo consisting of a starter video, ministerial miniseries from Earthquake Minister Brownlee and Education Minister Hekia Parata, it was announced that 13 Christchurch schools would close and 18 could merge. Five Aranui schools would also combine into an education “cluster”. Since they are going to physically be on one site in Hampshire Street a “huddle” or “mob” would have been more appropriate.*

Then principals were then engaged in a DIY breakout activity Find out the Fate of Your School by flicking through the folder of bumf. Look there it is, right at the end!

Feedback and feedforward
”As we move from recovery to renewal, we have an opportunity to realign services with changing community needs and ensure our investment delivers better outcomes for learners and the wider community…’In line with community feedback, we are taking the time to get this right because the benefits to Christchurch and wider New Zealand are tremendous…”  Gerry Brownlee

Community feedback was just about to start, though a lot of people would have appreciated the opportunity for feedforward. Minister Parata said the region’s education sector and wider community had “signaled” support for new approaches to education and this included greater sharing of resources and capital. To achieve that, schools had been grouped into clusters based on their geographic location.

 The Thinking?
…Freedom is a word I rarely use without thinkin’.. Colours 

Just how much thought had gone into the proposals and where was the vision, the big picture? These had been the strengths of the rather draconian 100 Day Central City Plan V1 launched by Minister Brownlee only a few weeks earlier to reconfigure the city after the last of 1600 commercial buildings is demolished. While this was a totally top down process, it picked up on the earlier CCC run Share an Idea exercise in 2011 which allowed thousands of people to initiate ideas not merely respond to them. The 30 July CCDU launch had sold the big picture by articulating clear design principles without getting bogged down on the details, which included some tricky property time bombs.

Now the Earthquake Minister was telling the principals that the region’s education sector had experienced huge disruption since the earthquakes. This was not an entirely novel insight. It certainly had and the sector had shown great flexibility in coping, from site and resource sharing and running learning shifts to more use of mobile information technology.  Teachers and students at the electronic whiteboard and Blackboard face did very well: NCEA results for the region were outstanding despite the dislocation at home and at school.

The Education Minister followed by stating that a strong education system, from early childhood to tertiary, will be critical to the redevelopment of greater Christchurch and its economy in the wake of the earthquakes of 2010 and 2011:
“This is why the Ministry of Education has worked with the community and the sector to develop a Plan for renewal that will meet the educational needs of children and young people, and support social, cultural and economic recovery.
This will involve an investment of up to one billion dollars to develop greater Christchurch as a leading education community positioned to set new standards of excellence in teaching, learning and research.
It also offers a unique opportunity to take an innovative course of action that will improve the delivery of education, extend the options available for learners, and lift student achievement.
The plan for education renewal considers the needs of Learning Community Clusters …”

Post quakes education in Canterbury has been a fascinating laboratory of locally generated ingenuity and innovation. John Laurenson, the Head of Shirley Boys’ High School had posted some innovative post quake ideas for education in East Christchurch on YouTube in June .* Three months later, as top down met bottom up head on like two colliding tectonic plates,  he was blindsided and blindfolded like several of his fellow principals.

Media management: out to launch?
How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101

The devil wasn’t just in the detail, it was also flagged right up front in capital letters in the inept way the announcement was planned and executed in both its professional and media dimensions.

Media management or lack of it was all straight from the manual of How to set the Cat among the Pigeons and Scare the Horses 101, with no obvious  subsequent credits having being earned for the companion programme How to Shelter from Fallout from Panicked Pigeons and Bolted Horses 201.

There was confusion between firm “proposals” and various “options”. The inclusion of the “option” of possibly merging SBHS and CBHS –leaked by NBR and picked up by Stuff before the optimistic embargo expiry time-was rated an emphatic “Not Achieved” in Geography, History and School Culture and brought into question the credibility of other options and proposals (or were they proposed options and optional proposals?)

