I went to a wonderful course on future-focused schools

The brochure promised us a quick romp into the world of exponential technologies and the global changing landscape, also a mix of deep dives and interaction with peers.

And there was to be a lot of wisdom: Passion must be real, the brochure said, it can’t be faked, focus isn’t myopic, drive is related to focus, and is connected with passion.

All with a cautionary note: it was acknowledged that some days of being a principal will be darker than others and that resiliency was needed. Thus was provided a movingly expressed contrast of joy and hurt, even ecstasy and agony.

She bounded on to the stage glittering with posters and technology. What a vibrant person.

And she began.

Socratic insight expressed in straightforward English:

A growth mind-frame, she said, means, having a positive and proactive stance towards your personal growth and working relentlessly to achieve and to grow.

That put a lot of things in perspective for me.

An inquiring mind-frame, she said, is one that is continually curious, reflective and aware of the impact on others. Those concerned should listen with empathy and be prepared to change based on feedback.

And then a reference to an ‘outwards’ mind-frame – something I hadn’t considered before – up to then I had always considered a mind-frame an ‘inwards’ component but my understanding of human behaviour was about to be significantly expanded.

Worth the hundreds of dollars attendance fee in itself.

She said the outwards mind-frame has the most profound effect on an individual’s capacity to collaborate. (Mmmmm, I pondered – that might explain some things happening back at school. Memo to self: outwards mind-frame.)

Outwards mind-frame was explained as global in nature, moving away from silos.

Her next set of ideas was about making work and learning personalised:

People entering the workforce, she said, have more experience in a ‘customised life’. The Internet of Me takes the pervasiveness of technology and crafts it to meet my needs. Sensors monitor behaviour in real time and bots alter experiences.

Immediate response is expected, she said, ‘we want it and we want it now!’ We need to embrace design thinking with rapid cycles of prototyping and feedback that is ongoing. (Memo to self: I must stop using that uncool word ‘continuing’.)

(This immediate response idea might take a bit of explaining to the board, perhaps I should wait for the next rise in milk powder, but I’m sure the two teachers will be on to it in a flash.)

And you can’t say she wasn’t practical – here she was on the curriculum:

Update curriculum in real time in order to keep up with the pace of change. This means constantly creating and interpreting curriculum based on feedback loops from students, scanning the environment and spotting signals early. Exponential change starts off looking incremental but as it doubles … woosh.

Perhaps, she is referring to something like reading recovery.

Feedback loops are clearly more vital and enhancing than just plain old feedback. (I wonder if the review office is up with the play on this one.)

My twitter feed, she said, has been alive with people who are disrupting education, who are not (and will not be irrelevant). I am sensing a sea change in education in New Zealand and particularly in Christchurch.

Christchurch! Wow! … we are rigid with attention …

She then did something of a feedback loop herself to define certain key trends that would deconstruct the prevailing industrial model of education.

I am calling it the wisdom of ‘she’:

Adaptive: In a complex, non-linear, and dynamical world many of the issues facing us have no solution and sometimes the problem itself is unknown, let alone the solution. (This is deep and will have them spinning back on the farm but I accept it as the delivered truth.)

Agentic: The power is with the people. (Ha-Ha – this will be news for the review office.)

Collaborative: Requires an outwards mind-set and sense of curiosity. (There’s that outwards mind-set again. Can’t wait to get back to school to try it out.)

Open: Teacher practice is being deprivatised. (I can see now, teaching and learning in full view, with learning results immediately online, will act as a considerable incentive for children in their learning and teachers in their teaching – she is on to something here.)

Connected: Educators are linking with others globally, sharing ideas, and undertaking global projects. (To think that Waikuku could be out there mixing it with the world.)

She then moved smoothly to strategic thinking.

Strategic planning is not enough, she said, we must move to strategic thinking:

Reality: Internally, micro and macro.

Options: What might happen?

Choices/Preferences:  What are our preferred choices? What will we do?

Action: How will we do it?

This is brilliant. No problem could remain resistant to such a process.

To illustrate the power of strategic planning she turned epigrammatically Wildean:

Stand-alone strategic eventsto a dynamic strategic process of ongoing conversation and action

Done and dusted … to iterative, always in beta

Doing strategy … to being strategic (I see this as a big one.)

A list of targets … to big ideas cascading to clear actions

Full of jargon … to accessible language for users and stakeholders (Jargon, especially of the neoliberal variety, utterly absent.)

Verbal diarrhoea … to key ideas, use of video and visuals. (This is literature.)

I’m impatient to get this on display in the staffroom: I envisage hours of stimulating discussion over the tea cups.

Our philosopher guide finished the course with a dissection of the concept of collaboration:

Day-to-day Collaboration: Intentional displays of ways of working together, regular connection to these displays, and fail-safe, fail-fast feedback loops are just some ways of creating meaningful day-to-day collaboration. (That has cleared that one up.)

Organisational Collaboration: Learning connectedness intentionally supports teams to develop flow in learning, with specialist teachers still having a deep understanding of their subjects, but also connecting to the different lenses of other specialists and growing transversal skills in themselves and their students. (Nailed it.)

Associate Industry Collaboration: This extends thinking beyond a school to other schools and educational places of learning.

Christchurch, she adds, is a hotbed for collaboration.

I’m overcome with the wonderfulness of the experience. Some school organisation courses I have been to are clearly a cobbling together of trendy ideas from a range of gurus, daring in sweep, but expressed in a language unknown to most practitioners – laden with jargon and strange expressions that provide plenty of intrigue but precious little enlightenment.

