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.

 

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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