There had been two rounds of post-quakes education shake up meetings held over the last year or so with hand-picked people, but there seems to have been no meaningful segue to the Renewing Education in Greater Christchurch launch.

Some schools down for closure or amalgamation as firm proposals had prior briefing (a whole one hour prior to the launch), but not CBHS and SBHS, whose geotechnical status had not yet been made available.  Media management on the day fell short. The Ministry didn’t make it easy for participants and media to access online information in real time. In an age of mobile social media and 24/7 news outlets placing an unrealistic 4pm publication embargo only encouraged some media outlets to also go off half cocked while denying principals and Board of Trustees Chairs with the information to pass onto their colleagues.

Not in my schoolyard
“It’s sad for those schools that are involved in closing and merging and we’ve got to sit down, we’ve got to talk about how we can positively work with those proposals and ensure we’ve got a good strong, efficient, effective network for learning in Christchurch.”  Trevor McIntyre, Headmaster of Christchurch Boys’ High *

On Newstalk ZB  and Radio New Zealand the day after the announcement Trevor McIntyre said that while the shake up of Canterbury’s education sector will be difficult for many, a reassessment was needed. Before the announcement, he said, Christchurch principals had been fully aware of the need for changes in the region. But specific proposals for individual schools, he said, are a lot different than generalised discussion about change and renewal across the region.

Banks Avenue School could either be relocated or close as part of the proposals. Principal Murray Edlin said while it will be hard for many, the reorganisation is needed: “Because we’ve had an earthquake, there needed to be a reassessment of what the education provision is for Christchurch. What is really pleasing to see is that this is [only] a proposal, so it certainly gives us an opportunity to have some reaction to it.”*

Some of the other initial comments were less printable. The repercussions of the percussion were suddenly far wider than envisaged. Schools in the west and elsewhere were now on Death Row, not just those in the more affected east.

That Certain Feeling? No Minister

“Christchurch has been very tired but I think suddenly there is a new energy and feel … “I expected people would get upset but we had to give certainty and that’s what we’ve done,” Education Mininster Hekia Parata.

Expectations are very important in education. The Minister ensured that hers were self-fulfilled by managing to simultaneously panic parents, alarm students and irritate principals- the whole trifecta- and provoke calls to the ramparts with banners and posters trivialising the issues but providing a useful steam releasing valve for people sick off fighting earthquake battles and wanting their children’s schools to be havens of normalcy in the new post quakes  abnormal .

In the following days she wouldn’t be drawn on whether schools targeted for closure or amalgamation could hold onto hope. “We’re going to go through a process,… The point of consultation is to explain why their schools are on the proposal . . . hear what people have to say, for them to hear the detail, and then to reach a decision.”

The overhaul was “definitely, emphatically, unequivocally not a cost-cutting measure”. But to fit new needs surely it’s very appropriate for it to be at least a cloth cutting exercise, though one which appreciates the role of schools, especially in rural areas since they are often the last vestige of community now the post offices, the general store and the local church have closed. The same hold true in some suburbs.

Follow Up to Launch
“We have relied on your feedback during consultation on the Education Renewal Recovery Programme ‘Directions for Education Renewal in greater Christchurch’ Lesley Longstone, Ministry of Education Secretary

The Secretary featured two days after the launch in a full page Press ad looking inordinately cheerful in what could have been an old colour holiday snap. At least it was  in red and black. Entitled “To the people of greater Christchurch” the ad started: “As you will have seen or heard, the Government is investing up to ONE BILLION dollars in the renewal of education across greater Christchurch”.

ONE BILLION. What a capital idea! The timeframe of 10 years wasn’t mentioned and it’s not clear how much of this is new money.

 The secret  in strategy formulation is the sequence. Rather than the stages of Preparation, Response, Recovery and Renewal in terms of handling a natural disaster there is the clumsy omnibus concept “Education Renewal Recovery Programme” which scrambled the scale of changes and timelines for implementation. It all seemed rather confused not focused. Opportunities for some broadbased professional and community prior input would have been good, not just feedback.

