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

 

 

 

 

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The May Education Summits- Talkers and Walkers

April 29, 2018

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Talking the Talk
“…education belongs to, and is about, all of us. That’s why we want all of you – children, young people, parents, teachers, employers, iwi, families and whānau – to have a conversation about building not just a better education system, but the world’s best. Because second-best isn’t good enough for our kids. Or for New Zealand.”
https://conversation.education.govt.nz/

The Education Conversation – Kōrero Mātauranga, which opened 23 Mar and closes 15 June 2018, has so far allowed more than 5,000 New Zealanders have their say about the future of education, some via some face to face discussions, the majority by filling in a “five minute” on line survey.

It is aimed at providing some content for the two education summits, Christchurch (5-6 May) and Auckland (12-13 May). Education Minister Chris Hipkins has described it as “the most popular education consultation in decades”.

Have you had your say? The online survey asks four questions about the future of New Zealand’s education system:

  1. What does a successful student of the future look like to you?
  2. What will they need to know and be able to do?
  3. What things need to be in place to make sure every learner is successful?
  4. If you were the boss of education in New Zealand, what would you do first?

Budgeting 1¼ minutes per question makes this a short answer test, though not a very objective one, for people wanting to have “ a say on the future of New Zealand education… for the next 30 years or more.”

Some would argue that productive change is best brought about best by continuous improvement, at a rate that can be handled by all concerned, not by occasional big bangs. Taking pressure off  fault lines not waiting for large seismic shocks.

Still it’s good to have a reason to engage people in discussions about education. After all, everyone has a view, albeit sometimes outdated or idiosyncratic.

But if it is to be more than a tick-the-box consultation the dialogue needs to be anchored to a sound evidential foundation. Educators and others now have access to a large body of new information about brain function, how humans learn and effective professional development, among other things.

Messages need to be sent and received both ways. We are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. There needs to be appropriate context for the content.

Walking the Talk
“The views shared through the education conversation will be discussed at the Education Summit in May and will then inform the strategies and reviews that are part of the education work programme announced in February.”

Beyond talking the talk it is important to think strategically about how to provide those at the learning interface-especially learners, teachers and parents—with the maps, the guidance, the opportunities and the resources to actually walk the talk.

‘Walking the talk’ matters in the use of evidence for transformative education’ is the title of an invited paper published late last year for the UNESCO Project: ‘Rethinking and repositioning curriculum in the 21st century: A global paradigm shift’.

By Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Ministry of Education, this is a cornucopia of accessible digital resources for underpinning professional development, as well as enhancing lay understanding, including that of politicians.

Vision and Strategy
“…vision and strategy are as much about creating meaning for people as they are about establishing direction.”  Andrew Smith

The challenge for Education Summiteers will be merging perspectives from the lay and professional streams of input. This is not easy. The Share an Idea community consultation process following the February 2011 Christchurch earthquake, while highly engaging, did not manage to bridge this disconnect and led to artificially raised expectations.

The Christchurch City Council jumped too quickly from a feel good consultation process into “strategic planning” without developing key strands from the public input and articulating visions for the future of the city for further in-depth discussion. The result was a Government takeover via a flawed 100 Days “Blueprint” which stifled community participation and contestable professional input.

The sequence is the secret. A properly crafted vision describes the endpoint and outcomes of the collective journey or collaborative enterprise and contains the criteria for evaluating its satisfactory completion.

A vision should lift our sights, focus our attention and fortify our aspirations. A confusing mishmash of ideas in the guise of consultation can obscure rather than elucidate the shape of key issues.

There are ways to improve the quality of conversational outcomes downstream.

Mobilising Knowledge
“Out of 947 source reviews the New Zealand Iterative Best Evidence Synthesis Programme’s Teacher Professional Learning and Development BES was found to be the most consistent and rigorous. The New Zealand Best Evidence Synthesis has substantively informed this new evidence about what it takes to develop great teaching that makes a difference for student achievement. “…Comprehensive international review

Prof. Toby Greany, keynote speaker at Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August, has a particular interest in policy, both as a process and the ways in which it impacts in education.

