About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

SUNZ learnings - scared and excitied

Linear, as we know it, is over and this by no means is a linear account of what I experienced at the SUNZ summit.

Linear is self indulgent - it’s assuming that the restrictive lens (the lens that can’t even capture all the goings on in one room) is an accurate account of what has happened. In our own eyes, it is the Truth. However, a linear recount is impossible and somewhat unrealistic.

Interestingly, we train linear thinking into our youth, from a very early age. In primary school nearly everything is measured by ‘progressions’. Further, we train our young people to write stories through the tiresome genre called ‘recount’. We claim that it is some how ‘developmental’. We facepalm when we get to that inevitable end - “and then we got McDonalds and it was yum” (unless, of course, this is the first time the child has written a full sentence) then we punch the air and give the kid a sticker - then wonder why she doesn’t move on.

Well kids, McDonalds is not yum. It is instead a result of what we call “Cynicism”. Not the *hair-flick* “Don’t be so cynical” (as-in-suspicious) sense, but Cynical in the Zygmunt Bauman and Peter Sloterjik sense of the word.

The easiest way to think about this kind of cynicism is our wonderful human ability to know that things like smoking, drinking, and eating crap food is bad for us, but we do it anyway. Likewise, we know that people in the world are starving while at the same time knowing that world has an abundance of food. Yet we walk away and shrug it off. What can we do? Scraping mashed potato into the environmentally unfriendly waste disposal and even muttering to ourselves at times “There are children starving in Africa!” whilst grabbing the spray and wipe and cleaning all the evidence away. Hardened gravy stains on the formica will not do!

Often we hear that being human is the one thing that separates us from the machines. Even the most wonderful machines don’t have that human capability. This was demonstrated beautifully by Captain Sully’s human ability to turn that plane around - and land it on the Hudson - AI couldn’t do that. Well actually it probably could now because it would have learned from Sully… but that’s beside the point. We are humans. We can make good decisions. That’s what makes us better-er.

Baby X was a good girl. She doesn’t have a snotty nose. Quite likeable.

Now where was I? So we are sitting on the edge of incredibly disruptive and awesome technologies.

Think about the way that cars replaced horses. Yes, we still have horses, but we don’t ride them to work anymore. But it takes a while to happen. The first car cost the equivalent of $500,000 so they didn’t really catch on. The price has to get to that ‘sweet point’ where it makes more sense to buy a car than buy a horse, then - boom. Cars everywhere and not a horse in sight. The prediction is that this will be the case for electric vs petrol cars. It will take a while, but eventually the cost of an electric car will become affordable. Then - boom.

Same can be said for phones. Any computer with the capability of an iPhone 6 would have cost $5 trillion in 1984 and $4,830,000 in 1997 but now that they are at an affordable rate (for a certain elite) 15 year olds are walking around with them in their pockets. And they are great! Just today while sitting in a cafe I said, “Hang on, let me figure out when the Vic 20 came out”. I wasn’t really figuring it out - I was asking google. But I caught myself. I really did think that I was figuring it out! And maybe I was.

Incidentally the Vic 20 came out in 1980. I had one for about 5 minutes until the power supply just about burnt the house down and then Dad took it away. But the Vic 20 is one of the many reasons as to why I very much object to the term ‘Digital Natives’. Especially when digital natives are defined as children who were born after the year 2000. It’s nonsense and a ridiculous term. And I thought we had all dealt with this atrocity over 5 years ago.

But back to cynicism, because this is really why I am here. I came to the summit thinking that all this change is great. It is futile to fight it, we have to go with it. I am an eLearning advocate, I am an early adopter. I believe.

When I think about future focused pedagogy I am sensible. I do not believe in children mindlessly consuming technology. I believe (and I think that my school does it very well) that technology is a seamless tool. We have taken the ‘shiney factor’ off the device, our kids use devices for good. They use devices to learn about how to clean the streams, how to give to the community, how to create a better world - you know the drill. And I have also stood by the fact that our school will use technology to make enviro-ethical decisions, to connect with communities around the world, and to organise and give to our own community to make the world a better place. And this was a safe and comfortable place to be in.

I thought that the thing that separates us from the machines is our humanness. We are humans, we are beautiful, we see beyond the spreadsheet. A computer, for example, will make someone redundant. A computer will close a business - not realising the impact that this will have on the entire town - (think Flint Michigan). But a human, a human has the capability to see beyond the numbers, to see the stories behind the data and to make the human call.