The next day I couldn’t find anything on the MinEdu site pointing to the announcements, though Saturday’s ad provided an obviously non-hyperlinked url.*  Parata’s  subsequent “stepping back” clarification was a belated exercise in barn door closure. Since Announcement Day a flurry of phone calls, meetings and revised consultative time-lines has brought much less certainty than the Minister averred.

Over a fortnight later a letter regarding the now revised consultation period was hand delivered to the principals of affected schools last Friday. The next day there was a new Press ad under the heading Greater Christchurch Education Renewal (no mention of recovery now): “More community consultation-the next step for schools proposed to be merged or closed.”

More?  I didn’t know we had had any yet.  At least there is now a more realistic timeline for the “consultation process”. Each affected school is left to run its own process “in the way that best suits their school and their school community.”  If they want assistance Minedu will pay for an independent facilitator. “This is your chance to influence what happens.”  Not much chance of that with an atomised process but better late than never I suppose.

Beyond the Status quo

People will support what they help to create.” Marvin Weisbord

With the shift in population westwards from the munted east, there had to be more than a degree of rationalization in the provision of education in the wider city. The issues in the west, especially in Selwyn County-where the launch meeting was held-are about handling population expansion already happening apace pre quakes and accelerating since. Scaling up not scaling down is the challenge there.

The Minister’s statement that there is the opportunity to make education in Christchurch better, not just restore the status quo is fair enough, even if it got lost on the day. While some people fear a New Orleans post Katrina privatisation of education in Christchurch, given the scale of the challenges, not to mention the run on Banks, the Charter or “Partnership” school concept is a horse of the stalking rather than the Trojan variety.

This is not the time to merely paper over the physical and metaphorical cracks in education in the region. This is the opportunity to build deep and strong new foundations for differently configured learning communities based on strengthening present and new communities as they respond to seismic and other shocks, including fully coming to terms with the mobile digital revolution and with the implications of a new understanding of the principles and practices of effective learning and teaching from the work of Christchurch educator the late Graham Nuthall  and others.

It is also an opportunity to and explore new methods of governance and the sharing of educational plant and overheads both within learning clusters and with other community organisations. Many schools would benefit from sharing overheads: keeping the professional autonomy bestowed by the original Charter Schools 23 years ago but working more collegially in clusters to share resources and ideas and looking at new forms of governance and overhead cost sharing by taking the burden of property maintenance and other administration off individual principals and boards of trustees so schools can focus on the 20% of the causal factors which leads to 80% of learning outcomes.

 Not Clusters Last Stand
“If you don’t like change you’ll like irrelevance even less”.

Earthquakes or not, all learning communities throughout the country should all be open to self-generated efforts to give 1950’s educational arrangements a shake up in a more mobile and connected age with quite different cultural dynamics.

There is a unique opportunity to pick up on some of the exciting experiments post quakes generated by school communities themselves and sometimes facilitated by regional Ministry of Education people, rather than foisted on them from Head Office.

The challenge is to make the shotgun clusters viable while still keeping community identities. Large school aggregations such as that proposed for Aranui will be like scaled up rural area schools in the city. But, whatever the savings through facility and resource sharing, for many small is beautiful. More than 150 in any community and the social dynamics change markedly.

Distributing the Future
”The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed”. William Gibson

The shame is that the furious furore resulting from the patronizing approach may inoculate some people against a measured and timely response to the demographic and geographic shifts caused by the four major Canterbury quakes and to the real changes needed in teaching and learning, education governance and leadership focused on diverse learning provision appropriate to the second decade of the third millennium not the 1950s..

Of course, some schools are already there and the key to their success is organic self-generated professional development attuned both to the local community and national imperatives. 

MinEdu Report Card: Not Achieved
“The ministry must improve the analysis; the poorest papers lacked a clear problem definition or a coherent framework and failed in identifying major risks,”… Review of the Ministry of Education by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research.

