Saturday, February 25, 2017

Food for thought: Testing our Mission and Vision

Dear all,

Hope you had a good week. It has certainly been busy with SISAC Cross- country, track and field and Safer Recruiting with Safeguarding level 3. Also we have had the opportunity to show off our school to Matthias a Cognita Head of School from Brazil, Ralph the Cognita Board Chair and of course our new administrators, Tania, Teresa and Brad who will be joining us next year.

Everyone is agreed that our world has been changing extremely quickly in the last 20 years with the onset of the world wide web and dramatic developments in technology. These changes have made the future far more difficult to predict and this alone has merited a reflection upon the objectives of education and the pedagogy we use in schools. We have raced through the knowledge and information revolutions and are now facing the challenges of educating students through concepts and skills. For 200 years education has been producing either employees for an industrial world or office workers for the services that support industry.This system has been successful because of the predictability of the future. However, this is no longer the case and we are waking up to the realization that education and schools are failing many children. It is not only the world that has changed but so have the children we teach. We have seen Generation x and Y pass ing through school and into adulthood and are now being challenged by Generation Z. Each one displaying different characteristics, having different motivations and demanding different stimuli to engage them. Hence schools need missions and visions that are practical, flexible and take into account uncertainty and dramatic change. Recent events in both the UK and the USA have taken many by surprise and may have triggered a movement that will further challenge our view of the future.

Hence this Food for Thought that is a bit different.I believe it is a good moment, in a year of reflecting about who we are, to look at who we are and who are students are becoming against the back drop of post Brexit and USA elections. It is hard to identity what is happening and what the consequences will be. But as teachers I believe we need to be thinking about these political events against the context of our mission and vision. 

Having just watched this TED Dialogue about Nationalism v's Globalism, I decided that it would be a good idea to encourage all of you to also watch it. I believe this conversation is incredibly relevant to all of us educators as we strive to predict where we are going in the future. You will hear interesting perspectives on statistics of today; about how positive our present story is; the challenges that have caused today's political upheaval: the potential lack of jobs in the future due to artificial intelligence; the need for a focused search for reality; a need for understanding our own identity;  the ability to discern truth and about how important our communities are to us. My hope is to have us all reflect upon the points being made by Yuval Harari in relation to us as educators at ISHCMC and our movement to disrupt education and redefine the school experience. On Monday, in our briefing, I will give you 5 minutes to express your thoughts to a colleague about the points emerging from this conversation, where we are going as a school and whether you feel ISHCMC is allowing you as a teacher to help students develop in a manner that will allow them to flourish in whatever the future world looks like. 

The dialogue is longer than my usual posting; it lasts an hour. However, it is very engaging and will empower you to discuss with students when they ask you about what is happening with politics today. It also breaks down into an introduction set of questions between Chris Anderson and Yuval Harari which lasts about 25 minutes on the overall theme of what is happening in politics today and why,  and it then moves into separate questions which you can pick and choose from or watch in shorter snippets.

I know you will certainly find plenty of food for thought. 

See you on Monday,

Have a good weekend,


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Food for Thought: Are we all too gullible?

Dear all,

This week much of my inbox appears to have been filled with political outbursts against what is happening in the United States and Donald Trump's interpretation of events, facts and language. Following Brexit and the US Presidential election last year I believe it has become increasingly important to ensure that our students moving through ISHCMC are empowered to be able to determine what is true and what is not when spoken by politicians and the media. We have a duty to ensure that our students question what is being said and look beyond facile single line statements for deeper information and evidence. 

Hence, this week's Food for Thought is going to share a few pieces of information that have fallen into my mailbox this week that might help us develop approaches to learning in our classrooms that counteract soundbite news, misinformation and the lies that seem to be prevalent in politics these days.

The first is an eight minute TED, by Lara Setrakian, that focuses on how journalist can fix the broken news industry. At the end of the talk she gives strategies that could be used in the news industry to rebuild trust. I feel that you can build upon her ideas in your classrooms to encourage students to develop steps by which they determine the validity of information they are being fed by the news and social media.

