Tuesday, December 22, 2015

SECTOR VOICES: The Future of Education - Navigating the space between educational paradigms

This post was originally published in Education Review: SECTOR VOICES 2015

One of the toughest things about being a champion for educational change is that you need to take people with you. In fact sometimes it is even tough to take yourself along for the ride.

Many times I have written and spoken about the need for educational change. I know I am not a lone voice, in fact I get the sense that there is a veritable tsunami building up behind what initially felt like ripples and then waves of educators talking about this very issue. People like Sir Ken Robinson have popularised the notion that schools need to change with his TED talk ‘How Schools are Killing Creativity’ and ‘Changing Educational Paradigms’. This was echoed and reinforced by the work of Sugata Mitra with his ‘Hole in the wall’ project and his TED talk ‘Build a School in the Cloud’ and I know we all cheered for that Logan LaPlante for whom Hackschooling made happy. Locally we have a growing number of educational leaders calling for change with NZCER writing an excellent report ‘Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective’ and just this year we saw the official launch of Dr Jane Gilbert's AUT Edge Work - Educational Futures Network. I am also proud to be part of school and team at Hobsonville Point Secondary School who are developing different approaches to secondary schooling that can better meet the needs of our learners in the 21st Century.

I don't actually think the challenge is understanding why we need to change education or even what we need to do in order to change it. For me, the central challenge is that we appear to be a bit stuck in the space between. The space between education's past and education's future. I suspect this period will be looked back on as that uncomfortably pimply pubescent period where we transitioned, painfully and unnecessarily slowly, from an industrial age education system to a more agile knowledge age model. But at present, we are neither there nor here. Actually who am I kidding. Plenty of people are still back there. And happily so. Some of us have hurled ourselves into the unknown whilst many others have stuck with comfortable old 'there' and are  simply dangling pedagogical toes over the precipice whilst really clinging to the industrial mainland.

All around us are examples of businesses and industries who have made the transition - think about how you used to book travel, book a taxi,  how you used to do your banking or share written communication - there are so many examples of change, because industries have to change, if you don't, you simply lose customers - in business you evolve or die.

However, compulsory schooling doesn't seem to work that way. For many, there is what is perceived as an intellectual argument for change that might make them feel a little uneasy maintaining the status quo. However as long as we have a system where schools can be positively antiquated yet publicly lauded as educational successes for hothousing students focusing on little more than assessment and results results results, then we are unlikely to see any sizeable change in the near future - in recent months we have seen a number of “top schools” quoted in the media, criticising innovative learning spaces as “barns” and new approaches to learning as making our learners “guinea pigs”. Add to this that for many, which school they attend is not their choice, and even if it was, there is so little choice that you are probably limited to choosing between co-ed, single sex and/or maybe religious character or not. Then there is the issue that criteria for a “top school” is so outdated that it seems based on little more than size, decile and league tables combined. In fact the more antiquated the school the more highly it seems to be regarded.

Be a pioneer and make change anyway and you run the risk of being seen as risking student success and making a generation of students “guinea pigs”. Reimagine spaces and you are accused of putting students in “barns” - even if it is an improvement on the cages they came from. Irregardless of the fact that we are all failing our young people in numerous other ways with our national focus on academic results and little else. I actually believe we can move forward and deliver a better educational model AND have our students succeed at qualifications such as NCEA, I just think it's a shame that there is little enticing others to risk making change when the only thing that seems to matter to many are results which quite possibly have little, if any, relevance as an indicator for long term success in the 21st century. Add to this the issue that if we do change schooling we must have the confidence of our students and community and often for parents their only reference point is their own education. Even if they actually didn't succeed in that system or even enjoy it, they are hugely nervous if we depart from a traditional school model and what the school down the road is doing. So as well as working hard to change and improve educational models we also have the additional job of translating and public relations, "selling" one paradigm to those that came from another. This translation needs to occur for the educator as well. I know I have often faltered, knowing full well that we must make the change but at times terrified at the thought of heading off into such a new terrain without a map or guide book. That said, moral purpose can make for an excellent compass if you let it.

Add to this the issue that entering a new paradigm actually requires extra resourcing. At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we are attempting all kinds of creative solutions to try and make future-focused learning happen on a budget and resourcing model that is well and truly based on an industrial Age equation of one teacher to 25-30 students teaching students eight discrete learning areas. I would argue that if our government really wanted innovation they would reward those that are doing it with a different resourcing formula that allowed for greater planning and professional learning to reflect that we are no longer simply serving up tweaked iterations of what we  have serving up in schools for the last 25, 50 or 100 years. Change takes time, effective change takes a whole lot of learning and planning.

