Thursday, April 30, 2015

Sugata Mitra: Self Organizing Learning Environments and School in the Cloud

Dear all,

As promised here is another instalment from the World Educational Leadership Summit and is certainly something that we can develop at ISHCMC. This post will cover the presentations made by Sugata Mitra and focused on Self Organizing Systems and Schools in the Cloud.

 Prof. Mitra’s talk summarized the findings from 15 years of experiments with self-organized learning by children, unsupervised and with access to the internet in public spaces. He explained the key findings from these experiments and how they led him to the concept of Self Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) and the use of teachers over the internet (The Granny Cloud). Prof Mitra’s talk links SOLE’s  to designing  ‘schools in the Cloud’, a learning facility where children can take charge of their own learning. Following his TED million dollar award, that allowed him to design and construct 7 experimental ‘schools in the cloud’ facilities – 5 in India and 2 in England. He described the activities within these facilities and what teachers and researchers have observed. His final provocation was to discuss what ‘learning’ and ‘schooling’ might mean in the future.

This TED talk provides an excellent background for the ideas that he discussed at the summit.

Some key points from his presentation and research from India, UK and Uruguay that add a bit more to the TED talk:

·         What is a self-organizing system? It is not self-directed education, it links aligned to chaos theory and relies upon the appearance of order out of disorder.
·         That the traditional passengers can be the drivers if left alone to work by themselves.
·         Not about making learning happen but letting it happen.
·         Students will develop their own pedagogical methodology to solve the problems they incur in their problem solving.
·         Children working collaboratively raised reading comprehension by over two years.
·         Children will remember the material they have uncovered for longer than students who are taught the material by teachers.
·         Positive encouragement by adults increased the students learning, “when I hear the voices of my friend, it makes me feel relaxed.”
·         Students learn much quicker and more deeply when left alone.
·         Random browsing led to increased scientific computation.
·         Schools in the Cloud are more effective when built inside an existing school.
·         Having noisy children doesn’t mean that they aren’t learning.
·         Reduction of resources can amplify learning – “collaboration is the key”
·         We should convert all curricular topics to unknown big questions to capture the imagination and motivation of students

His major conclusion was that student motivation is killed by archaic assessment. The assessment model used today was created when schools produced compliant workers, clerks for offices and labourers for factories. Today this is not the case. Even if it was, a modern office involves collaboration and access to and use of technology.  Prof. Mitra suggests that we should “allow internet into the examination hall and that will change everything.”  Problem with our assessment system is that it is not measuring the right things because teachers are forced to assess the wrong thing because of national curriculums and standards, and consequently they then do the wrong thing in their teaching”

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

World Educational Leadership Summit #2: Finnish Lessons

Dear all,

Over the break I will post a couple of Food for Thoughts related to the INTASE World Educational Leadership Summit that I attend. I am going to start with the ideas of Professor Pasi Sahlberg and the story of Finland’s Educational changes. Prof. Sahlberg is Professor of Practice Harvard Graduate School of Education

International benchmarking has become a common tool for policy learning and school improvement. Finland has been the best performing education system outside of East Asia as measured by OECD’s PISA survey. Professor Sahlberg used a decade-long research project on Finnish education to explain how the essential of Finnish society, politics and culture, had led to the model of Finnish educational change

The realization that Finland was doing something different emerged from the first round of PISA data in 2000. From this data the OECD identified what they believed makes education perform well?
-          Collaboration
-          Creativity
-          Trust bond
-          Teacher and leader PD
-          Personalization

From these results a new movement of educational leaders and academic started to emerge from around the world. This movement known as Global Educational Reform Movement of GERM identified some key factors that are restricting the ability of general education to get better. These are standardization, test based accountability, fast track teacher preparation and competition between private and public education.

Professor Sahlberg talked about the importance of the balance between use of technology in schools and traditional tools and practices. He illustrated his point with the following video.

He explained why he thought that Finland has such a good educational system and put it down to smart policies at the government level. He explained that there are no independent schools in Finland so everyone is served by the same system. That for the past 10 years there hasn’t been any standardized testing in schools and the only test students take is at the end of high school to determine their university courses. His final point related to equity in society. Finland 40 years ago deliberately developed a strong equity policy for its society to maximize the potential of a small population. He showed data that there is overwhelming evidence that illustrates that socio-economic background strongly links to their likelihood of success in school. 