School organisation advice I have come to appreciate should grow from the characteristics of the curriculum nominated not float unattached on the hot air produced. This course was well and truly grounded. What could be more so than: The Internet of Me takes the pervasiveness of technology and crafts it to meet my needs. Sensors monitor behaviour in real time and bots alter experiences.

Well, there you have it, the Mecca for future-focused schools is Christchurch and outwards mind-frame is its name. Never has the essence of education been expressed so clearly, so jargon-free, and been dived into so deeply.

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16 Responses to I went to a wonderful course on future-focused schools

  1. Kelvin says:

    From a reader: Woohoo
    S x

  2. John McKenzie says:

    My most recent illuminative pd centred on the business of busy-ness. I was whelmed.

  3. Dannyboy says:

    Wow🙃 and someone suggested the enlightenment was over. Where have these brilliant minds been these last 30 plus years of my teaching career??? Thanks kelvin for your deep caring and sharing. Almost evangelical:)

  4. Bruce Hammonds says:

    All is solved!

  5. John H says:

    You’ve brought a smile to my (admittedly inward looking) face Kelvin. Wow, what an experience you’ve had. If only these sorts of insights were available to the ancients. How their togas would have swelled with coinage. There’s certainly nothing quite like building a career (and a bank balance) out of stating the bleedingly obvious in a suitably oblique and reverential manner. Especially ironic in a so-called ‘education’ setting one would think.

  6. Cleve says:

    Weren’t collaborators shot? I’m sure I read it in my Resistance Manual somewhere

  7. Kelvin says:

    They were also shamed which is the purpose here.

  8. Paora says:

    Being thick as a plank and old to boot is not pleasing for my outward demeanour. If only I were more bot oriented Kelvin, then I would spend my dotage in Chch among these vibrant charmers, hoping to grow younger by the day.

  9. Kelvin says:

    Sorry Paora, no matter the bots, you are just not sufficiently the Internet of Me so take more walks along your nearby surf beach and accept your station.

  10. Pat Newman says:

    What a load of codswallop… yet education policy is based upon it and we have colleagues trying to enact it!! Where are the thinkers in our profession….

  11. Suzy Reid says:

    Oh my goodness! These ” stages” of this ” process” sound like one is living like an artist. Such a wonderful vision. I have read research that states ” creative people are the happiest”. If this is indeed the case we shall all be a very happy people indeed and thus we shall see all the increase in students anxiety, ADD, teacher and management stress and parental concern vanish. We now have the pathway to solve all problems in our education system.

  12. Kelvin says:

    An artist, writer, and highly intelligent parent writes: Hard to comment on this usefully Kelvin – dark cynicism aside, it appears the google evangelists are reaching fever pitch with the gospel of the education of the market – or in the language of our unique local variant – manaiakalani; the hook from the heaven. Feedback loop is a particularly appropriate reoccurring motif – auto-cannibalism might add a visceral dimension to the machinic.

  13. Kelvin says:

    A Waikato teacher writes: Dear Kelvin,

    Ha ha, you always crack me up with your honest blast to the latest edubabble.

    Would have loved to have heard your response to the movie our community was treated to this week – at $800 a viewing sponsored by a local real estate agent and brought to us by Core Education NZ.

    The movie was an American release at Sundance Festival called ‘Most likely to succeed’ and is about the NEW educational thinking taking America and now the world by storm. It focuses on a charter school in America called High Tech High that is doing the MOST amazing thing! They are teaching Socratic-style discourse and all that (well they moved their desks into a circle.)

    They are even suggesting we focus less on content and more on social skills, co-operation and adaptability and all those things you so wisely suggested could be good pedagogy way back when you were my social studies lecturer at Hamilton in the 70s. Even did a devised drama and integrated technology history project! How radical I hear you say.

    Well maybe in the USA this is big news but I thought NZ curricula had focused on Key Competencies for some time and always used to allow teachers to be creative and innovative (well, until the recent trend to focus on National standards and break high school learning into eensy bitsy bits of measurable meaningless called unit standards).
    Anyway I thought you might like to YouTube the movie title and see a few of the trailers for what is doing the circuit around NZ and amazing the people.

    Don’t bother to go to view the whole thing – trust me!

    Kind regards

  14. Kelvin says:

    Sent in by an Auckland education legend:

    Dear Kelvin

    A great piece ….

    I am not sure what these people have for breakfast but it is obviously something us mere mortals actually working in schools don’t!

    Do they ever listen to themselves?

    The sad thing is some people get sucked in by it all.

    Keep up the good work … will try and give you a call for a chat sometime before the Term ends.

    Just reading through the Education Amendment Bill and deciding whether it is worth the effort to spend time on a submission.

    I know I will do one as it is important and my conscience won’t allow me to opt out of the democratic process but it is getting pretty depressing.

    Hope all is well with you.

    Warm regards

  15. Kelvin says:

    From Michael with whom I helped to write the Science Alive series:

    Wow, Kelvin! You do not take prisoners. What an indictment. Not being a Kiwi I had to imagine the parties you skewered but I don’t doubt they deserved every bit of it.

    I wish I could say things were better on this side of the pond. The Governor of Virginia just balanced his budget by denying teachers wage increases for yet another year while eliminating all state funding for environmental education in an era of the 6th Great Extinction and Climate Disruption.

    I was in the UK early this month and presented a paper at the U of Cambridge, Homerton College, and the Faculty of Education, at a conference commemorating the 100th anniversary of the publication of John Dewey’s ‘Democracy and Education’. I first read that book in 1977 and re-read it in writing the paper, oh, my, what a shame that Dewey’s wisdom has disappeared from the education landscape. He had so much right 100 years ago but now the corporatists run the show and it is a pitiful spectacle.

    Best regards my friend

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