Educators – Keep Up With the Future

For educators it’s so obvious that it’s not often enough acknowledged that our professional work is all about preparing young people for the future. We know, deep down, that when we preside over forms of education that don’t take full and effective notice of the future, however uncertain, are a failure to fulfill our duty and responsibilities to our students.

Especially in the field of technology and particularly technological changes’ impacts on society there is a reality that once something new comes to the public consciousness there is a tendency to over-anticipate the impact in the short term and under-estimate the long term impact. one of the results of this is that people’s first reaction to something like Artificial Intelligence is to get very excited, but then when they don’t see immediate impact in their own lives personally they downgrade their expectations to the point of disregarding the long term impacts for them. When those long term impacts arrive, too often people aren’t adequately prepared and there may even be anger as the effects take over.

So, as educators today in a world that sees the timeframes of change getting shorter and shorter we have a great need to keep up our understanding of future changes and to be actively engaged in the debates and discussions about their implications for the lives of our pupils. And, incidentally, this is not just important for the science teachers, though the excitement and anticipation of what’s possible in the future can certainly play a big part in motivating students to pursue the sciences and to be interested and excited to learn.

However, my experience is that too often teachers struggle for sources of good, up to date and informed information. I believe educators could do a lot worse than to follow the work of Mr Peter Diamandis.

Peter DiamandisPeter Diamandis 2S

Who is Peter Diamandis? He’s best known for being founder and Chairman of the X-Prize, as well as being the co-founder of the California based Singularity University (with Ray Kurzweil). Between them they have access to inside knowledge on the changes taking place in many major areas of invention, innovation and those areas where change is going to have the biggest impact in the future.

In January 2020, along with Steven Kotler, will be publishing a new book – The Future is Faster Than You Think. In the run up to the book coming out he’s sharing excerpts from the book weekly through a fascinating and some amazing email newsletters. In the last few months Diamandis has been blowing my mind with amazing and very understandable (for a non scientist) information on the current forces that are changing our world; 5G, 3D Printing, expansion of the mind, VR, AR, Artificial Intelligence, future of food, sensors, health and wellbeing,

Here’s Peter Diamandis himself summing up some of these issues and their implications at the annual conference at Singularity University:

 

One of the best ways for teachers and educators to keep up is to subscribe to his email newsletters, starting with ‘Abundance Insider’ – full details at his website:

Peter Diamandis Website

To finish, if Diamandis is right about even half of his predictions, and particularly the timescales, then we are looking at an amazing and exciting decade ahead. Such a time of phenomenal change offers enormous opportunities for our students but also poses challenges for those ‘left behind.’ We need to be informed.

Rex Karmaveer Education Change Champions – Reflections

A couple of weeks ago it was such a pleasure to see the Rex Karmaveer Education Change Champions event come together after long discussion and lots of work behind the scenes by the Rex Karmaveer team, especially by Eitu Vij Chopra.

Now that a couple of weeks have elapsed, I wanted to capture my thoughts and reflections from the conference and awards ceremony.

1. My Mojo
I never really had any doubts, but being part of the discussions and interactions over this day reinforced in my mind that my enthusiasm and drive to bring about significant change in education is every bit as strong as it ever was.
I’m brimming with ideas and, if anything, my biggest challenge I have to deal with now is I can’t be all things to all people at the same time and have to pick and choose the projects that i’m going to take forward. One of my biggest criteria will be the level of potential impact from those actions.

2. I’m a Bit Rusty
Years ago I really wasn’t very good at speaking or engaging with audiences. But, I wanted to be and was determined to get good. So, I grabbed every opportunity I could, including engaging in debating competitions all the way up to winning at national level in UK.
However, as i prepared for my keynote session on the morning of this one day event, I recalled that I had basically only spoken in front of one audience in the previous 18 months or so. This made me way more apprehensive than I would normally have been for such an occasion.
And, I realised the next day, that affected my preparation – I over-prepared and tried to be too rigid over the content, my notes etc.
And it showed. I was not as fluid as i would want to be – plain and simple I was rusty. Just like riding the proverbial bike, you don’t forget how to do these things, but it takes time and some practice to get back up to speed and return to past performance levels (so as to then work to go beyond those past levels).
So, the task at hand is to find every opportunity I can to engage with audiences, big or small (already grabbed one opportunity last week, that benefited from being a short impromptu involvement). I will get back up to speed asap.