Prof Sahlberg then showed how the system in Finland supported schools. The govt is only responsible for policy and budget. Schools create and write their own curriculums. Each school is managed by its own board made up of its own community members and reports to local and regional govt. The district and regions decide how the schools adopt national policies but they insist that teachers and students are involved in planning and assessment.

The idea behind the recent changes in the curriculum that is being encouraged by the Finnish govt., the ones that I shared with you in a recent post appear to be aimed at making learning more engaging, interesting and relevant to the real world. The idea is not to dispense with all subjects but rather to have at least one period that is integrated and developed by teachers and students. The implementation of this will vary by districts and schools and Prof Sahlberg said that some schools make completely revolutionize their curriculum if they feel ready for such a change. He believed that the greater involvement and engagement of students will lead to increased learning and will raise learning objective across Finland.

Professor Sahlberg’s conclusions that were relevant for us at ISHCMC were very interesting. He stressed that:
·         We should celebrate failure regularly in our school year and ensure that failure and success aren’t seen as opposites. “Fail early-fail well”
·         Sitting is the new smoking, and that students sat listening in a class to their teacher does the equivalent damage to their health as smoking cigarettes. “Teach less-learn more”
·         All students should learn foreign languages
·         Differentiation is very important for helping the more able students in school
·         If it sounds crazy it’s probably a good idea in the end so give it a go.

If you are interested here is a link to a recent article that further analyses the Finnish education system .

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Food for Thought: What leading Educational researchers and commentators are saying about the future of education.

Dear all,

It was good to get back to school on Thursday. I had been away at two conferences, the first was the World Educational Leadership Summit, where speakers were discussing future schools, and the second was the Regional Cognita Annual Heads conference. Now this might surprise you, but there was a great deal of synergy between the two conferences and certainly how education at ISHCMC is viewed by the regional management.

This will be the first in a series of posts that will focus on the INTASE Leadership in Singapore. Although its title was Lead and Redefine Future Schools, I felt it would have been more appropriately entitled redefining education, leading schools in to the future.

This post will give you some feedback about two of the educators featured Dr Tony Wagner and Dr Stephen Murgatroyd, so that you can reflect upon their ideas and follow them or delve further into their research by going to their websites or reading their books.

When you read what these educational thinkers are encouraging, you will recognize many of the things we are building at ISHCMC. There are so many interesting ideas that we need to reflect upon. Probably the two most used words in the conference also aligned perfectly with our mission, engaged and empowered.

Have a good evening,


Dr. Tony Wagner. Designing Education To Create Innovators That Will Change The World


Dr. Tony Wagner, expert in residence at Harvard innovation lab, talked about designing education to create innovators that will change the world. In his talks he provided a powerful rationale for developing an innovation-driven economy. When information is ubiquitous and free, and when basic education is available to billions of people worldwide, only one set of skills can ensure this generation’s economic future: the capacity for innovation. He asked the question what must parents, teacher, mentors, and employers do to develop the capacities of many more young people to be the innovators that they want to be? – And that we need them to become. What do the best schools and colleges do to teach the skills of innovation? His research has been recorded in his latest books, ‘The Global Achievement Gap’ and ‘Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who will Change the World.’

His key points were:

Fundamental changes in society make it imperative the education changes. Between  1950 – 1970 we had a knowledge based economy, today it is no longer knowledge based, the world no longer cares what children know, it cares about what they can do with knowledge. INNOVATION is for today, we need to be educating students away from questioners to correct answers to questions that can only be answered by creating new knowledge. This will be achieved by asking new questions that encourage creative problem solvers.

Teacher who make a difference are still often outliers because they are teaching  differently from their peers and come from the perspective, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s what you can do with it that matters.’