Prof. Greany, Professor of Leadership and Innovation at the IOE and Director of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning, is interested in school systems and how leaders operate within those systems, both as a result of deliberate and unintended policy-driven incentives and of personal agency.

He was one of four contributors to a Comprehensive international review  launched in the UK House of Commons in 2014 on professional learning and development.

He focuses on 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 and his approach to education leadership and professional development are highly relevant for building momentum for positive change in the months and years after the Summits.

The Future of Education
“Public education belongs to us all. Its future is too important to be left to politicians alone.” The Education Conversation

Perhaps education is too important to involve party politics at all apart from providing a high trust and well resourced environment, with cross-party agreement on key strategic priorities like attracting and retaining quality teachers by valuing them more highly.

This would enable learners, educators, parents, childcare workers and others to walk the talk without the sudden lurches caused by an over politicisation of education issues.

The online question asking people what they would do first if they were “the boss of education” is gratuitous. It invites people to focus on the simplistic and short-term. The challenge for those invited to the Education Summits is to grapple with the complex and long term.

Knowledge and data about education in New Zealand is both widely distributed and aggregated via the Ministry of Education’s Best Evidence Synthesis publications, led by Dr Alton-Lee.

For the education conversation to be truly meaningful it needs to be processed in a coherent way which distils key messages for generating better education policy. But above all, if we are to truly value educators and revalue education, the focus needs to be on resourcing and supporting the walkers more than the talkers by mobilising knowledge and turning it into action.

The role of the Minister of Education and his Ministry in planning and carrying out the Education Summits is co-ordinating, resourcing, supporting and facilitating- more Colonel Hunt than Ed Hillary and Tenzing Norgay.

High level performance requires good systems and a continuous flow of oxygen.

Lyall Lukey, Convener of Education Leaders Forum 2018 Valuing Educators-Revaluing Education, Rotorua 8&9 August.


LIFE PASSAGES & LEARNING PATHS

April 28, 2017

 ELF 17 Rotorua Web
“Why can’t they be like we were,
Perfect in every
way?                                                                     
What’s the matter with kids today?”
Kids – Bye Bye Birdie                                                 

Why are young people like they are? What can we do so they can do better? Some key answers will be provided at Education Leaders Forum 2017  Life Passages & Learning Paths, to be held in Rotorua on 23 & 24 August.

ELF17 is about making a positive difference to individuals and their communities by understanding life shaping developmental and environmental factors and path changers in the journey from infancy to adulthood.

Key research findings

The forum will pick up on key research findings from world leading New Zealand longitudinal studies. These include the University of Otago’s Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study founded by Dr Phil Silva. This internationally renowned study examines the progressive results of ongoing research into the lives of 1,000 New Zealanders born 46 years ago in Dunedin.

Other relevant findings will come from the University of Auckland’s Growing Up in New Zealand study which is keeping tabs on the growth and development of initially 6,000+ children from a variety of ethnicities. The study aims to improve the lives of their generation and answer the fundamental question: What makes us who we are?

Cross-Sector Collaboration

The 2017 forum will be the eleventh in an annual series involving Education leaders and aspiring leaders from across the learning spectrum from early childhood to post-tertiary education. It will also be highly relevant for those working with children, youth and families in Social Welfare, Health and Justice agencies.

Speakers from different sectors will explain how collaboratively those who work with children and young people can help influence the choice of individual learning and earning pathways for the better and draw on support networks when intervention is needed at different life stages. Better life trajectories, based on individual talents, passions and personalised goals, add up to better outcomes for individuals, families and communities.

Stimulating Speakers

Speakers include Dr Phil Silva , Founder and Past Director, Dunedin Longitudinal Study; Ass. Prof. Susan Morton,  Director, Centre for Longitudinal Research, University of Auckland; Dr Reremoana (Moana) Theodore , Co-Director, National Centre for Lifecourse Research (NCLR); Dr John Langley ONZM, Strategic Lead- Evidence Informed Practice, Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki; Ass.Prof. Nicola Atwool, Social Work Programme, Dept of Sociology, University of Otago; Dr Adrienne Alton-Lee, Chief Education Advisor, Ministry of Education; Dr Annelies Kamp; Ass. Prof. Leadership, College of Education, University of Canterbury; Dr Craig Jones, Dep. Sec. Evidence, Data and Knowledge, Ministry of Education; Sue Blair, Director, Personality Dynamics Ltd; Jackie Talbot, General Manager, Secondary-Tertiary Group, Ministry of Education;  Dr Gaye Tyler-Merrick, Coordinator: PGDip.Ed (endorsed in Positive Behaviour Support), UC and Dr John Boereboom, Director, CEM (NZ) – Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring.

