Sunday, May 28, 2017

Food For Thought: Have we prepared the class of 2017 well enough?

Dear all,

Thank you to everyone involved in organizing and preparing for the Class of 2017 Graduation. Students and parents appeared to have enjoyed the ceremony. I'd also like to thank all teachers who attended the ceremony because this is important for students and parents as it creates a feeling of togetherness and caring that is important for strengthening our community.

Leading up to this graduation I calculated that this was the 35th set of students that I have seen complete their secondary education. While reflecting upon this, the question came to my mind, as it often does, are we preparing our students well enough for their futures? I thought about this long and hard whilst writing and rewriting what I wanted to say to the Class of 2017 last night. I concluded that until around 2000 I believe we were doing less harm to our graduating classes by allowing a post industrial model for education pedagogy, curriculum and systems to frame our work. I say less harm only because the world, although changing relatively quickly, had not fully realized the potential of the technology that was beginning to emerge and dismissed projections like Singularity as being science fiction and the thinking of dreamers. In 2000, the employment market was still fairly predictable in the short term, so for graduates the impact of technology was still relatively distant. No-one realized how quickly this was about the change. However, since 2000 it has become increasing obvious that the world and many of the things held true before 2000 would not be valid by 2017. 

For all of us involved in education we have reached a point where the education system, founded in the 1880's, that shaped us, our parent community, our parents, their parents and their parents before them is unsurprisingly no longer valid. It was designed for an industrial age which no longer fits developed countries and potentially within the next decade will not even be appropriate for newly industrializing nations. Its hidden curriculum was based upon uniformity, compliance, authority hierarchy's and control of information, all of which we know will not serve our future graduates for their world. The longevity of this form of educational system, matched only by that of the penal system, is amazing, but says something about how resistant to sustained change education appears to be. For over 50 years we have been noticing and talking about the differences in generations, starting back with 'baby boomers' and yet we have not changed our education system to take into account the difference in our clientele's characteristics. Of course, we have tinkered on a small scale by experimenting with alternative pedagogy's, talking about differentiation, individualized learning and today personalized learning, but the overall accepted framework  we keep returning to remains generally the same as it was in 1880. No matter how you look at it, we have not significantly adapted the school experience to the needs of our students and their futures.

And, here we are today. Having enjoyed 30 years of liberal, democratic globalization that has impacted the overall well-being of the majority of the worlds inhabitants we are potentially facing a challenge to this political view. Although impacting well-being in general the changes brought about through a more globalized world have not been equally shared within nations and between nations. As we have seen in the past nine months this has the potential to change political outlooks in both developing and more economically developed countries. Are our graduates equally as well prepared for a world of nationalism and protectionism as they are for the liberalized global world that has shaped the last 30 years? I'm not sure they are. Are any of us? The 1930's are a long time ago and the generation that remembers those days is fast disappearing. This is why last evening I chose to talk to the Class of 2017 about making a difference. Not perhaps in the sense that we at international schools often encourage, going out and doing some service activities, but rather in the sense of  being an activist, not just a servant. If we want our students to be creative innovators, challenging authority, seeking truth, speaking out, standing up for what is right and shaping their world then they need to be educated to be different. At which point I return to ask the question does our education system today do this for our students?

You are probably thinking, has Adrian woken up with a sore head today? This is all very negative. The answer is no, I haven't and quite the opposite, I'm actually in a very good mood. I see this more and more as a great opportunity for ISHCMC to be the best school in the universe. Just thinking about the possibilities re-energizes and engages me with education. The whole definition of school needs changing and I believe that what we are and will be doing in your classrooms and with the classroom environments is exactly what is needed. We still have a way to go but we have started our journey. Everything I read and watch tells me we are on the right path. We have work to do to adapt the IB curricular to serve our progressive needs better but am am confident with so many good practitioners working collaboratively we can do this. I believe this is about re framing our curricular, not throwing it out. We need to reflect upon how we plan and think about putting the growth and AtL of skills for the future at the forefront of what we teach rather that as an often forgotten adjunct. If we can successfully identify a core set of AtL and personal growth and developments skills that can be scope and sequenced across 15 years of education I feel we will be in a far better position to honestly say, and validate, that we have prepared ALL of our students who graduate from ISHCMC for whatever challenges they might face in the world beyond school. If we do this well I am sure it will be a transferable model that other schools can follow as it will not be dependent on content or type of curriculum. It will not mean reinventing the wheel because there are already lots of models we can use, as i shared in last week's post, but it is an area we need to move forward with for both sections of our school.