3. Great Work Going On
The seventy five or so schools that were represented at the event were curated and hand-picked as the founding group. And, I have to say, very well curated – these were people and schools that were worthy of recognition. In future years schools will be challenged to prove that they merit lining up alongside these schools. They represented the whole spectrum of K-12 education in India, from across the whole country and the whole spectrum from elite private schools to government aided schools working at grass roots levels in rural and deprived inner city areas.
What was clear was that there is a lot of great, innovative work happening where schools are giving their pupils the opportunity to give back, to contribute to their communities and to the wider society.  Lots of children are getting the benefits that come in life from being a go-giver, recognising that they gain when they contribute to making the lives of others better.

4. Choices
One of my pleas on the day to all the schools concerned was to widen the choices available to students. Too often I see situations where a single school project for community action is agreed upon and then all in the school are asked to engage in it. This is a problem and challenge for students whose own drives and energy don’t align with the chosen project.
There are almost infinite possibilities for what can be done and if there is enough choice available that means something to ignite the passion in every pupil. For those schools that are smaller or lack resources, then collaboration has to be the way forward to increase the variety of giving opportunities for pupils. That can be collaboration with other schools or colleges or even collaboration with local companies and their CSR engagement activities.

5. Fear of Bold Change
  Educators remain largely fearful of making bold changes. In India, particularly, the last 12-15 years have seen appreciable changes in approaches to primary education. Classrooms look different, the pedagogy has changed and the atmosphere is very different. However, there’s an incongruence that stands out where educators seek to convince parents and other observers that they believe in progressive child-centred, whole child educational methodologies, but then flip the switch when children move from primary to secondary school – where the same old teacher-centric, rote based, content driving methods are still used to drill pupils for exam success.
At that point, anything else becomes peripheral and bolted on usually as extra-curricular activities. The reality is that in secondary schools where students are getting opportunities to develop what are colloquially known as soft skills (or Industry 4.0 skills) is not in their standard core classes, but in the extra curricular bolted-on parts of the school programme.
Then, as educators we wonder why we’re not always taken seriously as a profession.

6. Courage of Convictions
  When a speaker made the point that schools should have potential at the core, not performance, there were audible responses from across the audience regarding expectations of parents and other stakeholders when it comes to the focus on exam success and how it’s meant to be achieved.
However, if this is the case, I would ask those educators to reflect on how they currently select their schools’ sports teams? Are those selected on performance or potential basis? Would they have the courage of their convictions to choose their sports teams on the basis of grit, drive, passion and enthusiasm rather than outright talent and performance, even if that meant less trophies in their cabinet?
I don’t have the right, or the temerity,  to walk in to my doctor’s surgery and state – I have this condition, so please write me a prescription for medicine X immediately. Instead, respecting that the doctor is the professional expert in his/ her field I tell them of my symptoms, answer their questions about the nature of my malady and then receive their diagnosis, followed by their prescription for what can solve my issue. That is because i look at them as a professional.
However, as educators, we want to be seen as professionals, and yet see no inconsistency when we pander to the ‘patient’ telling us what the treatment is going to be for their condition. If educators are to be seen as the experts in the room, as the professionals, then we must be willing to learn, develop our professional beliefs (and evolve them over time as new knowledge becomes available) , understand the needs and prescribe accordingly.
One very important factor in this is that our professional views must come from a place of competence, congruence and consistency. That includes educators within an institute having invested enough time to build common views as to what they believe and what they practice. If leadership and teachers are singing different tunes we shouldn’t be surprised when parents and pupils doubt their credibility. If we’ve researched and understood where we want to go, worked on common language to describe the journey and articulate is consistently and clearly, we can bring change and educate parents to want what they need for their children.

In conclusion, a great day, a lot of excellent interactions, met up with some old friends after a long time and made some new friends. Those most committed and with the courage  to commit to excellence and innovation in education need to find each other and have these opportunities to mix, exchange ideas and renew their enthusiasm for the challenges.

Hacking the Factory Model

As educators, if we stop and challenge ourselves every time we see, here or feel something in a school that is redolent of the ‘factory model’, we’d still spend way more time stopped than moving!