Personally if I were “Joe (or Joanne) Bloggs” I would be way less concerned that schools like Hobsonville Point Secondary School are "experimenting" with new approaches and be far more concerned that many schools are not experimenting at all and that in fact they are being celebrating for engaging in damaging, high stress approaches to preparing students for little more that assessment success. That scares the hell out of me.

So what is the answer? I suspect we have to "feel the fear and do it anyway". I mean, humankind didn't create cars, learn to fly or fly to the moon by being safe and happily living in the past. I just hope we can find a way to have more, if not all educators leave the past behind us as well and for communities to demand the change rather than fear it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

#GELPedu New models for learning, new pedagogies, digital learning and the educator workforce for the future

Professor Yong Zhao, Presidential Chair, University of Oregon, USA

Slides available at: http://zhaolearning.com

Held up Air New Zealand as an example of innovation - making safety videos you actually want to watch.

Born in a tiny house in China, a "failed Chinese peasant". Has spent his old life running away from his failures - ran away from China to US. 

A lot of money is spent on children's education a year. In NZ approx 10,000 U.S. Per year which is more than 70% of adult's wealth globally. Zhao questioned what students get for this, he believes we are short changing our children. Our children are differently talented. We are driven my different motivations. Where does passion come from? He identified 16 human motivators. 

Diversity of motivation. The is no universal motivator. Natural born diversity is a great asset. Family and nurture can suppress or enhance these motivators. E.g. curiosity can be suppressed or enhanced.  If you spend 10000 hours doing something you are good at and passionate about, you can achieve something great. Spend 10,000 hours doing something you are not good at or passionate about you will get better, but not greatness. 

In Industrial Age was about homogeneity, the needed a workforce with set skills. Schools reflect this. Norm referenced assessment - deficit driven actions. Standardised curriculum, just in case teaching, isolated classrooms. Individual differences forced through school to produce prescribed outcomes. 

I don't believe in driving education by fear. Education should be driven by hope. 

Robotics and automation is an opportunity to focus on what we are passionate about. 

Recommended Reading: The Second Machine Age


Recommended Reading: The World is Flat


We have moved from the age of necessity to the age of choice. We consume choice. Zhao gave the example of shampoos and conditioners - who knew we needed so much choice. 

What's the role of a national curriculum? What is the pedagogy is required to teach our children? We need to make authentic products that mean something to somebody. We need to learn to make, not just make to learn. 

Zhao gave the example of Expeditionary Learning Schools which are exemplified by perfect based learning expeditions, where students engage in interdisciplinary, in depth  study of compelling topics - in groups and often with their community. 

See more about Expeditionary Learning Schools here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expeditionary_learning_schools

We need to develop the global competencies of connecting with other people. 

A new model is needed. 

Individual differences

Multiple Intelligences

Cultural diversity 

Curiosity, passion, creativity

To produce enhanced human talents

Monday, November 23, 2015

#GELPedu - The Shared Responsibility of Learning with Charles Leadbetter

Leadbetter opened by talking about his paper that addressed Personalised Learning in 2004, which at the time was challenged and picked and apart - it is heartening that the discourse around personalised learning is so strong now.  

There's enormous agreement about where we are at and what we need to do. Now we need to move on. The system that we have inherited is running into the sand. There is a sense that we want different things. We need to do something different to do something better. 

But education is gripped by a cartel of fear. 

Even when we praise the new we are holding on to the old models. Pisa is measuring measuring success of a an old model. 

Making change is the blue arrow and often feels tumultuous. 

There is a universal dialogue about competencies and fluencies needed for the 21C Learner.

What do we need to learning why?
How do we do it systematically? 
Where does it happen and who's involved?

He then used the analogy of self checkout at the grocery store. The first few times is a struggle, but he is determined to show his independence. Then as he is masters it, he realises that he has been duped into being a checkout operator. Ultimately we are moving to to more and more being automated. We are all going to have to question what roles we will maintain as humans. We will have to question what our roles will actually be. 

In many ways education equates to a 12 year training programme to become a not very good robot. 

We need to be focusing on:
Problem solving
Opportunity seeking
Creating value and meaning
Purpose led collaborative agency

How do you achieve stuff that matters? With other people to live well as a human in a fragile age. 

Charles Leadbetter sums up the competencies needed as:

Purpose breeds capability. If education has a purpose and is going somewhere, then capability will come.

Passion is great, but it shouldn't stop at what you think should want to be. Passion should: excite, be diverse, test, stretch, deepen and should be open.

He posed four sets of questions:

Assessment: How do we assess it? Do we need to assess it?

Practice: How do we prepare people for doing this?

Policy: what's the enabling framework?

Framing: what language do we use? What do we call it?

If we call ourselves innovative, alternative, 21 century etc - we are in danger of being interesting but marginal.