See Programme as at 21/6/17

Making a real difference for children

ELF17 will have a strong strand linked to the aims of the new Ministry for Vulnerable Children, Oranga Tamariki. It is also relevant to learners at all levels, including the highly gifted, in terms of unlocking their potential.

As well as developmental themes, ELF17 will pick up on the fast changing environment, especially in terms of rapidly evolving learning places and work spaces, and the implications for educators in terms of enhancing teaching and learning and strengthening connections with parents, employers and communities.

While early childhood years are crucial for facilitating the development of healthy and engaged adults who become lifelong learners there are other key life passages where timely intervention can make a huge difference. This can come from the personal attention of an interested teacher or the support of another sympathetic adult, often outside the immediate family circle.

Positive Goals
 “Hope is necessary. It is a necessary concept. What do you give your kids if you can’t give them hope?”  Michele Obama

It is important to give children hope in terms of their future prospects, as demonstrated in Dr Martin Seligman’s Positive Psychology work. Better work pathways are revealed by helping learners set personalised goals based on their talents and passions. Better learning and work outcomes help to break the cycle of material and cultural poverty.

ELF17 is supported by the Ministry of Education and the Wright Family Foundation

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

*Blinks
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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

 

 

 

 

 


Conferences: Where ideas have sex

August 25, 2010
“It’s not important how clever individuals are; what really matters is how smart the collective brain is.”   Matt Ridley  

In the recent TedTalks video When ideas have sex Matt Ridley shows how the engine of human progress has been the meeting and mating of ideas. It’s not important how clever individuals are, he says; what really matters is how smart is the collective brain.

Given the proliferation of live and online professional development opportunities, what is the value of conferences for busy professional leaders?

Designed properly, live conferences are ideal for stimulating some cerebral rumpty dumpty through the sharing of experience and the fusion of new ideas.

A passive spectator-sport conference breaks the day into six slots and fills each with a speaker.  A bag and a pen may be the only legacy of an overdose of input. There is little output and no outcomes.

In contrast, a forum designed to be more interactive puts participants in the centre of the meeting process and builds in plenty of time for knowledge cafes and the other informal knowledge flows sparked by digital starters, short keynotes and open dialogue.

But even after a most stimulating event, post conference depression can easily set in. Many ideas are stillborn because of a lack of nourishment. Good intentions meet quotidian realities, the trivial many drive out the important few and all that is left is vague guilt about a lost opportunity.

Ed Bernacki, Canadian international speaker and founder of The Idea Factory, says: “As a speaker on innovation, I have opened several conferences recently with a simple question… ‘How many people have attended a conference like this before, made notes, and never looked at them again?’”  According to Bernacki usually two-thirds of the audience sheepishly raise their hands.

These events may have been fun, entertaining and informative. They may have rated highly on conference surveys. But were they a success? Was the investment effective?  Not unless they were a springboard for action back at the coalface- and not if participants didn’t have personalized takeaway resources plus the motivation to turn ideas into action.

For this reason he conceived the Conference Navigator Guide, a tool to help people get more from the event at the time and afterwards by helping them filter and manage the flow of new contacts, information and ideas.

The Guide helps bridge the crucial gap between inspiration and execution by challenging participants to act on the ideas surfaced and by providing the resources to help make this happen.

Ed Bernacki is an innovation facilitator at Education Leaders Forum 2010*, to be held in Rotorua 20-21 October.

The theme of this year’s forum is Cultivating Learning and articulates a living systems approach to growing education professionals based on the belief that the component parts of a system can best be understood in relationship with each other rather than in isolation. In the words of Margaret Wheatley: “To create better health in a living system, connect it to more of itself.”   

