Sunday, June 10, 2018

Food for Thought: Consciousness

Dear all,

This is my penultimate Food for Thought for this academic year. It is a post that I have been planning to write since the departure of Chester Bennington and going through my decision making process about next year. The death this week of Anthony Bourdain was the "final ingredient" that made me want to share. I hope that it makes you think about how you are living your life, what you are doing to encourage your students to live their lives by making the most of the opportunity they have been given. As part of our mission, the Achievement Culture encourages ' kind words.' These words are not just about encouraging students to do better but also guiding them to live a better life. This is linked to our definition of empowerment and giving students the tools they need to take control of their lives. To do this we all need to be reflective ourselves and to develop our own practices that ensure we are in control of our thoughts and emotions.

Image result for the thinker

I have been doing a lot of reading this year, searching for inspiration and answers to how we live our lives. Jordan Peterson's book, 12 Rules for Life, An Antidote to Chaos, made me think very deeply about many things, including how I have been living my life. This is why my advice to the Graduation Class of 2018 focused on life involving suffering and how important it is for us to accept this and use it to create a deeper understanding of ourselves and from this create happiness in our lives.

"As a human, you are not able to avoid suffering, so you need to be aware and learn from it, and let it teach you about the future. What matters is how you approach this suffering and use it to develop your inner strength, friendships, and mindsets. How you deal with suffering will determine your ability to enjoy happiness in your future without pain and suffering means that the pleasure and happiness you enjoy is merely that given to you, whereas through pain and suffering you will  seek a more profound happiness beyond the limitations of the material world."

Hence, I want to share with you a video that I hope will provoke you to think about life. It does not answer all our questions but it should provide you with further evidence that our goal to provide students with tools and time to be in the present at least for 10 minutes everyday is very important. This video is an extract from a much longer talk by Sam Harris an outstanding modern thinker. In this enlightening talk he stresses the importance of consciousness. 

"What matters is consciousness and its contents. It is consciousness that is everything;our experience of the world, our experience of those we care about. It is all a matter of consciousness and its content. So whatever the origin of consciousness, the most important question for us is how can we truly be fulfilled in life? How can we create lives that are truly worth living given that these lives come to an end?"

This 9 minute video will make you think and might stir emotions, so please be in the the right frame of mind before you watch and listen. You should also give yourself some time to reflect during or after about what you are hearing and use it to think about how you are maximizing your time in the present and your impact upon our ISHCMC students.

Have a good Sunday,


PS. If you have time, this 8 minute video links this post to next weeks thinking on AI. It explores consciousness and the question of its uniqueness to humans. This then raises ethical questions related to how we treat, and farm animals. But also could extend to AI in the future as we face the dilemma regarding rights associated with AI as it becomes ever more sophisticated. I chose this video to share because it uses film to explore consciousness and next year we are expanding film in the MYP, introducing it in the IB Diploma film and hosting the Across Asian Student Film Festival at ISHCMC. As you will see, many of our Science Fiction movies create robots that are instilled with a human version of consciousness but will this be the reality or does it just reflect our own struggle to truly understand what is consciousness?

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Food For Thought: Conferencing plus aI influenced pedagogy.

Dear all,

With the Student Led and 3 Way Conferencing fast approaching I thought I'd share this poem from Allan Ahlberg that was published in the Sir Ken book that I have just finished reading, You, Your Child and School. It was shared in a chapter on building relationships in which Sir Ken explains the importance for parents building relationships with their children's  school. He uses the poem to emphasize the anxiety that can be felt by all parties when this relationship is not present and explains how what should be a relaxed formative conversation becomes a "nerve racking succession of short, charged conversations with more left unsaid than said." Hopefully this is not how ISHCMC parents feel as we do provide lots of opportunities for parents to inquire about their children's learning throughout the year by attending coffee mornings, exhibitions, other conferences and online with my ISHCMC, Managebac and SeeSaw.

Having said this, we must realize that there will be both parents and students who are nervous about the conversations this week and it is important to ensure we remember our mission and ensure all are stakeholders feel welcome, safe and spoken to mindfully during the conferences.

Parents' Evening

We're waiting in the corridor,
My dad, my mum and me.
They're sitting there and talking;
I'm nervous as can be.
I wonder what she'll tell 'em.
I'll say I've got a pain!
I wish I'd got my spellings right.
I wish I had a brain.

We're waiting in the corridor,
My husband, son and me.
My son just stands there smiling;
I'm smiling nervously.
I wonder what she'll tell us.
I hope it's not all bad.
He's such a good boy, really;
But dozy - like his dad.

We're waiting in the corridor.
My wife, my boy and me.
My wife's as cool as cucumber;
I'm nervous as can be.
I hate these parents' evenings.
The waiting makes me sick.
I feel just like a kid again
Who's gonna get the stick.

I'm waiting in the classroom.
It's nearly time to start.
I wish there was a way to stop
The pounding in my heart.
The parents in the corridor
Are chatting cheerfully;
And now I've got to face them,

And I'm nervous as can be.

(From Heard it in the Playground by Allan Ahlberg)

As you have heard from me throughout the year I spend time thinking about education for the future and how this will be impacted by artificial intelligence. My holiday Food for Thought will share with you a number of interesting videos about the bigger questions related to AI from whic we can think about how we are really preparing our students for their future in our ISHCMC classrooms.  

This TED provides some thoughts about this topic from a educationally pedagogical point of view.  
"Currently around 63% of students are disengaged at school, meaning that they withdrawal either physically or mentally before they have mastered the skills that are required to flourish in later life. In this talk Scott Bolland explores the science of learning, the mismatch between how we teach and how the brain natural learns, and the important role that artificial intelligence could take in addressing the limitations in our current education system.

Have a good weekend,


PS. I case you have a few extra moments this weekend/ week. This video of Peter Hutton I shared with you some time ago. I am sharing it again because I believe it is important to add context to our own exploration into what is the right style of education for our students today.