I’ve often written in the past about the incongruence between educators who nodded and applauded whilst watching Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Conference speech (which is now nearly 10 years old) and the slow pace of real change in schools.

I recently read this article from Education Week, written by a teacher working in an International School;

Edweek – Why The Factory Model of Schools Persists

Quite rightly, he highlights that most educators, working in government ‘state education’ systems have blamed those systems for the inertia that has seen change and progress so slow. However, so many international schools operate in environments where they really have a great deal of freedom and autonomy. So, all this begs the question – why is change happening so very slowly?

The writer, William J Tolley highlights a number of issues; educators whose best interests are served by not changing, the rigid nature of the college admissions system and/ or the workplace – motivating all to continue to prepare children for the future in the same ways as the past. I believe there’s another factor that shouldn’t be underestimated – parents. There is an incredible level of comfort for a parent when the schooling their child is receiving looks, sounds and feels like a good quality version of what they got in their most formative years.

As a result, parents often ‘want’ something familiar, tried and tested (even if in a different age). Then, for the educators the question becomes – is our duty to give people what they want/ ask for or to have the courage, the conviction and to put in the hard work to educate them as to what they (their children) need, and how to ask for it?

The article’s also very good for the links it provides to some interesting organisations and to conference talks by key educators.

From McKinsey: Heidrick & Struggles on the changing nature of leadership

Heidrick & Struggles on the changing nature of leadership – http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/leading_in_the_21st_century/heidrick_and_struggles_on_the_changing_nature_of_leadership

Tracy Wolstencroft, CEO of the global executive-search firm, explains the importance of authentic leadership, listening, and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

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Available in the App Store (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id674902075?mt=8) and Play Store (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.mckinsey.mckinseyinsights)

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New Year’s Resolutions Update

OK, so I’m fully aware that some might wish I wasn’t bringing this subject up again – especially those who’ve already ditched the good intentions and consigned the list of ‘things to do better this year’ to the rubbish bin.

Well, first of all, anyone who had a slip up – SO WHAT? Don’t we all know that failures are an inevitable part of the journey to success? So, that’s no excuse to quit with the good intentions. Yes, we might have felt the need to beat up on ourselves a bit. Why am I so pathetic? I decide to do something that’s good and positive for me, and I can’t even keep it up for more than a couple of weeks? How embarrassing!!

Well, as this great New York Times article points out, maybe our real issue is that we don’t have the right understanding about ‘habits’. What are they, how do we get one, and in this context most important – how do we deliberately establish a new one.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/10/your-money/some-facts-to-turn-your-new-years-resolutions-into-action.html?_r=0

Hopefully, this will inspire some to dust off the resolutions and get back to them. Happy Habit building!

A Zany Idea …….

In the so-called ‘Developed countries’ like UK or USA after a new leader is elected to lead the government everyone gets very focussed on the changes they can bring about in the first 100 days after taking office. Expectations are high and there is a willingness to suspend (at least some) cynicism and to look positively and favourably at what gets done.

Well, we have to acknowledge things are a bit different here, when it comes to the ‘public servants’. Also, it looks as though by the time the coalition horse-trading gets over the outcome is anyone’s guess.

However, in my view this shouldn’t worry unduly on the basis that nearly all of the progress in the last 10-15 years has happened despite the politicians rather than because of them. So, how about if the citizens of the country decided, after the election to have a “100 Days to Make a Difference We Can See”?

With inputs from the whole society, NGOs, media, companies, school children and college students there could be a programme of “putting little things straight” throughout the towns, cities and villages. We’ve all seen the stories about how crime on the New York subways was cut when they cleaned the trains. Well, how about a mass mobilisation of a few hundred million people all playing their part to make a difference for 100 days.

Even 1 million people (10 lakh) giving up one hour of their labour/ effort per day for 100 days would be 10 Crore man hours of work done. Wouldn’t that start to make a difference?

If we could imaginatively open our minds up to this, what could we start. Would we see a discernible difference after 100 days? What might that difference look and feel like? Would it create a momentum that could then be sustained? I would love to know what people think. Has my infection gone to my brain and addled it, or is there real possibility in this?

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