Dr. Wagner described FIVE key issues for schools and education:
1.       Collaboration is essential for a culture of innovation to thrive
2.       Compartmentalized knowledge and specialization is from the past and needs to change innovation doesn’t happen within individual disciplines. The future is interdisciplinary courses.
3.       A major challenge for education is the idea of compliance versus engagement. We need to be empowering  students through coaching and guidance to achieve a higher standard of thinking
4.       Risk avoidance needs to be replaced with a culture that encourages trial and error. Innovation demands trial and error. Research is showing that there is no creative learning without trial and error. It has been shown that students learn more from failures than successes if they are taught to fail well.
5.       Extrinsic v intrinsic motivation. Students do best when they feel the work is worth doing. This links with the importance of play, passion, purpose. Interests that develop passion have been shown to also develop grit and determination.

·         Allow students greater freedom to identify and follow their passions in our schools. Students should be given a chunk of free time each week ( Google time), in which they identify a passion they want to explore. They should set learning goals and objectives, keep records/ portfolio of their learning and be able at the end of a year to present their learning to an audience. Research shows that this allows students to mature to a deeper sense of purpose and that they create a desire to make a difference. This was illustrated by a new documentary, ‘ Most likely to Succeed.’
·         Students need to be given more opportunities to apply their learning through problem solving. Dr Wagner believes that problem solving shouldn’t be part of the curriculum it should be the curriculum. We should start be asking the question what do we want students to remember not at the end of a lesson or unit but for their life time. If we approach education from this perspective it is felt that the motivation of students to learn will be higher.
·         Schools should stop using the excuse of high stakes testing and university admissions as an excuse for not changing. He stressed that 25% of colleges in the US are moving away from test and Grade orientated admission procedures towards portfolios that demonstrate what students have been doing. Parents should not be scared about this affecting their children’s future as more and more of the leading corporations are changing their recruitment strategies to attract more creative individuals. 15% of those recruited by Google last year did NOT have degrees. Deloittes stresses the need for collaborative problem solvers above academic qualifications and transcripts.
·         Schools need to set up research and development budgets that can be spent on increasing teacher innovation in pedagogy and for supporting student innovation in turning good ideas into real projects.

 Dr. Stephen Murgatroyd: Six challenges for the future of education

Dr Murgatroyd looked at six specific challenges for educators that they will be facing in the coming twenty years and the appropriate ways of responding to them.
The challenges are:
(a) Economic challenge. Global economy – nature of the economy is changing – one has to change with the pace of change. There is a changing meaning of work. There is a clear move toward Portfolio workers. Employers are more and more looking for workers with a range of skills and experiences. The day of big firm is disappearing.
affording great schools for all
(b) Demographic challenges – the new mobility of learners. Developing countries are dependent on immigration to maintain their economic growth.
(c) The technological challenge – finding the balance between use and non-use of technology
(d) The institutional challenge – what is an appropriate form for a school and school system when all other organizations are changing quickly
(e) Leadership challenge – what is the appropriate kind of leadership for a school and where will we find these leaders?
 (f) The equity challenge – how do we ensure that schools are great places for all students, not just some?  Equity as policy:
-          Broad based curriculum…STEAM
-          Formative assessment  leading to summative
-          Strengthening teacher’s collaborative autonomy
-          Appropriate tech at appropriate time
-          Differentiated instruction
-          Teach less, learn more, and keep play

Dr Murgatroyd described 7 actions that he felt schools needed to take to have a successful future.
1.       Work towards a shared vision
2.       See collaborative as the DNA  of the school
3.       Share leadership. Ensure that there are opportunities for teacher leadership, student leaders  and community engagement
4.       Work to build a common language that describes the educational values of the school
5.       Work in innovative and adaptive ways
6.       Make work of teaching and learning simple, transparent and most of all make it fun – keep teachers empowered and engaged.
7.       Keep work rigorous, focused and mindful. Schools should be looking at more and more project work because it is rigorous and leads to innovation and creativity. We must always remember the 1st rule of project work: always set a project that you don’t know the answer to!
      It was clear that Dr Murgatroyd didn’t think much of OFSTED as he described it as an old system that destroys schools systematically. He followed his first presentation by looking at the five big challenges for leading change and learning in future schools. The FIVE were; ensuring readiness to learn, enhancing collaborative professional teachers’ skills, developing and supporting mindful school leadership, optimizing the conditions of learning for students and enable parents and the public to have assured quality.

