Posts Tagged ‘school’

In this week’s blog I am exploring two areas impacted by the shift into an era of rapid change

  1. How to have school leaders empower their staff
  2. How technologies will shape education in the near future

Whilst much of this blog is from other sources the highlights are mine. Those of you who have worked with myself and the Intuyu team will realise that many of the conversations we have with you about high performance cultures and learning environments reflect the principles addressed by Simon Bailey.


Thriving in a World of Rapid Change

Author Simon T. Bailey, in a recent presentiation, has some advice for how school leaders can thrive in an era marked by rapid change and disruptive technologies:

Focus on people, process, and problems.

Too often in times of rapid change, school leaders tend to focus on the rapid change in technologies that are causing disruption when they should be paying attention to their employees first and foremost. “We can’t forget people in the midst of a shift,” he said. “Organisations don’t have ideas—people do.”

People often feel overwhelmed by change because they are emotionally connected to the past and to the old way of doing things, Bailey said. To be a successful leader in times of change, you have to make sure your employees are working in an environment where they feel supported enough to be creative—and that means getting them comfortable with adapting to change.

One way to do this is to listen instead of hear. “I know you’re busy, but take five minutes a day to really connect with someone on your staff,” Bailey said. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Ask employees about their concerns, and make sure they know you’re listening to them by repeating what they’ve said back to them. That will help them realize, “hey, he really gets me,” Bailey said. Also, don’t be sparing with praise. “Brilliance manifests itself when people are in an environment that celebrates them rather than tolerates them,” he said. Change is easier to accept when it’s something that we lead, instead if something that is done to us. So ask your employees for feedback, and empower your staff to make suggestions.

To inspire innovation, Bailey suggested a process known as “stop, start, continue.” In staff meetings, ask: What are the things we should continue to do? (These are the things you’re already doing well as an organization.) What are the things we should start doing that we haven’t done before? And finally, what are the things we should stop doing—things that no longer make good business sense? This process can help lead to a state of “vuja de”—a term that Bailey borrowed from the late comedian George Carlin, meaning the opposite of déjà vu. If déjà vu is the feeling of “been there, done that,” then vuja de is a feeling of “going there,  doing that,” Bailey said. In other words, it’s the ability to see what everyone else sees, but understand it differently— to experience the future in the present.

The innovation you bring about through this process should focus on meeting needs or solving problems that aren’t currently being addressed within your organisation or within education at large, Bailey said. “In the future, we will be paid for the problems we solve and the solutions we find, not just the products and services we provide,” he said, adding that most products and services ultimately can be outsourced. To focus on problem solving, ask these three questions, Bailey said: What’s the need? What’s the want? What’s your story? The answers to these questions will point to an end result that “brings about the shift that allows us to be relevant,” he said.


Technology trends and their impact on Education

As we head deeper into the Information Age and technology begins to shift the way that students and teachers collaborate, communicate, work and succeed, I thought I’d quickly outline some trends that will begin to impact the way we provide education.

1. Within the next year

Mobile Learning is already here and as the optic fibre is laid down around Australia and throughout the world the wireless ability of our mobile networks will increase and grow. How would the classroom and school look if lessons can be structured so students can immerse themselves in the topic of study at anytime and anywhere? What Apps exist that we can use to strengthen and differentiate the classroom? If there are gaps can we have students develop Learning Apps that will support their learning. They are digital natives and there some very clever kids out there (see 14 yr old boy who created a parking app for Sydney as is making a killing!).

Cloud Computing is only starting to happen, and there are many facets and evolutions to explore yet but the saying “the world is your oyster” fits the power of this shift. In recent blogs I showed some of the remarkable Cloud Computing websites which provide learning tools and virtual labs for all manner of areas. What would a school’s IT structure be if they no longer needed to buy the learning software but just access it in the cloud? Will there be a time where one of our tasks as educators is to pick and choose from the wealth of resources and relationships out their on the cloud and set up the virtual learning environment we need for this particular class or subject or unit?


2. Within 2 – 3 years

Game-based learning has had an infancy but in the next two to three years expect it to start to be adopted in greater numbers. We already have extrordinary games on the XBOX, Playstation, and so on that immerse you in a world and the player has to figure out puzzles, problem-solve, make decisions, and so on. With the Xbox Kinect we have the world first indicated in movies such as Minority Report and Avatar. You can expect that the world of game based learning will bloom. How will you use this to impact and enhance the learning environment?