#GELPedu Panel "What is learning for?" - An indigenous perspective

This session focused on ways of knowing and what is worth knowing informed by indigenous/First Nation perspectives, the growing diversity of our populations and the needs of society and economy. 

To begin the session Valerie Hannon (Co-Chair GELP) set out the foundation for the discussion looking at "What is learning for?". The old narrative about 'economic competitiveness' and 'fulfilling personal potential' seem increasingly inadequate. 

Globalisation, climate change, demography, resource depletion, conflicts and problems of personal meaning present challenges - it is these things we must address.

We lack an organising framework for rethinking curriculum design and this is meaning we are struggling to make the necessary changes. Four Dimensional Education by Charles Fadel, Maya Bialik and Bernie Trilling address the foundational reason for why we find it so difficult to rebuild curricula around the needs of the modern world. In response Four-dimensional education provides a clear and actionable organising framework of competencies needed for this century (it would be interesting to see how these compare with NZs key competencies??). 

Our goal needs to be "empowered learners for a sustainable humanity". As an aside, these messages really to support what we are trying to do at Hobsonville Point Secondary School - nice work Maurie!

Learning has to be about saving our species on this planet. The idea of Indigenous Knowledge (IK) is becoming increasing important as it is imbedded within its context and community. 

Indigenous learning is:

Indigenous values such as oral traditions, identity, importance of storytelling, deep listening and intimate understanding of, and respects of our natural world. A great shout for Tū Rangiatira as a preeminent text on this very issue. 

The more I listen this morning, the more I really do appreciate how placed NZ is to be a world leader in education, through our work around culturally responsive pedagogy and our key competencies. 

Among many developments is the work in the African context of Botswana and Ghana.

This introduction was then followed by a panel made up of: 
Valerie Hannon, Co-chair GELP
Arihia Stirling, Principal, Te Kura Māori o Ngā Tapuwae
Dr John Volmink, Chairperson, Umalusi Council, South Africa
Paul Bridge, Principal, Derby District High School, Western Australia
Professor Pavel Luksha, Director, Global Education Futures
Charles Fadel, Founder and Chair, Centre for Curriculum Redesign, Harvard Graduate School of Education 

Paul Bridge (Australia) spoke of his context of a school with a 80% aboriginal population. He spoke of respectful relationships and empathy. Building a caring environment and a positive school culture. What is it that makes kids want to come to school? Learning opportunities that engage aboriginal students. 

John Volmink (South Africa) IK systems are a way of undoing colonialism and re-appropriating indigenous knowledge. Colonialism was an epistemic injustice, therefore IK is an issue of cognitive justice.  It's about changing learning interactions. It's asset basset community development. 

Arihia Stirling (New Zealand) our parents had to forgive themselves about how they were educated and they need to now upon up and trust the education system now has to offer. It's about knowing yourself, understanding where you have come from and your ancestors. Understanding we want to be person for ourselves first, then our families and the world. 

Valerie - Is this an option for all learners and all people? Arihia - Its about humanity. We all come from someone. 

Pavel Luksha (Global Education Futures) - all answers are not lying with one culture. The importance of diversity of culture and knowledge. Increasing robotics and automation is making us look at ourselves as human, our emotion and wellbeing. Ancient civilisations were based around whole human life, community and relationship with nature. Solutions for the future may lie with indigenous knowledge. The idea of mindfulness is an example of this. Tribal traditions had education of elders, if we are truly lifelong learners we need to look at this. Collaborative learning has its roots in Africa. The past will provide answers for our future. 

Valerie asked about the value of myth. Arihia responded talked about Māori myth. Is innovation going to be the new wave of re-colonisation. The mining of indigenous knowledge and then watered down. John talked about the interconnected subsystems of IK and these need to be respected. Western Knowledge is scientific and IK is not. Arihia also spoke about the need to keep some IK private.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Update on NCEA at HPSS (and introducing the HPSS Qualification Programme)

How NCEA works (from NZQA website)
  • Each year, students study a number of courses or subjects.
  • In each subject, skills and knowledge are assessed against a number of standards. For example, a Mathematics standard could be: Apply numeric reasoning in solving problems.
  • Schools use a range of internal and external assessments to measure how well students meet these standards.
  • When a student achieves a standard, they gain a number of credits. Students must achieve a certain number of credits to gain an NCEA certificate.
  • There are three levels of NCEA certificate, depending on the difficulty of the standards achieved. In general, students work through levels 1 to 3 in years 11 to 13 at school.
  • Students are recognised for high achievement at each level by gaining NCEA with Merit or NCEA with Excellence. High achievement in a course is also recognised.  

