The Future?

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Alan Kay

As an educator, I believe that our sole purpose is to see how education can change the world. In the context of Sinek’s Golden Circle, this is my WHY. When we look at the world ‘now’ and consider the possibilities for the future, it is easy and understandable to be pessimistic. However, when I listen to, and read from, the likes of Mark Stevenson and John Hagel, I see plenty of reasons to be optimistic. Stevenson describes advancements in the world of science and technology that are seeing scientists in North Carolina, 3D printing working kidneys. We are hearing about technology that will enable us diagnose our illnesses on our smartphones and 3D print the appropriate medication in the comfort of our own homes. There are many more examples of these kinds of advancements and if you are interested, I highly recommend checking out Mark Stevenson.

My issue, is that when I look at what is happening in the world and the possibilities for the future… and then I look at what is happening in our schools… it is impossible not to notice the enormous void between the two. Moreover, those of us who acknowledge the void and the need for change often ask ‘how are we going to innovate and change education so that our children leave school ready to enter this ever changing, ever developing world?’ However, I believe that this is the wrong question to ask because I don’t believe that the goal of innovation is to change education, but to see how education can change the world. If we only ever think about innovating education, education will always be playing catch-up and will have little impact on influencing and inventing the world and the future.

When I think about the future of education… YES, it needs to be REAL and relevant. YES, children need to learn to filter information, analyse it and think critically about it. YES, we want children going home at the end of the day asking more, bigger and better questions than they went to school asking. BUT, most importantly (for me) – and Ron Berger sums this up perfectly – we want children at school to be contributing something to the world beyond their classrooms. In Berger’s Hierarchy of Audience, right at the top… BE OF SERVICE TO THE WORLD. For me, this should be the baseline, the foundations on which the future of education should be built… its purpose.

However, if we are to revolutionise education in this way, many barriers, obstacles and challenges stand in our way. Here are just two…

1. The system

Government policy, tests, Ofsted, targets etc…

2. People

By people, I mean us; the people who work in our schools. Educators, teachers, school leaders, support staff; our cultures, our comforts, our mindsets and our traditions.

So how can we overcome these?

Sinek says that there are two ways to influence people… you can manipulate them, or you can inspire them.

Here is the brilliant part! There are hundreds of examples throughout history where people have inspired others with BIG dreams. Those inspired people have gone on to change culture, which in turn has changed policy. Martin Luther didn’t  say ‘I have a plan’; he had a dream. His dream inspired others, the inspired changed cultures which in turn changed policy. Want to see how education can change the world? IT’S TIME TO DREAM BIG!

Benidorm, Bars & Education 

I recently went on a 5-night stag-do to Benidorm; not ‘MY’ stag-do I hastened to add! I know what you’re thinking… ‘You’re too old for that’… Correct? Well, yes, you are probably right!

There were 9 of us on the trip and many of us have been friends for many years. However, as with any group of people, we have different interests, listen to a wide range of music and enjoy a variety of social activities. Bearing that in mind, on the first day, we went to a bar on the sea front called Daytona’s. There are hundreds of bars in Benidorm and I have no statistical evidence to say whether this bar is any ‘better/worse’ or ‘more/less popular’ than any other. However, we went back to that bar everyday… and stayed all day… and the decision to do so was unanimous.

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So… Why was this?
Well, interestingly, unlike 75% of the bars in Benidorm, there were less ‘stag-do type antics’ in this bar and the beer was slightly more expensive than everywhere else too. Moreover, the toilets were not as clean as they were in other bars and there was a strong smell of vomit near the DJ booth… SO WHY ON EARTH DID WE GO BACK ALL DAY EVERYDAY!?!?

Well… After just a couple of hours on our first visit, the bar staff knew what we were drinking and would have our drinks ready as we approached the bar. On the second day, the bar staff would serve us first, even if we were 2nd or 3rd in the queue. The band (the same one played twice daily) began to play our requests and reply to our banter. On day three, two gentlemen (who were a little worse-for-wear) gave our group some grief and they were asked to leave immediately. On day four, we passed a member of bar staff in the street and she greeted us like old friends.