Open Content is again in its infancy. With the trend to globalise information and make it instantly accessible to all, especially with Creative Commons licenses thriving and being used in all manner of ways, we will see organisations beyond Havard and MIT opening their doors. More and more organisations are in the midst of funding and creating open portals for the wider global public to enter.


3. Within 4-5 years

Learning Analytics – imagine if the system can analyse and measure the learning occuring in real-time and adjust itself to strecth and support the learning of the individual student.

Personal Learning Environments – in Orson Scott Card’s book “Ender’s Game”, Card created a world where six year olds had their own personal computing screens which they could interact with a personal avatar and world designed to enhance, support and train the students. Teachers and trainers would examine the student responses and support the computer programs work with the student. By the end of this decade the technology will exist for each student to have these learning environments. What will school become then? What will be our function?


What do you think?

I recently had an email conversation with a friend of mine in the USA who asked me what I meant when I told her that one of the areas we are now working in is “culture shifting schools”.  As I wrote my reply I had to really think about what our vision is when we work with schools. I thought it worthwhile to share with you what I wrote.

“To fill you in a little on culture shifting in schools … I recently wrote an article which addresses the shift in paradigms that is occuring at the moment (Age to Age article below in the blog list). In its essence we are moving into a new paradigm in the world and it is important to realise that people are still operating, thinking from, and acting from the old paradigm when new ideas are being brought in. This means we must first shift their context before bringing in new actions, structures, etc.

If we had to work with a new school (where we chose where to begin rather than if they just employed us for a specific task!) I would first find out if they have created a real vision for their future and uncover what they are building (what are they aiming to be best in the world in). It is critical for the school leadership team to have clarity in this as quite often we have found that schools have visions but quite often they are locked away in a drawer somewhere and it purely exists as words on a website or piece of paper to be brought out when someone asks.

From there we would have them describe what it would look like when that is delivered upon. This is important as the leadership team must be clear about what the entirity of the goal is and means. In fact, exemplary schools do this quite well.

Being clear about what it looks like, feels like, what things would be in place when that vision is accomplished, we would then look at where they are now against this future and then look at two things
1. What barriers would be in the way between now and the future
2. What projects (who, what, when, where, why) could be created to get from now to the future

Much like in “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, we can explore Level 5 Leadership, Having the right people in the right places, confronting all the brutal facts, and building a disciplined team, disciplined thinking, disciplined action.

We would then work with them inside of truing all their systems, teaching, processes, etc against this future such that they are delivering on them. I have seen many strategic plans that have great visions and ideas but their plans DO NOT address the constant measuring of the set actions against these visions. How do they know that the end result is definitely going to be that vision expressed in the world?

It is at this point that schools can assess what programs, professional development, staff resourcing and requirements, and so on are needed. What we have found is that it gives REAL clarity and direction to a school so they don’t beat around the bush so much when they are out to build the school they wish to build. It gives a context and direction that every stakeholder can understand.

Just to end this blog … one thing we have discovered is that schools are a wealth of experience and knowledge … they don’t need to spend huge amounts of money to get outsiders in to tell them what to do. Once they have clarity … it becomes about harnessing the extraordinary people who are already there. The answers are all there in the communities!

Until next time!

I have realised over the past 6 months how few schools are actually clear about what their long term vision is. Part of the impact of this lack of vision and disciplined building of this vision is that schools can quite often be focussed on things that disperse their power and ability. They become like a thirsty person wandering in the desert – going from one mirage to the next. Teachers become inured to change and morale can suffer.

In an increasingly competitive educational and financial environment, and as part of the paradigm shift occurring as we move further into the Information Age, it has become critical for schools to be clear and focused in their vision and actions. Even more so is to develop a culture of disciplined people, disciplined thoughts, and disciplined actions.

There are a number of steps to this process including

  • Empowering Level 5 Leadership (as Jim Collins speaks of in “Good to Great”)
  • Getting the right people on the bus – getting a strong core group of leaders within the school who will be the team who will take responsibility to create and build the vision within the school community
  • Creating a hedgehog concept for the school
  • Creating clearly what it means, what it feels like, what it looks like when that hedgehog concept is accomplished
  • Creating the non-negotiables as you move forward
  • Confronting what is actually the current state of the school – what is working, what is not against the vision, mission statement, or hedgehog concept.
  • And so on

What I want to share about this blog is how we worked with a leadership team at a school to create the hedgehog concept and began the process of uncovering their collective meaning, vision and actions to deliver on that vision.