1.       Practical personal mastery.  A quest to know who I am. Need to have followers and work isn’t about them, they are not the most important, connectic between … + heart/ passion, balanced, look after themselves

People who engage in teaching and learning are inner confidence
2.       Apply a global mindset
o   Things going on outside own school – understand the world of education
o   Globally minded that can be applied locally
o   Adopting + then adapting accounts for 95% of change

3.       Accelerate cross boundary learning
o   Shouldn’t reject  great ideas from other sectors – learning from different sectors of society is becoming increasingly important. Education is no longer a standalone.
o   We should be actively seeking our learning from other disciplines
o   Understand role of other adults in school

4.       Think back from the future
Don’t guess where school is going
Can communicate vision, strategy direction
Don’t guess, make evidence based decisions

5.       Lead systematic change
o   Learn how to inspire
o   Connect to current activities
o   Engagement is better than demanding
o   Inspire confidence in change. Teachers should be encouraged to own change. Teachers need to develop the courage to change.

6.       Drive performance with passion
o   Evidence of progress inspire and engage
o   Take risks
o   Can lead across and deliver within

The evidence has shown that “Teachers have little impact on standardized test results but have much more on lives of students”

School should be the hub for learning in the community – hub for community bared problem solving. This will help the school develop its adaptive capacity as a school

Most important take-a ways from Dr Murgatroyd discussion for school leaders were:

·         Listen and then engage, don’t tell and enable
·         Imagine a different and better future. A great future
·         Deliver within and be passionate about learning and teaching
·         Work is supposed to be fun. Never forget to laugh at one’s self.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Food For Thought: Deconstruction of our jobs!

Dear all,

This week we had Ralph Kugler the Chairperson of Cognita and Brian Rogrove the CEO of Cognita South East Asia visiting us and both were really impressed by what they observed taking place in our classrooms when they took a walk around school. Their comments about the amount of visible learning being displayed and the engagement of our students with their work were extremely positive and complimentary. When we add these comments to all the others we have received from guests this year I believe that we should be very confident about our school and the type of learning experience that we are giving our students. As we enter the admissions season it is very important the everyone of us ensures that we are representing ourselves and our work positively in the community. With all the hard work I have observed being put into curriculum, pedagogy and transformational classroom technology, it hurts every time I hear about an ISHCMC student who are leaving and joining BIS or SSIS. It is time that we turned this around, and one of our key tools is word of mouth. I know many of you are modest and aren't always comfortable singing your own praises but by blowing our own trumpets a bit more in our local community and with our own parents I believe that we can encourage students to stay and others to join us. You know the fantastic things that are happening in classrooms from attending our Celebrations of Pedagogy and PD day workshops, so there is no reason why each and everyone one of us shouldn't be acting as positive ambassadors for our school in our dealing with our community and others in HCMC.

This weeks Food for Thought is an interesting article about our role as teachers as the internet, modern technology, professional networks and resource sharing challenge the role of a teacher. the article asks the question that: When kids can get their lessons from the Internet, what's left for classroom instructors to do?


"Whenever a college student asks me, a veteran high-school English educator, about the prospects of becoming a public-school teacher, I never think it’s enough to say that the role is shifting from "content expert" to "curriculum facilitator." Instead, I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation’s most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The "virtual class" will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country’s best teachers (a.k.a. a "super-teacher"), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.
I tell this college student that in each classroom, there will be a local teacher-facilitator (called a "tech") to make sure that the equipment works and the students behave. Since the "tech" won’t require the extensive education and training of today’s teachers, the teacher’s union will fall apart, and that "tech" will earn about $15 an hour to facilitate a class of what could include over 50 students. This new progressive system will be justified and supported by the American public for several reasons: Each lesson will be among the most interesting and efficient lessons in the world; millions of dollars will be saved in reduced teacher salaries; the "techs" can specialize in classroom management; performance data will be standardized and immediately produced (and therefore "individualized"); and the country will finally achieve equity in its public school system."