But what scares me and what I have come to realise, are the implications of that pesky little thing called Cynicism. If cynicism is combined with the exponential growth of our machines (eg A.I) then I have an increasingly scary feeling. This is because the machines don’t suffer from cynicism. If the machines could consume, the machines wouldn't smoke. Simply because they know it is bad for them. The machines would chose synthetic milk over ‘natural’ milk. And the machines would know that synthetic meat is far better for us (and the animals!) than ‘natural’ meat (not that there is anything remotely natural about our mainstream meat and milk).

Suddenly I find myself standing at the bottom of the exponential curve in some kind of existential crisis.
And there is a new urgency.
We can’t rely on teaching our children that they have 'humanness' which makes them stand out from the machines.
Our children instead need to learn that the machines will soon be able to make more human (or cynically free) decisions than them.

So schools need to figure out how to deal with and eradicate out the out-of-control human cynicism. This is the next step for education. We can no longer rely upon and celebrate the fact that we are human, instead we need to explicitly teach strategies so that we remain human. It's a tweak, but an important one.
And I have a sneaking feeling that it is not going to be achieved through spelling and calculation.

And when I got home from summit I had a Thai take-away and it was yum.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Post #ULearn16 Newsetter rant

The teachers and I have returned from uLearn which is an intensive 4 day education conference. We rubbed shoulders with Global Leaders in education. This included Larry Rosenstock, John Couch, Michael Fullan, Mark Treadwell and Karen Spencer.

Hon Hekia Parata also spoke about the changes to the Education Act and reiterated the message from the key-note speakers.

The key message was around the future of students and a huge emphasis was placed on the rapid change that is taking place globally. Within the next 20 years, 47-81% of jobs as we currently understand them will be under threat from technology. This includes jobs that have always been considered ‘safe’ from automation. We also learned that we need to challenge the way that we teach so that we can provide the best education for our children.

Today’s successful learners are not the ones that can memorise and recall facts. It is those who are creative and those who can collaborate with others so that they can solve authentic problems as individuals or in teams. Successful students need to be digitally and technologically fluent and be active and ethical decision makers. They need to be the Kaitiaki of our environment.

This means that our story-tellers need to be original, thought provoking and creative - not just good spellers and handwriters. Our mathematicians need to find, and creatively solve authentic problems - not just rote learn basic facts.

We need to equip our students with critical literacy so that they can predict important things (like environmental impacts). They need to be able to create and share environmental solutions so that their future world is secure.

Learners and schools need to be inclusive. Our early learners need to have time to develop their identity so that they can then think about, question, and collaborate in the world that they live in.

We learned more about national standards achievement data and how this data is no longer a relevant predictor of a successful citizen. Hekia Parata agreed and said that National Standards were never intended to be ‘taught to’. They need only be used as occasional checkpoints (twice yearly). This is good news given that current brain research proves that most children under 7 (especially boys) need to develop learning dispositions. If these dispositions are not fully developed before cognitive learning (reading, writing, and maths) student achievement is likely to plateau (and in most cases drop) by the time the children hit year 4 and 5.

As we embark on our future learning needs, our teachers need permission to explore these concepts. We learnt from many other schools who are embracing this with initiatives such as multi-level classroom, collaborative (team) teaching and creative educational spaces. We have also learned to ‘hold our ideas lightly’ and to be ready to adapt and change for the needs of our learners.

Andrew, Matt, Cat and myself were humbled by the opportunity to celebrate Pukerua Bay School. At our presentation we showcased the School Museum, the Rest home visits, Play Based learning and our Pallet constructions. Needless to say we have had many schools wanting to come and visit so that they can take some of our ideas back to their own schools.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Cross industry sharing

I was at a deck party yesterday and got talking to a health professional. I was surprised that she shared the same concerns for her line of work that I do for mine.

"Everything we do must be evidence based, the problem with this is that what works for one person may not for another. We work with humans. Every one of them is different." (That was the medical person... Not me!)

Jo shared the story of how her mother had polio in the 1930s and how her mother's doctor did not believe in the evidence based bed-rest polio treatment. Instead the doctor insisted that her mother had to swim everyday. This hunch paid off and she led a limp-free life.

Such hunches would not be tolerated in today's health system (without an evidence-based backing). 

I am afraid of an extreme evidence based education system where hunches can no longer be tried.

I'd always thought (and have probably actually said out loud) that the science evidence based stuff is better in sectors such as medicine because, you know, they have pills and medicine and stuff. 

However after this conversation and all the discourse around hemp, medicinal marijuana etc at the mo (not to mention the situation that one of our beautiful students is in with a bizarre case of fighting both medical bureaucracy and lymes) I am starting to wonder...

Saturday, June 25, 2016