A Hedgehog concept is idea that Jim Collins shares about in his book “Good to Great”. The idea comes from the story that the hedgehog succeeds because is only good at one thing – it rolls itself up into a ball with its spines outwards and it is protected against any dangers (such as foxes who have to come up with many strategies to succeed but rarely ever do). What Jim Collins found is that the most consistently successful organisations follow this concept as well. They adhere fanatically to their vision (Hedgehog Concept) and ignore taking on anything not consistent with it. This gives them an ability to remain focussed and able to develop consistent structures, approaches and culture.

There are three elements to the hedgehog concept:

  • What can you be the best in the world at?

•      Understand what you can and cannot be the best at

•      Let your abilities, not egos, determine what you attempt

  • What drives your economic engine?

•      What has the greatest impact on your economics (reputation for a school)?

  • What are you deeply passionate about?

•      Great organisations focus on those activities that ignite their passion

You can see in the diagram below the result of doing this work with a school.

Some of the discussion that raged as the leadership team created the 3 elements was fascinating

  • In distinguishing what they were deeply passionate about the team really cottoned on that this was not just a statement for students or learning but their bigger vision for all people. They wanted everyone (teachers, students, parents, etc) involved with the school to be exceptional, inspired and passionate. We toyed with the idea of “the best they can be” but distinguished this was limiting. How do we even know what people’s best is? We toyed with extraordinary but that is a quite oft used word that has lost its meaning for many. This led to exceptional – an exception to the norm.
  • The team wanted to be the best in the world at building learning communities. I confronted the group this week to define what that actually meant. In the first few minutes of discussion it was interesting to note that different people had different conceptions about what that meant or looked like. WE spent most of the session doing the work to be really clear about what that meant. Here is what they created:

Groups of people with a common goal / vision

Working collaboratively (learning from and together)

Removing mediocrity

Developing 21st century social competencies

Inspiring passionate and exceptional people

  • The leadership team had to define some not-negotiable items in the shifting of the school to deliver its vision. These included:

o   Working collaboratively

o   Removing mediocrity

o   Passion and Professionalism

o   High levels of literacy and numeracy

o   Making informed decisions on student learning

o   Developing 21st century social competencies

o   Every child matters

o   All aboard or not on board

In the whole process it became clear that as questions and ideas arose it pointed to that certain structures, systems and thinking had to be embedded in the staff (including having the staff plan for delivering social competencies first and then strategically looking at the content to be covered and discussing how the content be used to develop the competencies).

The homework the leadership team is now working upon is to become clear about what each aspect of the hedgehog concept means and what it looks like. They will also share with another staff member who they consider to be a leader within the staff community. The purpose of this is to start enrolling the staff in a future being created and to ignite feedback and leadership. Finally, against the future and vision they have created, they will outline where they are now in that journey. This will allow us to plan the steps to achieve that future.

As we forge our way deeper into the Information Age we’ll actually have more and more online (or cloud) resources available. There is a wealth of educational resources already out there so I have gathered some of the one’s I have seen recently that might be of interest to my readers. Items were sourced from Mashable, EdNews, and a whole range of websites.

Rather than type them all out in the blog I have simply attached a downloadable word document that has all the links in them!

Web Resources for Teachers

Have fun!


Have you ever had an “ah-ha” moment?

Archimedes did, apparently, when he stepped into his bath and noticed that the bath level rose by the volume displaced by the volume of his body. Archimedes yelled “??????!” (or Eureka which is Greek for “I have found it!”) before he went running through the streets half-naked excited about his discovery!

Insights come to us seemingly only at certain times and the process doesn’t seem to be reproducible. But insights is what is at the core of our learning and the learning of all human beings. What if we could make it reproducible?

David Rock in his recent book, Quiet Leadership, has given us an insight into insights.

David discusses recent neuroscience research that suggests that there are four stages to insights. The following is my paraphrasing from David Rock’s book and other researchers.

The First Stage: Awareness

Consider that the brain forms mental maps that gathers the information it has stored into some cohesive whole. As a way of accessing the information and ordering it has organised the information and patterns it has discerned into some map and then uses these maps to interpret and relate to the world.