The annual forums, which started in 2007, connect islands of practice and increase the diversity and richness of the learning ecology-an open and complex adaptive system comprising elements that are dynamic and interdependent.

 The forum involves people from across the whole learning spectrum so they can be more aware of what is happening upstream and downstream from their own niche. As Etienne Wenger points out, the best insights often occur at the boundaries between learning communities.

As well as gaining fresh perspectives, education leaders in different sectors and at different levels confront similar challenges, both in terms of their own professional renewal  and in how best to engage their colleagues in professional development and in coming to grips with a new curriculum and new learning media.

At ELF 10 extra value will come from the harvesting of ideas and resources for upload to the Centre4ELF website. There will also be some distilled policy input for education ministries and other stakeholders, but the main outcome is what individuals commit to do in their own learning community.

Cognition Education is the Major Sponsor of Education Leaders Forum 2010. The Cognition logo with the green Koru symbol and the leaf unfurling refers to the unfolding of learning and fits perfectly with this year’s theme of Cultivating Learning.

ELF Supporters include Waiariki Institute of Technology, Core Education, Massey University, Learning Media, Te Kura (formerly the Correspondence School) and Lukey Resources.

 

#BLINKS
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mNFRg1Tu1y8     Matt Ridley: When ideas have sex 
http://www.smartnet.co.nz/events/ELF/2010.htm Education Leaders Forum 2010
http://www.smartnet.co.nz/events/ELF/2011.htm  Education Leaders Forum 2011     Wellington,  31 Aug-1 Sept

 #Lyall Lukey  25 Aug 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
 https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog

 

 


 
 
        

Older Neurons: Hi-Ho Silver Lining

July 11, 2010

“Keeping active can increase your brain power.  Scientists have discovered that the human brain can improve with advancing years, dispelling the common belief that a person’s mental faculties peak in their twenties.”  Steven Swinford and Richard Kerbaj*

Even if some of us are  still not  sure what we’re going to do when we grow up, many of us more mature people are a bit apprehensive about the possible onset of the dreaded Mental Brewer’s Droop in its various manifestations, from minor short-term memory loss to the big A.  (Don’t forget that next week is Alzheimers Awareness and Appeal Week*).   

But it seems that while short-term memory may, in fact, decline with old age, long-term memory in most people remains unaffected and a person’s vocabulary, emotional intelligence and social skills may all get better.

In their recent article Brain Power Peaks In The Silver Set * Swinford and Kerbaj pulled together an interesting synthesis of recent studies which are part of a wider reappraisal of research into intelligence that began several years ago and which “has overturned the notion that intelligence peaks in the late twenties, prompting a long, slow and inevitable decline.”*

Older people are able to retain and hone an effective a range of skills. Until now some in the more mature ranks have been more concerned with dandruff than dentrites, but it appears that expert knowledge is stored in brain cells known as dendritic spines which  seem to be protected against ageing by a metaphorical silver lining.

When it comes to decision making, it also turns out that older people are more likely to be rational than young people because their brains are less susceptible to surges of dopamine, the feelgood hormone that can lead to impulsive reactions and dopey decisions. Despite slower brain speed, older people apparently solve problems more efficiently, drawing on “cognitive templates” of how they resolved similar problems in the past. The key is the process for problem solving not the content of the answer.

We know that top sports people are considered over the hill in their mid-30s but many of the most influential people in politics, business, law, literature and science are in their late fifties and sixties or older. Management gurus W. Edwards Deming and Peter Drucker were both still lecturing in their mid-90s.

Not only changing demographic patterns but also the loss of significant cognitive resources have led to demands for the retirement age to be lifted in some professions in the UK.

 New Zealand no longer has an obligatory retirement age, though age 65, when national superannuation kicks in, has become the target retirement age for many New Zealanders,  but an increasing number are staying on in the work force, not necessarily because they have to but because they want to. However, the older and more experienced often struggle to hold on to their present positions, let alone gain new ones.  