Put simply, we went back because of how we were made to feel.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou

In the context of Sinek’s Golden Circle, this is a bar that understands its WHY. WHAT they do/offer is not that much different to any other bar in Benidorm; in many ways, WHAT they did was less appealing. However, whereas most other bars in Benidorm focus on WHAT they offer and use manipulation (price, offers, deals etc) to draw you in, Daytona’s focus on their WHY: to have fun and enjoy yourself… Moreover, their HOW and WHAT ‘lives, breathes and communicates’ their WHY; a perfect example of how loyalty is formed when people buy ‘why you do it’ not ‘what you do’.

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What’s more, this example also perfectly demonstrates the importance of relationships. But, because they started with the WHY, the importance of relationships formed part of their HOW, which in turn sold their WHAT.

If I were ever to return to Benidorm (which is questionable) you would find me in one bar… Rocking out to Dire Straits with a beer in my hand… Having fun and enjoying myself… Why? Because people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. The WHY creates a culture that people want to be a part of; it creates a sense of family and generates loyalty.

If we are honest with ourselves, how many of us (teachers, schools etc) focus on WHAT we ‘do’ (often without a clear understanding of WHY we’re doing it) and use manipulation to get ‘buy-in’ from our pupils? How do we use our WHY to create a culture of learning, that people want to be a part of and that generates loyalty, meaning, excitement, purpose and enjoyment?

Sugata Mitra recently said, ‘the purpose of schooling is to enable people to live happy, healthy & productive lives’. Is this your WHY? If so, do your pupils know? Is it clear? Do the things that you do (your WHAT) represent your WHY?

Not a particularly thought provoking blog-post, I know. Perhaps the biggest question to come from this is… HOW DID I GO ON A 5-NIGHT STAG-DO & COME BACK THINKING ABOUT SINEK’S GOLDEN CIRCLE?

SOLE Part 2

In my last post SOLE Part 1 – I outlined the reason/purpose and methodology behind this study. This week, the sessions were delivered.

Here are the phases/year groups BIG questions and a selection of photographs from the week…

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It is possible that this weeks SOLE based Lesson Study has raised more questions than it has answered. However, one thing is certain; if SOLE is to be implemented/used effectively, it requires as much strategic planning and rigour as any other pedagogical method – such as CBL, PBL etc – to be successful.  We have witnessed incredible learning this week, including Foundation Stage children discussing and understanding scientific concepts from KS3 programmes of study. However, we have also encountered difficulties, particularly with regards to individuals’ collaborative skills and reading ability. This is where careful planning needs to take place; what skills do children need to possess to participate/be successful in a SOLE session? This is about developing skills and attitudes that children need to initiate their own learning.

Whether you agree, or disagree, with this…

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…or this…

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…surely, as a profession, we can agree that developing skills and attitudes that children need to initiate their own learning, is vital… can’t we?!

Add your ideas here – http://padlet.com/chris_edwards/SOLE

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SOLE Part 1

In April 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting Sugata Mitra. As part of the Eos International Conference, I was privileged to observe Sugata Mitra deliver a SOLE session at Harstholme Academy and listen to his keynote at the conference itself. Prior to this, I had also watched all of his TED Talks. Since then, I and other colleagues have experimented with SOLE sessions with our pupils. I have also, via Twitter, read numerous blog posts both for and against this method of learning. To be blunt, SOLE is a bit like Marmite; you either love it or you hate it. When it comes to SOLE, it is safe to say that educators have very strong opinions on both sides!

As a result, I decided to make SOLE the focus of our latest Lesson Study at school. For 2 years now, we have used Lesson Study (with great success) as a way of experimenting with and embedding new ideas and pedagogies.

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Before the study started, I asked staff to peruse the School in the Cloud website and I posed the following questions…

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Although we call what we do ‘Lesson Study’, we do not follow the process set out at http://lessonstudy.co.uk to the letter. At our school, teachers (in groups of 4-6) plan, deliver and evaluate a lesson. We conduct 3 studies per academic year and each study has a specific focus – e.g. Math through CBL or Writing through SOLE.

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Today, groups planned their SOLE sessions. In my next post (SOLE Part 2), I will share these sessions and attempt to answer MY BIG QUESTION… Are Self Organised Learning Environments an effective way of learning?

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