There are lingering question marks over the performance of the Ministry of Education. An independent review of the ministry’s policy advice about the time Hekia Parata took over suggests a third of its papers are “poor or borderline” and only one-tenth are “good”. The results were no better than an earlier review in 2007.  Papers from the Ministry needed to be “far shorter” and “less repetitive”. Policy advice in the Ministry was graded low. “The ministry should act as a trusted adviser, recommending the best option rather than – more often than not – asking the minister to pick from a long list of options.”*

English import Education Secretary Lesley Longstone was expected to shake things up when she started in 2011.   Parata, also new to the job of Education Minister, said then: “I’ve made my expectations really clear to the new secretary about what it is I want and the pace at which I want it,”… “I’m driving in a particular direction and I need the support and the information and the reliable data in order to be able to do that.” …. My role is to tell her what my expectations are, what success is going to look like, what that means in terms of accountabilities for her.” *

The Ministry of Education needs to accept responsibility at the top level for a poorly orchestrated launch and learn from it. When it comes to dealing with both professionals and the public  it seems that the EQC demonstrates more EQ than the Ministry of Education. More importantly there are also big question marks over the substance of the proposals in terms of their formation and their strategic articulation.

Two successive glitches in the last 3 weeks with the new education payroll, which cost schools throughout the country lots of extra administration time, didn’t help the Ministry’s credibility. But what is needed more than efficiency is effectiveness. Perhaps its time to inject some more new people into the Ministry of Education. Some local Christchurch principals, who are demonstrating beyond their own patch leadership qualities in the present kerfuffle, commend themselves as likely candidates who could balance calls for top down change with an appreciation of the need for bottom up engagement.

Bottoms up to bottom up!

Did I just hear a (very faint) cry of Bring back Anne Tolley…?

*Blinks

http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7675704/Principals-in-tears-as-ministry-swings-axe
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0O87fFRizZY   Vid  Colours Donovan & Joan Baez Classic 1965 recording. Worth a play! 
http://www.stuff.co.nz/the-press/news/7678838/Cluster-schools-out-of-left-field
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7669918/13-Canterbury-schools-to-close-18-to-merge
http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry.aspx   Find the MinEdu’s change paper
http://shapingeducation.minedu.govt.nz   Oh here it is.
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7682703/Little-hope-of-Canterbury-school-plan-backdown
http://www.newstalkzb.co.nz/auckland/news/regch/792333415-earthquakes-forced-education-rethink—principals
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/6869627/Staff-being-lost-in-big-reforms-of-Education-Ministry
http://www.ssc.govt.nz/sites/all/files/pif-moe-review-june2011.PDF   Review of Ministry of Education
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rwtm2-S95xg  John Laurenson, SBHS Principal. Earlier innovative post quake ideas 11/6/12
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/education/7690199/Schools-lodge-Waitangi-Tribunal-complaints
http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/7712305/Cooperative-people-quicker-to-act 

#Lyall Lukey 1 October 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https: //bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog

 


A new New Zealand? Echoes of Esko Aho

April 10, 2012

 “We decided to conclude the matter with an amusing tale that when I served as Finance Minister in Finland, many people wanted the New Zealand model. This time round, people in New Zealand looked to the Finnish model. Perhaps together they might form a perfect model,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto

You can’t knock down stand up comedian and Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee. He looked beaten at the Finnish line a fortnight ago, but in the wake of the just released United Nation’s World Happiness Survey, in which Finland was ranked number two in the world behind Denmark, he bounced back last week by throwing another custard pie at himself:“Poor old Finns, can’t be first again,” overlooking the fact that, for what it was worth, New Zealand took out the eighth spot. The irrepressible impresario suggested that the Finns were so happy because they were still laughing at his Finnish jokes. 