The ageist struggle starts more than two decades earlier for executive aspirants. Over the years there have been different  invisible barriers in respect to senior management jobs. First the class ceiling, which kept out those from the wrong side of the school tracks; then the glass ceiling, which kept out women. Now it’s the crass ceiling which favours the young and brash at the expense of the mature and experienced.  In the light of the findings above, this is waste management.

My view is that “retirement” should be spelt “retyrement” and it  should be about finding new ways of getting traction for one’s distilled experience and knowledge in a society which  is data and information rich but knowledge and wisdom poor.

We’ve heard a lot about Generations X and Y. Let’s now hear it for Generation S-the  65+years old silver set. Those of us in this age bracket are in our element: just as silver is precious, with the highest electrical conductivity of any metal,  the new research demonstrates that  silver-lined neurons are pretty good at conducting the impulses which are the functional units of the nervous system. With the right physical and mental exercise,  neurons can be kept in better nick at later life passages for more people than hitherto thought.

A sad minority have real problems. In 2008 about 40,000 Kiwis, or about 1% of the population, sufferered from dementia.  With demographic changes, this number is predicted to rise by 400% by mid century.

But pre-shroud every cloud  has a silver lining. Synonyms for silver include bright, lustrous, resplendent and sterling.  Most members of Generation S are capable of rendering sterling service if they keep their knowledge and skills polished.

Switched on Neuron

 Let’s go on the attack and claim back the feel good 60s song Hi-Ho Silver Lining back from English football clubs like Everton who, after England’s World Cup performance, deserve a song with a much whiter shade of pale and make it the anthem of a resplendent Silver Generation.

Hi-Ho Silver Lining*  (Scott English / Larry Weiss)
You're everywhere and nowhere, baby,
That's where you're at
Going down the bumpy hillside in your hippie hat
Flying across the country and getting fat
Saying everything is groovy
When your tires are flat     
And it's hi-ho silver lining
Anywhere you go now, baby
I see your sun is shining but I will make a fuss
Though it's obvious
Flies are in your pea soup, baby  
They're waving at me
Anything you want is yours now,
Only nothing's for free
Life's a-gonna get you someday,
Just wait and see
So put up your beach umbrella
While you're watching TV
And it's hi-ho silver lining
Anywhere you go, well, baby
I see your sun is shining but I will make a fuss
Though it's obvious

*BLINKS
Brain power peaks in the silver set Steven Swinford and Richard Kerbaj  Sunday Times  27 June 2010 www.alzheimers.org.nz   For information and to donate
http://themindperspective.files.wordpress.com     Neuron visual etc
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD7KkJopku8  Hi-Ho Silver Lining- first released as a single in March 1967 by The Attack and a few days later by Jeff Beck  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYPoRFRhVzE&feature=related  -Everton Fans at  Wembley Singing Hi-Ho Silver Lining  Vid
Send “Hi Ho Silver Lining” Ringtone to your Cell

 #Lyall Lukey11 July 2010
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other blog


Slumdog Paupers-One child at a time

May 8, 2010

 Such a beautiful, inspiring woman and a great leader. I especially liked what she said…about being the one who is transformed, by the children… I’ve come to believe that we can learn just as much from children, they are our teachers too. And sometimes it’s more so a matter of relearning what is vitally critical to our hearts and happiness, that we’ve lost under the layers we’ve gathered as we’ve grown up.” Sussana-Cole King

It wouldn’t do for the policy analysts closer to home, but educating the poor is more than just a numbers game according to the remarkable Shukla Bose, the founder and head of the Parikrma Humanity Foundation, an Indian not-for-profit organisation which runs four extraordinary schools for poor children.

On TEDTalk* she tells the inspiring story of her groundbreaking Foundation, which brings hope to many families in some of India’s slums by looking beyond the daunting statistics and focusing on treating each child as an individual.

This is quite a different way of ensuring that no child is left behind-by lifting their eyes to the universe of opportunities revealed by learning.

#Lyall Lukey 8 May 2010 

http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

*BLINKS

http://www.ted.com/talks/shukla_bose_teaching_one_child_at_a_time.html?utm_source=newsletter_weekly_2010-03-31 

Full bio and more links Shukla Bose

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtZKwp6cjd4  Nat King Cole Stardust