This thinking reminded me of a school in New Zealand that I shared before but want to use again to remind ourselves that there are many others going in the same direction and not all are stand alone international schools. The school is Hobson Ville Point Secondary school. Food for thought would not be the same without a video or two. So here are 10 minutes of insight into Hobson Point Secondary. The first is very much from a students point of view. The second is from a visitors. As you are about to see there is nothing original about ours or their thinking. We share very common visions for both education and learning environments. They are just a bit further ahead because their school has been open several years and ours is still being completed. 

This is a promotional video but has students talking about their learning experience.

This is from the point of view of a visitor.

An exciting time to be in education

Have a good Sunday,



Sunday, May 21, 2017

Dear all,

Just had a wonderful weekend of volleyball at ISHCMC with the U14 MRISA tournament. Everything ran very smoothly despite the heavy rain with is a tribute to Matt, Phatt and the team of helpers. 

During that last few weeks I have been interviewing both leavers and new staff. It has been a very formative experience and I have thoroughly enjoyed the time that I have spent with each and everyone one of them. I am looking forward to the last few interviews in the next two weeks. It has been very pleasing to see the engagement with our mission and the concept that the school needs to change if it is to adequately prepare students for their future. It is clear that this understanding is deeply embedded in many of your minds. Hence, following a couple of conversations about the potential importance of learning skills over concepts and content I thought I'd share this article that was sent to me recently about , A Curriculum for Changing the World as well as some connected thinking  that links with AtL's as well as Global Citizenship for this week's Food for Thought.

This is an attempt by educators from Harvard's school of education to create a curriculum that attempts to change the world by focusing on skills and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals established in 2015.

"In Empowering Global Citizens: A World Course, Fernando Reimers and four co-authors offer an interdisciplinary K-12 curriculum that aims for nothing less. It seeks to develop the specific cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal competencies crucial to thriving in the 21st century. Among those skills: the social and emotional ability to understand and work with people from diverse cultures; the creativity to develop sustainable solutions to complex problems; and a sense of confidence that individuals can (and are obligated to) make a difference.

A Global Curriculum

A curriculum, ideally, should give young people the knowledge they need to approach the future with a dynamic, accountable, forward-thinking mindset, says Reimers, the faculty director of international education policy at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The World Course is a curriculum specifically designed with the future in view — with the idea that our future will be an interconnected one, with complex challenges that demand a sense of citizenship and collaboration that expands beyond national borders"

Becoming familiar with 'The Empowering Global Citizens curriculum' would certainly provided a good scope and sequence for skills that we should be embedding in our IB curriculums. There is no doubt to me that many of the aspects of this curriculum have been taken from IB thinking and that we do already cover them but without them being systematized or recorded. The underlying pedagogy fits perfectly with what we do, inquiry, project based learning and authentic assessment based around tackling global issues. Perhaps what we need to be doing in the future is starting our planning with the AtL's and skills and then moving to concepts and finally associated content. I know that groups of you have been focusing on skills through Grade level discussions and the AtL committee but having this fully scoped and sequenced from Early Explorers to Grade 12 would allow us to confidently say we have prepared our students to function and learn no matter what the world looks like in 2029.

I have purchased this book and another called 60 lessons for Empowering Global Citizens and hope to be sharing with you at the start of next year because it is published under a creative commons license.

The IB is a good minimum framework for what we need to be be doing but we need to take this skeleton and build upon it so that can be confident about the learning skills that ecah and every student has been taught by the end of an ISHCMC education. Building upon the Empowering Global Citizens Curriculum here is another similar view to the direction that we need to be building our education around. I am sure that many of you are familiar with this diagram from the Partnership for 21st Century Learning. If you have not been thinking about the implicit development of skills through your teaching this link to P21 will introduce you to their framework and some useful resources and support materials for planning next year. By going here you can download the framework and its definition.