See the NZQA website for more details: 

When looking at information around secondary schooling, the various levels referred to can be confusing. As a general rule schools plan around the following levels matching up. It is important to note that whilst a student may be at a certain Year Level according to their age, they may operate at a different Curriculum and NCEA Level according to their progress in any particular learning area, e.g. Student A may be in Year 11 but could be operating at Curriculum Level 6/NCEA Level One for English and Curriculum Level 8/NCEA Level Three in Statistics. Where possible, we will aim to assess students according to the Curriculum Level they are working at.

Year Level
Curriculum Level
NCEA Level
Year 11
Level 6
Level One
Year 12
Level 7
Level Two
Year 13
Level 8
Level Three

Principles guiding our NCEA vision and design

NCEA at HPSS has been guided by a clear set of principles that underpin our school approach to assessment. We believe all assessment experiences should be:
  • Low stress
  • As naturally occurring as possible
  • A balance of personalisation, rigour and high expectations
  • Designed to fit best practice for each learning area
  • Ensure coverage, progression and pathways to personal success

Level One NCEA at HPSS

Foundation Years
Years 9-10
Qualification Years
Years 11-12
Pathway/Launch Pad
Years 12-13+

Year 11 is the beginning of a two year journey (which we refer to as the Qualification Years) where students will work towards attaining a quality Level Two NCEA Certificate. To ensure the students gain the best results we will focus on doing less better - we believe that by doing fewer Achievement Standards we will support learners to go deeper with their learning. During their Year 11 year, students will have the opportunity to gain 20-40 credits at Level One and/or Two to lay the foundations for quality Level Two and Three qualifications. This means HPSS students will not be completing a Level One NCEA Certificate.*
Achievement Standards may be gained in all areas of our curriculum, for example:

  • Projects - Where opportunities arise for genuine, naturally occurring Achievement Standard evidence to be produced, these should be pursued (for students operating at Curriculum Level 6 or 7) in consultation with Project Guides.
  • Learning Hubs - Where opportunities arise for genuine, naturally occurring Achievement Standard evidence to be produced, these could be pursued (for students at Curriculum Level 6 or 7) in consultation with Learning Team Leaders.
  • Qualification Learning Modules / Qualification SPINS - will be designed to provide opportunities for naturally occurring Achievement Standards evidence to be produced. Each module will offer each student a maximum of one Achievement Standard per Learning Area per semester (which equates to 12 Achievement Standards in total)**

Whilst most Achievement Standards will be internally assessed, there may be some externally assessment Achievement Standards offered in Semester Two Modules and/or SPINs.

* Students do not need a Level One NCEA Certificate to achieve Level Two or beyond. 20 credits from Level One can be carried over to Level Two.

** Where a student has a particular strength or passion extra Achievement Standards may be offered.  

8.30 – 8.50
Staff kitchen table
Community staff kitchen table
Projects staff  kitchen table
staff Kitchen table
Staff professional learning
(8.30 - 9.30)
8.40 - 8.50
Student Check-in
Student Check-in
Student Check-in
Student Check-in
8.50 – 9.10
Learning hub
Learning hub
Learning hub
Learning hub
9.10 – 10.30
Block 1
Extended Hub
QM 2
Impact Projects
Extended Hub
(9.30 - 10.30)
10.30 – 10.50
10.50 – 12.10
Block 2
QM 1
Impact Projects
QM 1
12.10 – 1.30
Block 3
QM 2

QM 1
QM 2
1.30 – 2.10
2.10 – 3.30
Block 4
QM 2

Extended Hub

Timetable explanation
Next year we will have a second timetable operating that will create the framework for a Qualifications Programme. Students in the Qualification Programme (Year 11-12) will be able to design a semester long personalised timetable (in partnership with their Learning Coach and whanau). Each student will select two Qualification Modules, two Qualification SPINs as well as establishing an Impact Project.

Impact Projects
Students will participate in one project each semester. These projects will be either be completed in small groups or as an individual. Projects will be focused on a specific outcome/impact that makes a difference. Projects will be increasingly student directed but will continue to be supported by a teacher. Students may stay in Big Projects if they are not ready for Impact Projects.

Qualification Modules (choose 2)
Students will select two co-taught connected modules each semester. Each module will cover two learning areas, but will be connected through a common concept. Qualification Modules will have four 80 minute blocks a week to allow for deep learning. These modules will be pitched at curriculum levels 6-7.

Qualification SPINS (choose 2)
Students will select two SPIN modules each semester. Each SPIN will cover one learning area. SPIN modules will have two 80 minute blocks a week to allow for deeper learning.These SPIN modules will be pitched at curriculum levels 6-7.

Subjects on offer
Next year we will have a wide range of subjects available, including: English, Maths, Science, Visual Arts,  Health and PE, Social Studies, History, Geography, Technology, Digital Technology, Drama, Dance, Languages (including Spanish, Japanese, Te Reo, Mandarin), Business, Accounting and Music. Any subjects not available maybe available through HabourNet (as an online distance learning course).