Jokes? All hell broke loose in Helsinki after his throwaway unfunny Finnish comments two weeks ago. A total of about one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area, which includes Espoo, and that’s what Gerry landed himself in after his comments in Parliament in response to a speech by Labour Leader David Shearer: “…It’s unbelievable isn’t it. That you’d … make a speech saying I want New Zealand to be like Finland which has worse unemployment than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates their people and has no respect for women.”

According to the OECD Better Life Index, Finland’s murder rate is indeed nearly twice that of New Zealand. It also has worse unemployment and health provision. But on economic indicators such as income and life balance, Finland is ahead of New Zealand. Its GDP is also rising faster than ours and its education is rated tops.

Luckily the PM has more finesse than his Minister of Demolition and knows from the musical Finns down under how to quieten incipient storms in teacups: Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you”*. Sunny John Key mollified his new Seoul mate, the recently inaugurated Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the Nuclear Security Summit and defended Brownlee’s sense of humour saying that he was known for his rollicking speeches in Parliament. Or should that have been bollocking?

Gerry Built
His Minister hadn’t gone down as a Nordic Mr Pickwick, though he has the impressive corporeal assets. In vain he had protested that he wasn’t anti-Finland, waving as proof his Nokia cellphone (definitely an old dunger in the mobile stakes)and pointing out that he carried “a little bit of Finland” with him all the time. Finnish commentators picked up more on his girth than his mirth. As John Key said Gerry is a big unit; he carries a rather larger bit of Godzone and is an all round advertisement for 100% pure New Zealand dairy products.

Finnish TV host Tuomas Enbuske, no svelte elf himself, made play of this in his equally unfunny item Gerry Brownlee: Greetings from Finland.* The erstwhile merely Angry Birds* were now apoplectic: this was no porcine single egg pinching: a cartoon porker had poached the whole carton.

Finnishing School
While Brownlees’s expansive cv obviously doesn’t include Finnishing School David Shearer is obviously a keen distance learning student. He was the one who a fortnight ago had began single handedly to play Finlandia.* The new Labour leader’s long awaited positioning speech  called for New Zealand to follow in Finland’s footsteps. The two countries are of the same size with similar problems. About 5.4 million people live in Finland compared with New Zealand’s 4.4 million-not counting the Kiwi diaspora.

At the Cullen Breakfast Club (no round tables here) Shearer said the Finns had managed to transform their small country into a wealthy knowledge economy “through innovation and talent “. Catching up with Australia is obviously old hat; catching up with Finland is the thing now.

The question is not why were so many Finns so thin skinned-in fact very Kiwi-like-in reacting furiously to Brownlee’s for-domestic-consumption-only jibes,  but why our Government has been so touchy and tetchy about Shearer’s Finnish analogy. The answer is that it raises big questions raised about the Government’s economic and social vision and strategy, beyond partial asset sales. The public consciousness is still stuck on the underwhelming  Jobs Summit thinking of three years ago. Bike trails are fine but they are also rather pedestrian and not the main highway to the future. They don’t cut it as a compelling vision of a bravish new world. This is where Shearer sees his opportunity.

Aho Ahoy
The new Labour leader is keen to echo Esko Aho, the largely untested, former Finnish Prime Minister who came into office in 1991. Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, economic development was rapid. Finland built an extensive welfare state and navigated a middle way economically and politically but by the early nineties needed a new prescription, which Aho administered.

Shearer: Aho’s message to the Finnish people was blunt and honest: They had big problems. No-one else was going to fix them. And most importantly: only their brains and talent were going to take them forward. Collectively, the people of Finland took that message on board. They moved forward. They transformed their economy through through innovation and talent. They put at the centre of everything they did great teachers and schools and great science, research and development.”

As his shift-to-the-right positioning statement for the 2014 General Election he added, with a side swipe at our present PM: “Aho made bold decisions.He was, I need to say, voted out at the next election. He thought it was more important to make a difference than to get re-elected.”

