A Rapidly Changing World

This is a very interesting video and article that previews a debate that McKinseys initiated during the last annual shindig in Davos.

I found itr particularly worrying that few were really likely to challenge what the speakers say about how education will fail to equip young people for the changes being brought about by digitization. After all, doesn’t everyone know that education systems only ever look backwards.

How long before educators really become a part of the debate and seriously contemplate what needs to change about our schools and about education to meet such different needs?

McKinsey – Why every leader should care about digitization and disruptive innovation

Stop Telling Children they are Bright or Smart !!

A few years ago I told a room full of teachers that i wanted them to ban the word ‘bright’ from their language and that I wanted them to work to discourage parents from using it wherever and whenever possible. There was stunned silence and they all looked at me as if I’d grown a second head. I certainly don’t think I managed to convince them.

For a start, culturally, in Indian schools as teachers became more ‘sensitive’, so they were encouraged to praise children and what could be simpler than telling them umpteen times a day why they’re so clever, so bright, so smart.

My conviction on this flowed out of a lot of reading and research i had been doing, but particularly my reading of the book and a number of articles by Carol Dweck of Stanford University on Mindset.

I wish that I had had more success then and over subsequent years in convincing both teachers and parents as I’ve become even more sure than i was then that this is a big deal, a big issue as we develop young learners who have the potential to excel in the future.

And now, here is Sal Khan of the Khan Academy saying the same thing – on this occasion talking about his own son (who sat unwell and asleep on his father’s lap when I met Sal in America a few years ago.

Here’s what Sal has to say about the learning myth:

Sal Khan Blog Post – The Learning Myth

Who Gets Picked and Why?

Here’s a great article published today by Seth Godin that goes to the root of an issue that has troubled me a great deal over the years. It hinges on the pivotal role of one of the key questions that he’s been asking for some time – What is School For?

Seth Godin Article About School Selection Approaches

I would love to hear views of parents and educators on this. For example – when you go for a cultural programme at a school, would you think less of the school because they have selected accordingly to ‘effort and trying’ rather than putting on stage to entertain you those who already have the highest levels of innate talent and ability?

Many schools tackle the issue by having policies (at least in the lower years) of putting every child on the stage. However, i know that this didn’t always sit comfortably with either parents or teachers. In such circumstances, especially in big schools, it can mean that each child’s role becomes so small and minor that questions arise as to how much learning it carries.

So, what do you think is the answer? I’d love to get people’s thoughts.

New Leadership

When we have so many concerns about the mismatch between school education on offer today and the needs of young people, we have to acknowledge that little is really going to improve until we are prepared to look very seriously at leadership within education. In short, will we have the schools and the education we need and want unless we bring about significant changes in schools’ leadership culture – and what are the changes that would be necessary?

I found this article from a senior member of the Ken Blanchard Companies interesting. Whilst its talking about the new ways of leading required in all types of organisations (especially those that need to harness the creative and innovative power of the employees – is that now all organisations?) I found some parts especially interesting when thinking about where we are currently in school education.

Ken Blanchard Companies – Unleashing The Crazy Ones

The article identifies three core roles for the leader; catalyst, architect and coach. The latter of the three is something I’ve believed in for some considerable time as an effective approach to leadership in schools. I think part of the appeal has to do with the importance of the first of the three roles. Directive, controlled leadership that centralises power and authority, decision-making and accountability doesn’t ‘grow people’ or have the potential to engender passion, commitment and true innovation.

The ‘abundance mindset’ talked of doesn’t just apply with the organisation’s own employees, but also with outside vendors and contractors. As time goes on I have found myself less and less interested in squeezing out the best price or a bit of cost saving (scarcity mindset), and more and more interested in building high-trust relationships with vendors and suppliers that are mutually beneficial and based upon the willingness of the vendor to work creatively and effectively to support what the schools deliver.

The second role – the ‘architect’ is undoubtedly the most important when it comes to change management, innovation and educational reform. This is the one that potential worries me the most. I see far too much ‘going through the motions’, replicating yesterdays schools and just trying to do everything they did. It’s often considered innovation and commitment if leaders in schools just seek to do the same old, but to do it 1% better. However, I don’t believe these are the approaches that are going to bring us the schools and the education we need today and tomorrow. That is going to require the courage and commitment to lead teams that think in new ways, are willing to try new things and are not afraid to sometimes fail.

One particular area where this is apparent is in the harnessing of technology and ICT to bring about fundamental changes in learning processes.

Marketing and the Food Industry

Here’s an incredibly powerful video that has really got me thinking about our food and the messages we’ve bought in to so that we’re not troubled by where it comes from, how it’s produced or the price to be paid:

Supporting Performance With Feedback

leadership in schools has many aspects, but undoubtedly one of the most important roles is helping each and every teacher and other employee to;

a) Work in accordance with the mission, vision and values of the school, and
b) Exhibit being a ‘lifelong learner’ by seeking to continuously enhance their abilities in their role, and
c) grow

For these to happen one of the most important areas of insight is with regard to giving feedback. Over the years I have heard so many leaders in educational fields who have been frustrated and challenged by the issues related to giving feedback. All too often they have struggled with perceptions that teachers only want ‘nice feedback’ (praise, congratulations and positive strokes). Some have conjectured whether cultural factors were involved, some whether it was a gender issue and some whether it was specific to the profession and the people who are attracted to it.

So, i was therefore very interested to come across this webinar by the highly regarded Zenger Folkman Group in which the presenters share the findings of research they carried out on the subject of feedback. Whilst much of the focus is on differences between age-groups, they also have some interesting things to say regarding gender.

Zenger Folkman Webinar – Feedback

Amazing Potential in Solar Power

I’m always interested to follow the latest things happening that have the potential to stem the devastating impact of climate change and environmental destruction – our legacy to the next generations that will follow us.

So, I was excited to see this short video, though couldn’t help wondering why there hasn’t been more publicity about this;

Solar Roadways – Film

Could it be that some of the cynics posting in the comments sections at the bottom of that page are right – i.e. could this have too much potential to be acceptable to the big industries that rely on fossil fuels for their livelihood? Would they have the will and the power to kill such an idea?

This is one worth tracking over coming months to see what happens. I’m sure many students would be interested to study this idea, to know more about the science behind it and to be part of the creative ideation process as its potential is explored.

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