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Finally, a short TED about the importance of sleep for adolescent students. It is important for all of you to watch and understand so that we all have the same elevator pitch in the future when we introduce a later starting time for secondary students than primary. Our goal will be that Primary stays as it is today and Secondary moves to, at the earliest, a 9 o'clock registration/ advisory period. There will be parents who object to this start time because it doesn't fit with their schedule and search out allies on the staff so it is important that we are all aware of the key arguments and how they relate to the well being of the adolescents in our care.

Have a good Sunday,


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Food for Thought: The need for forward thinking schools

Self aware - reproducing & evolving robots, walking humanoids, disruptive technologies and the journey towards the singularity that humanity seems so determined to ignore.
Dear all,

For years educationalists have been talking about the future and how it will be different. Videos like Shift Happens have told us about the number of jobs that didn't exist a decade ago, preparing students for jobs that don't exist yet, having more than 10 jobs by the age of 38, that social media and the internet has changed society and more. But in amongst all the interesting statistics there is a line, 'we are living in exponential times' that takes us much deeper when isolated and carefully unwrapped. Till recently I had never thought about the importance of the term exponential. At the end of last week's Food for Thought I mentioned a documentary that Sir Ken Robinson referred to as being an important factor in the need for transforming schools, Singularity. His words encouraged me to think and research more about the realization that we are facing an exponential growth in technology that is impacting our immediate lives whilst at the same time radically redefining our future existence. The person at the center of this notion of Singularity is Ray Kurzweil. In 2006 he wrote a book, Singularity is Near, and although dismissed at the time by many critics, his predictions that technology would merge more and more with sciences creating new branches such as genomics, robotics and nanotechnology appear to be very much on track. 

Kurzweil predicted that by 2029 computers could mirror the functions of the brain but with far greater capacity for retrieving stored information, solving problems and making human like decisions. We already have computers that learn from mistakes and correct their thinking, in the future they will also have a form of social and emotional intelligence as well. This is only 12 year away and children in Grade 1 will be emerging into a world that without doubt will be shaped by technology and artificial intelligence.

Here is a short 7 minute Bigthink interview with Kurzweil that talks about Singularity.

This is a much longer documentary by Stephen Hawkin, a renowned physicist from Cambridge University, who despite serious physical differences is one of the world's leading scientific thinkers. Hawkin's voice is computerized because of his disabilities. Although not always easy to follow, this 80 minute documentary is  certainly worth listening to because it raises lots of scenarios and questions that most of us have never even imagined whilst also tackling many of the criticisms of the theory. 

Of course it is easy to deny that Singularity will ever happen, just as the Luddites opposed the concept that machines will replace human labour in the factory. But there is little doubt that technology is advancing exponentially and changing our world. Algorithms and computers are already replacing jobs that we thought would be safe from technology. Many of the technological developments that Kurzweil predicts will make humans more intelligent by combining technology and the human brain in ways that were unimaginable even a decade ago. Kurzweil is very optimistic about the future and artificial intelligence but we need to be thinking further ahead to prepare our children for such a world as described in this documentary. 

We will never stop technological progress so it is inevitable that our world will look very different by 2029. Kurzweil predicts that the world after the 2040's is completely unpredictable and it is not possible to know what it will look like because of the exponential transformational progress of technology.

Here is the conclusion from an article in Forbes that further encourages us to redefine the outcomes of 15 years of primary and secondary education and the importance of the soft skills that we are working hard to impart to our ISHCMC students.

"The idea of approaching a technological singularity is both exciting and scary. While the prospects of technologies that are hundreds of times more powerful than what we have today will open up completely new possibilities, there are also inherent dangers. How autonomous should we allow robots to become? Which genes are safe to edit and which are not?