Transformation Through Education
Shearer wants to focus on education to achieve this Finnish transformation by focusing on teachers and holding failing schools to account. Rather than hardly educating its people, as in Browlee’s dismissive missile, Finland has one of the best education systems in the world. So of course has New Zealand, only a few points behind it. In 2009 OECD figures ranked Finnish students at 3rd highest in reading, 6th in mathematics and 2nd in science. New Zealand students ranked 7th, 13th and 7th, respectively.

The trouble is that we have a very large tail of underachievers and that we export so many of the best brains we produce, which hardly helps the quality of the domestic talent pool.

The main problem with our education system seems to be our problem with child poverty manifesting itself through the education system in a cycle of socio/ economic/ learning deprivation. Finland has state supplied child care up to the age of seven, not “pre school education”, and their children start school two years later than here. It has the second lowest rate of child poverty in the OECD (New Zealand is 22nd out of 34).

Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields including forest improvement, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications. Finland had a long tradition of adult education and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were enrolled, 40% for professional reasons

Beyond Sacred Cows
Following in Finland’s footsteps is all very well, but recent economic snowstorms have rather obscured the trail. Former vaunted economicons like Nokia  look less shiny in the new telecommunications Jobs market. Nevertheless Nokia, famously once involved in forest products,  may not be today the poster child it once was, but it still generates three times the annual revenue of Fonterra.

He didn’t mention him by name in his speech, but Shearer picked up on the contribution made to economic debate by the late Sir Paul Callaghan.
But as good as New Zealand is at it, there’s a ceiling to how much butter and beef and meat and milk you can make off New Zealand grass. You hit the limit a long time before you get to be as prosperous as Australia.”

Finnish comedians may have used old Aussie sheep jokes in their onslaught on Brownlee but it should now be obvious that it’s now cows that are the bêtes noires in New Zealand. The grass on the other side of the fence is not necessarily greener and we need to have complementary knowledge intensive strategies to boost export earnings.

You can debate diversification until the cows come home but home grown exemplars are food for thought. Shearer gave several local examples of “high value technologies developed right here by smart New Zealanders.” However, he made no mention of the Government’s offshore oil and minerals plans-to make the most of the fourth biggest expanse of territorial waters in the world. Oil has just been discovered off the coast of Ireland-just in time to save that once much vaunted smaller economy. Where does new Labour stand on a possible ocean mining bonanza? Despite mining initiatives set in train by the last Labour Government Shearer was silent on the mineral minefield.

Vision and Focus
He finished his speech thus:
“If ideas help to build a new New Zealand, we like them. If they don’t, then out they go….“This new New Zealand will be the kind of place the rest of world would like to live.
It will be clean,
it will be green,
it will be clever …
and it will be a place that’s good for lambs.”

With the clean and the green are under threat from the sacred cows “clever” is the key here.The bit about the lambs should have got the chop.

We can and should learn things from other countries-we haven’t the time to make all our own mistakes-but we need to do things our way, without the necessity for neo colonial cringe. Picking up on innovative examples in our own country and amplifying them is the way to go. The body politic is less likely to reject home grown solutions than those transplanted out of context from elsewhere.

It’s not just about vision, it’s about focus. As the Finn Brothers sang:
“…You look into the eyes of the world
Hoping to catch your reflection again
Missing all the real life action.”
                   Eyes Of The World

 *Blinks
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6644473/Finns-bite-back-over-Brownlee-comments  
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6701037/Is-happiness-a-Brownlee-joke-away 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XojVmivqDrA  Finlandia   Sibelius    Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYXiGhM-4nkDavid Shearer’s speech A new New Zealand Vid
http://labour.org.nz/newnz  Transcript of David Shearer’s speech to the Cullen Breakfast Club
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl6CHfjeORo&feature=related    Angry Birds Movie Trailer  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UGuyCLGCE&feature=fvst  Finn Brothers – “Weather With You” Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnDnFUBWQsQ   Gerry Brownlee: Greetings from Finland Vid

#Lyall Lukey 10 April 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog