Saturday, October 27, 2018

Food for Thought: Are we preparing our students to be chefs or cooks?

It is great to be back and having time to think and write again. in Barcelona I gave a presentation to the Cognita Heads about how I see the future of Education. not sure how many of the audience related to what I was saying. One person who did was Anton Musgrove , a commentator about the future and the need for sustainable strategic planning, he had proceeded me on the stage and our thinking aligned almost perfectly. He too is concerned that dramatic change to society is coming much sooner than many are predicting and that the majority of the world population and governments are totally unprepared for the future.

When I talk about AI I often refer to the Oxford University research on AI and its timeline for impacting our employment and way of life. In this research they talk about the game of Go and that it would take a machine learning computer over 10 years to defeat a human because of the intuitive complexity and unpredictability of the infinite number of moves available each turn. As you know Google's Deep Mind computer achieved this goal in  just over a year. This could lead us to believe that the predicted timelines are being shortened by the exponential development of machine learning.  As if to bring this home I was sent this article from the BBC this week about an artwork created by an artificially intelligent program that was sold at auction for $432,000 (£337,000). Even at its original listed price of 7-10k, this is still a substantial amount of money for a non human piece of art to attract. I would say that the challenge to society, and us educators is here, and hence it is ever more important to be reflecting upon how we are educating the next generation. Although this alone is Food for Thought, I would like to share A.J. Juliani's questioning about are we preparing Chefs or Cooks in our classrooms? 

I believe this is a fundamental question for the future. Unfortunately, I sense the majority of the education systems world-wide, including most international schools, are producing cooks. Why? Because the majority of governments and evaluation and accreditation organizations are not looking forward and asking the question what should schools look like in the future. They are using old data and metrics to measure schools that do not fit with what the future holds. They are hanging on to old assessment strategies and educational values that were born in the 1890's. Reflecting upon our recent CIS and IB visits, I pose the question to you all, if you were designing a school for the 2020's based on the predicted needs and skills for the future would it fit within the standards of these accrediting institutions? I suspect the answer for the majority of us would be a resounding NO!  But  as A.J.Juliani says in his recent post, "Fear is a funny thing. It often keeps us from doing exactly what we want to do." Hence, if this is the case and it is fear that is holding us back then surely the time is fast approaching when forward facing schools join together and break away from the systems that are holding them back from doing what is right for their students.

You will enjoy the challenge that A.J. Juliani's poses in this video. It would be worth at your next Grade level/ Department meeting to spend a few minutes reflecting upon how far your teaching pedagogy and learning environment is creating Chef's of the future and to what extent the school is encouraging this development throughout our school from EE to Grade 12?

Have a good weekend,


Monday, October 15, 2018

Food For Thought: These Are The Skills That Your Kids Will Need For The Future (Hint: It's Not Coding)

CREDIT: Getty Images

The jobs of the future will involve humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines and value will shift from cognitive to social skills

An education is supposed to prepare you for the future. Traditionally, that meant learning certain facts and skills, like when Columbus discovered America or how to do multiplication and long division. Today, curriculums have shifted to focus on a more global and digital world, like cultural history, basic computer skills and writing code.

Yet the challenges that our kids will face will be much different than we did growing up and many of the things a typical student learns in school today will no longer be relevant by the time he or she graduates college. In fact, a study at the University of Oxford found that 47% of today's jobs will be eliminated over the next 20 years.

In 10 or 20 years, much of what we "know" about the world will no longer be true. The computers of the future will not be digital. Software code itself is disappearing, or at least becoming far less relevant. Many of what are considered good jobs today will be either completely automated or greatly devalued. We need to rethink how we prepare our kids for the world to come.

Understanding Systems

The subjects we learned in school were mostly static. 2+2 always equaled 4 and Columbus always discovered America in 1492. Interpretations may have differed from place to place and evolved over time, but we were taught that the world was based on certain facts and we were evaluated on the basis on knowing them.

Yet as the complexity theorist Sam Arbesman has pointed out, facts have a half life and, as the accumulation of knowledge accelerates, those half lives are shrinking. For example, when we learned computer programming in school, it was usually in BASIC, a now mostly defunct language. Today, Python is the most popular language, but will likely not be a decade from now.

Computers themselves will be very different as well, based less on the digital code of ones and zeros and more on quantum laws and the human brain. We will likely store less information on silicon and more in DNA. There's no way to teach kids how these things will work because nobody, not even experts, is quite sure yet.

So kids today need to learn less about how things are today and more about the systems future technologies will be based on, such as quantum dynamics, genetics and the logic of code. One thing economists have consistently found is that it is routine jobs that are most likely to be automated. The best way to prepare for the future is to develop the ability to learn and adapt.

Applying Empathy and Design Skills

While machines are taking over many high level tasks, such as medical analysis and legal research, there are some things they will never do. For example, a computer will never strike out in a Little League game, have its heart broken or see its child born. So it is terribly unlikely, if not impossible, that a machine will be able to relate to a human like other humans can.

That absence of empathy makes it hard for machines to design products and processes that will maximize enjoyment and utility for humans. So design skills are likely to be in high demand for decades to come as basic production and analytical processes are increasingly automated.

We've already seen this process take place with regard to the Internet. In the early days, it was a very technical field. You had to be a highly skilled engineer to make a website work. Today, however, building a website is something any fairly intelligent high schooler can do and much of the value has shifted to front-end tasks, like designing the user experience.

With the rise of artificial intelligence and virtual reality our experiences with technology will become far more immersive and that will increase the need for good design. For example, conversational analysts (yes, that's a real job) are working with designers to create conversational intelligence for voice interfaces and, clearly, virtual reality will be much more design intensive than video ever was.

The Ability to Communicate Complex Ideas

Much of the recent emphasis in education has been around STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) and proficiency in those areas is certainly important for today's students to understand the world around them. However, many STEM graduates are finding it difficult to find good jobs.

On the other hand, the ability to communicate ideas effectively is becoming a highly prized skill. Consider Amazon, one of the most innovative and technically proficient organizations on the planet. However, a key factor to its success its writing culture. The company is so fanatical about the ability to communicate that developing good writing skills are a key factor to building a successful career there.

Think about Amazon's business and it becomes clear why, Sure, the it employs highly adept engineers, but to create a truly superior product, those people need to collaborate closely with designers, marketers, business development executives and so on. To coordinate all that activity and keep everybody focused on delivering a specific experience to the customer, communication needs to be clear and coherent.

So while learning technical subjects like math and science is always a good idea, studying things like literature, history and philosophy is just as important.

Collaborating and Working in Teams

Traditionally, school work has been based on individual accomplishment. You were supposed to study at home, come in prepared and take your test without help. If you looked at your friend's paper, it was called cheating and you got in a lot of trouble for it. We were taught to be accountable for achievements on our own merits.

Yet consider how the nature of work has changed, even in highly technical fields. In 1920, most scientific papers were written by sole authors, but by 1950 that had changed and co-authorship became the norm. Today, the average paper has four times as many authors as it did then and the work being done is far more interdisciplinary and done at greater distances than in the past.

Make no mistake. The high value work today is being done in teams and that will only increase as more jobs become automated. The jobs of the future will not depend as much on knowing facts or crunching numbers, but will involve humans collaborating with other humans to design work for machines. Collaboration will increasingly be a competitive advantage.

That's why we need to pay attention not just to how our kids work and achieve academically, but how they play, resolve conflicts and make others feel supported and empowered. The truth is that value has shifted from cognitive skills to social skills. As kids will increasingly be able to learn complex subjects through technology, the most important class may well be recess.

Perhaps most of all, we need to be honest with ourselves and make peace with the fact that our kids' educational experience will not--and should not--mirror our own. The world which they will need to face will be far more complex and more difficult to navigate than anything we could imagine back in the days when Fast Times at Ridgemont High was still popular.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

Food for Thought: Technology in the Classroom: Creating a Cyber-Safe Space

Dear all,

I hope that the week with IB and CIS visitors in school was not too stressful for you all. We did very well and should be pleased with the outcome. It is an interesting process and one that I think raised questions about using outdated standards / educational thinking to make judgments on a progressive school that is challenging the educational status quo. This was to be expected, and further emphasizes the issues with being different and yet having to have accreditation from traditionally conservative organizations. Working with our visitors this week reminded me again of the quote from Russell Ackoff

Image result for russell ackoff better to be doing the right

However, the process of self study and evaluation is about what we learn and recognize as areas for development. One area that has emerged, that concerns me, is our lack of a Cyber Safety curriculum and consistent signs of Cyber Safety being taught the school. Hence, this Food for Thought and its focus. As the Victorian State declares in their document on Cyber Safety, 

" Cybersafety is every teacher's responsibility. Cybersafety is not the sole responsibility of the ICT teacher. Schools and their teachers have a responsibility to educate children and young people and address the underlying values (ethics) and responsible behaviours expected of them regardless of their physical location."

I believe this to be true, just as we are all language teachers and teachers of learning skills, we should also,every time we ask our students to use their technology, be reminding them of Cyber safety procedures and regulations. It is suggested that as a minimum we should be constantly reminding students about posting or participating in bullying or harassment; accessing inappropriate content; unwanted contact with strangers; posting or sharing personal information and passwords;using (or stealing) content owned by others eg images, music or videos; plagiarising: taking ideas or information created/ owned by others without referencing their origin; using critical thinking skills when using the internet; accessing offensive or illegal content; and always seeking support from a trusted adult when there is an issue.

Image result for Common sense media Cyber safety images

Several years ago we did commit to using Common Sense Media as the backbone to our Cyber Safety curriculum because it gives us everything we need, at all Grades in the school. Hence, I would suggest that you all spend a few minutes surfing the common sense media site so you can make yourself more familiar with the resources it provides for you to embed cyber safety in lessons and advisory. This will help cover us as we create actions plans and move towards creating a comprehensive cyber safety curriculum for ISHCMC.

Common Sense K–12 Digital Citizenship Curriculum Scope & Sequence. "The Common Sense Curriculum is designed to empower students to think critically, behave safely, and participate responsibly in our digital world. From lesson plans, videos, student interactives, and assessments, to professional learning and family outreach materials, our turnkey Curriculum provides schools with everything they need to take a whole-community approach to digital citizenship. "

Finally here is another resource from TeachHub that might provide you with a few ideas to start embedding in our classrooms that will ensure our students are thinking about cyber safety when they use their technology at home and school.

Now that we can say most of our schools are filled with pieces of technology in the classroom, it’s time to start thinking about cyber safety a little bit more. Digital citizenship is meant to help keep our students safe and secure while using technology in the classroomtools. Like it or not, there are people (and things) out there that can disrupt the safety of our students when they are utilizing technology in the classroom tools. If you are looking for a few tips on how to teach your students how to be responsible when it comes to technology and their online presence, then you must follow these suggestions.

Teach Students Responsible Technology in the Classroom Behavior

First and foremost, teach students responsible and respectful online behavior. They should interact online as they would if the person was right in front of them. All too often, young (and old) people have hidden behind their computers to interact with others in an irresponsible, unkind manner. Encourage students to think before they act, and to always remember that when they are online, they leave a digital footprint that is archived and can be brought back at any time. Teach your students to be kind, courteous, and respectful online as well as offline.

Have Students Become Cyber Detectives

A fun way to teach your students the importance of Internet safety is to have them become cyber detectives. The Cybersmart Challenge is an online resource aimed at teaching upper elementary students about online safety. The site uses real-world examples to help students make predications and responsible conclusions.

Get Parents Involved

Make sure that you keep parents in the loop about what online tools their children are using in the classroom. Back-to-School night or open house is the perfect time to discuss with parents the dangers of inappropriate uses online. Encourage parents to talk with their children at home, as well as to monitor their child’s online use. You can even go as far as suggesting to parents that their child sign an online safety contract (there is one for parents as well). The more that parents are involved in their child’s online education, the safer their child will be.

Explain Digital Footprints

Make sure your students are in the know about how they leave a digital footprint when they are online. Online information is pretty much impossible to get rid of, and children need to understand and fully grasp that concept. For example, if you are teaching impressionable middle school students that love to share every aspect of their lives on social media, they need to understand that what they post now can potentially harm them in their future.

Use Tangible Objects to Prove Your Point

One of the best ways that you can show your students about the importance of online safety is to make it tangible for them. Create a digital toolkit by gathering items (essentially props) so that they can visually see and feel the concepts of security, privacy, and cyber safety. This would include real-world items, such as a magnifying glass (to remind them to look carefully) and a permanent marker (to show them that what they post online cannot be removed). You can also add other items like a padlock to represent that their personal information needs to be secure, and a red flag to represent that they are in a place that is not appropriate for them.

Create Real-World Scenarios

Create real-world scenarios about dangerous Internet usage. An example could look something like this: “Emily is a 12-year-old girl who has an Instagram account. She has her account set to private, but still allows kids she does not know to “Friend” her. One day she gets a private message from a boy that she has never met, but is friends with on here Instagram asking to meet up with her.” After sharing this example, ask students the following questions.
  • Are there any issues with Emily’s situation?
  • What would you do if you were Emily?
  • Is it OK to allow strangers to be your friend online?
The goal is for the students to come up with a conclusion to this dangerous real-world scenario. Encourage students to remove themselves from any situation where they feel uncomfortable, bullied, or threatened.
The Internet can be a dangerous place, so it is essential that you educate and empower your students so that they have the wherewithal and knowledge to be safe. Talk to them, and most importantly be open and honest with them, especially about their digital footprint.