Beyond opening up a Pandora’s box of forces that we may not fully understand, there is already evidence that technology is destroying jobs, stagnating incomes and increasing inequality. As the process accelerates, we will begin to face problems technology cannot help us with, such as the social strife created by those left behind as well as others in developing countries who will feel newly empowered and demand a greater political voice.
We will also have to change how we view work. Much like in the industrial revolution when machines replaced physical labor, new technologies are now replacing cognitive tasks. Humans, therefore, will have to become more adept at things that machines can’t do, namely dealing with other humans, and social skills will trump cognitive skills in the marketplace.
The truth is that the future of technology is all too human. While technologies will continue to become exponentially more powerful, the decisions we make are still our own."

This final short video from Ray Kurzweil certainly supports many of the ideas that we are building into an ISHCMC education. Twice her refers to traditional educational thinking as being obsolete, a term used by Wagner, Zhao, Robinson et al. 

Finally, for this Food for Thought, if all of this has sent your mind spinning here is a link to the Meditation that Paul shared with us in last Monday morning's meeting.

Have a good Sunday and mothers day here in Vietnam,



Sunday, May 7, 2017

Food for Thought: Sir Ken Robinson at EduLead

Dear all,

This will be my last post arising from the INTASE EduLead conference on Reinventing Schools. Sir Ken Robinson spoke to us live from LA where he now lives for nearly three hours. He was totally engaging and humorous as always. As last week's post was quite long I have decided to try and give you just the key points that Sir K shared with us grading the need to revolutionize education and create a culture of innovation in our schools. What he had to say is not far from where we are as a school and non of it was alien to our thinking.

  • Sir Ken explained that many of the reforms that government are introducing are going in the wrong direction. He argued that the direction of standardization and testing is stifling the skills that students need most for the 21st century. 
  • We are living in revolutionary times. We have never faced such rapid changes caused by technology and never had a global population over 7 billion people. Both of these factors will create incredible challenge and change that can only be answered by having schools that encourage creativity and innovation.
  • "Life you end up living is the talents you uncover and your experiences. Everyone has a unique bio. These human resources need to be discovered, then refined and developed from capacity to ability by schools. To do this schools need to think differently about the resources they have at their disposal." 
  • Have to change the systems that govern schools. A school's system are based around economic reasoning such as efficiency, organization and cost but having nothing to do with student learning or their preparation for the modern world. He made an analogy, shoes are important for walking outside but if the shoe doesn't fit anymore why keep polishing it in the hope that the pain will go away.
  • Where governments are going                 against              Where we need to be going
           Conformity                                                   v                   Diversity
           Compliance                                                  v                   Skills demanded by the economy
           Linear view of life                                        v                   Organic development
  • Learning is a natural process for humans, acquiring skills and understanding. Children love to learn. Much that we learn isn't taught, it is because we have the capacity and are interested. Education is an organized programme of learning. The problem isn't with the concept of learning it is with the education system that frames it.
  • There is a need for more play in education. Sir K made the point that in a recent survey of 12,000 schools they found that children today were on average only allowed 1 hour of play per day. This is less than half that allowed to high security prisoners in the USA who receive 2 hours per day.
  • If we had a blank sheet to recreate schools there would be many things that would be replaced but one that would would be teachers. Education is all about the relationship between the teacher and the students. Standards are necessary but not sufficient. It is the teacher that brings learning alive so it is important that schools encourage teachers to come alive.
Sir Ken then talked about what education enable students to engage or become:
  • economically independent. There needs to be a greater focus on social and emotional skills eg. collaboration, creativity, social work and team work.
  • understand and appreciate their own culture and to respect the diversity of other cultures
  • active and compassionate citizens
  • with the world within them and the world beyond them
  • able to imagine the future
  • able to create and make their imagination into a reality
  • innovators by celebrating new ideas and having a culture where these are developed.
Sir Ken concluded in his question and answers referred to the idea of singularity as being a major reason why education HAS TO BE REVOLUTIONIZED. He referred to machines becoming conscious, having independent agency. He asked the question if machine have consciousness should thy have rights? We are not far way from having to make decisions whether we can discriminate between our natural world or that of machines. This raised the question that machines will take over our world because of their ability to exponentially change the world and we have no idea what this world will look like. Hence, education needs to be far more about personalization of learning, producing students who are creative, innovators, resilient, able to transfer skills and knowledge and see problems as opportunities.

Have a good afternoon,