One of the strategies that you have just heard from the TED was going deeply into information. Here is the link to the website that allows a greater understanding of news and would be a good resource for our students when investigating certain topics.

"News Deeply is an award-winning new media company dedicated to covering the world’s most important and under reported stories. Our journalists and technologists create in-depth digital platforms that serve as a hub of news, information and analysis. By fusing rigorous reporting and cutting-edge information design, we make a complex world easier for our readers to understand.

At News Deeply, we’ve pioneered a model we call “Impact Publishing” – a combination of high-quality content and proactive community management. Our platforms unite an audience of policymakers and domain specialists, connecting those who are most intimately involved in the topic at hand. Through interactive dialogues, virtual events and live convenings, we advance the conversation, leading to a more engaged public and better-informed policy decisions.

We believe that even the toughest issues can be made accessible in a clear and compelling format. In a crowded and complicated world, our platforms separate the signal from the noise, surfacing vital information and key trends on issues that matter, deeply, to the state of our world today."

Finally, this article suggests ways that teachers can address fake news which came to prominence in the US elections and through social media may become a bigger political tool for Generation Y and Z.

Since a recent Stanford study showed that students at practically all grade levels can't determine fake news from the real stuff, the push to teach media literacy has gained new momentum. The study showed that while students absorb media constantly, they often lack the critical thinking skills needed to tell fake news from the real stuff."

Wishing you a relaxing Sunday,


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Food for Thought: Taking control of the time we have

Dear all,

It certainly felt like our first week back after Tet was immediately up to full speed with lots of activities and learning taking place in and outside of our classrooms. Our two visitors from Lebanon certainly enjoyed their time at ISHCMC and will be taking a lot of ideas back to their school. As with so many of our recent visitors their comments support that we are walking the talk with our vision for education, and that we are certainly a welcoming school, that engages and empowers its community in a clearly articulated mission. They were most impressed with our willingness to collaborate and innovate with our programmes.

To be able to deliver on our mission means that we all have to work hard which makes ISHCMC a busy school. Last week, immediately after Tet, we had two sets of sports tournaments, age group sporting fixtures, PYPx with parents and creative arts trips across neighbouring countries. Providing opportunities and a range of experiences for our students is very important in helping then discover who they are and who they can be. However, it is also important that we don't get caught up in a cycle of saying that we are busy and feeling that we do not have time for ourselves. As this 11 minute TED by Laura Vanderkam explains there is plenty of time in a week, 168 hours to be precise, it just depends upon how we prioritize. She's discovered that many of us drastically overestimate our commitments each week, while underestimating the time we have to ourselves. She offers a few practical strategies to help find more time for what matters to us, so we can "build the lives we want in the time we've got."

I want to follow Laura's TED by sharing an old TED, but only a 2 minute summary, by Robert Waldinger. I have shared the original version before. This links perfectly with the need to identify what makes us happy and needs prioritizing in our week. Waldinger talks about his work with the longest longitudinal study of people and what actually made them happy and successful. There are certainly learning's from this work that may help us prioritize and create time in our week for the important things in our lives.

As you all know I believe that mindfulness also brings us peace and clarity in our busy lives and that it is important that we give our ISHCMC students an introduction to mindful tools that will help them take control of their lives in the future. As all studies indicate, to be able to deliver mindfulness it is important that we ourselves understand and practice mindful behaviour. Hence, I want to share this link to an excellent website that provides all the information that you will need to understand the holistic nature of mindfulness and how it benefits people. This site focuses on a Zen approach to life which in turn is about mind and body control. This is not religious per say, but rather a further alignment with the key ingredients of our mission, in that it encourages a healthy diet that provides energy to engage with our lives whilst empowering us to be healthy and strong, both physically and mentally.

Finally, just wanted to share some sad news, that most social scientists probably already know and that is  Hans Rosling died last week. He was famous for his desire to ensure that our vision of our world was  fact based.  The BBC Four programme that made Hans Rosling such a widely known name was his classic 200 countries, 200 years, in 4 minutes. If you haven't seen it before please watch as it can be a great tool for helping students understand our world today.

Have a good Sunday,