In this first stage the brain is immersed in new information. It could be new perspectives about something we are examining in a class or heard on TV or are currently reading in a book. New information is essentially being processed and the brain is attempting to fit these ideas, thoughts and concepts into its current mental maps. As the brain attempts to integrate the new knowledge it begins to see that there is a dilemma because the new knowledge is creating a different mental map than the one that currently exists but the brain has not yet worked out how to reconcile this conflict by creating a new metamap or by reconfiguring the existing maps.

The Second Stage: Reflection

If one is to develop a consistent process of having insights and thus more productively then there needs to be more second stage “reflection” time in our days.

MRI scans show that people’s brains give off alpha-band waves just before they come up with an insight. Alpha waves correlate with people shutting down inputs from their external senses and focusing on internal stimuli. When we perform tasks that engage the conscious, logical mind we decrease the alpha-band waves. So reflection is NOT helped by asking your students to reflect by writing down their reflections (which is what many teachers do). The writing process should occur after true reflection.

Studies have shown that during reflection we are not thinking logically or analysing data; we’re engaging a part of our brain used for making links across the whole brain. We are thinking in an unusual way, tapping into more intelligence than the three to five pieces of information we can hold in our working memory. We are allowing the brain to think across the whole dataset of ideas, images, thoughts, knowledge to connect and reconfigure its mental maps without any new input from the conscious or working memory.

A simple process to reflect is to sit still and close your eyes (this removes about 70% of external stimuli) and focus on your breathing. Listen to the way you inhale and then exhale for about 60 seconds. Then open your eyes just a fraction and close them again. This sends you deeper into the alpha-band state. Listen to the way you inhale and then exhale for another 30 seconds and then open your eyes and write down your reflections. During this period you don’t think about anything logically just focus on your breathing.

By the way, we have all experienced this process naturally. Quite often we have insights when we are lying in bed before we go to sleep or when we wake up. It is in the quiet “non-logical”, “non-thinking” times that we suddenly go … “ah-ha”!

Third Stage: Insight

At the moment of insight our mental maps have been reconfigured or a new mental map has suddenly snapped into existence. In this moment the body releases various neurotransmitters like adrenaline as well as possibly serotonin and dopamine. This is why there is a sudden excitement and a rush throughout the body.

At the very moment an insight occurs, the brain gives off strong gamma-band waves. Gamma-band waves are the only frequency found in all parts of the brain and are seen when the brain simultaneously processes information across different regions. Gamma-band brain waves signify various parts of the brain forming a new map.

Fourth Stage: Action

The intense motivation from having an insight is short term. If you can get people to take tangible actions while the insight is close at hand, even just to commit to doing something later, this will be a big help to ensuring new ideas become reality. If you don’t take some action then and there the insight and new mental map is not reinforced and the insight is lost.

What I invite you to look at today and in your teaching (or working environment) is how are you setting up a reflective and insightful environment for yourself and others?
Any feedback?

I thought I would do a very quick posting this week and point you to a range of useful articles I have recently found

1. 7 Fantastic Free Social Media Tools for Teachers

If you haven’t registered yourself on then do so. It is a great way to keep up to date on the latest in tech stuff. I have added the first part of this article but go to the link for the rest!

The possibilities for social media tools in the classroom are vast. In the hands of the right teacher, they can be used to engage students in creative ways, encourage collaboration and inspire discussion among even soft-spoken students. But we’ve already made our case for why teachers should consider using social media in their classrooms. What about the how?

Even when people say they want to incorporate social media, they don’t always know the best ways to do so. It’s especially daunting when those efforts can affect the education of your students.

To help, we’ve collected seven of the the best classroom tools for incorporating social media into your lesson plans.

2. Neuroscience, Health and more

I have also registered to receive ScienceDaily updates ( which keeps me up to date on the latest science news from around the world. It collects and sends me summaries of the latest research in a wide range of science arenas such as neuroscience, breakthroughs in nanotech, research into climate change, and so on. Now, I love it mainly because I am a bit of tech-head at heart (hey! you don’t get 3 degrees in science and engineering without being a tech-head), however it reinforces hwo qucikly the world is changing and shifting. It keeps my thinking and presentations fresh and up to date – especially when I talk to Science teachers.

Here are some recent articles I found interesting:

Young Teens Who Play Sports Feel Healthier and Happier About Life

Brain’s Impulse Control Center Located

The Fancier The Cortex, The Smarter The Brain?

Brain Activity Differs For Creative And Noncreative Thinkers

3. New York Times Education Section

The New York Times Online has a great education section worth reading at times

4,100 Students Prove ‘Small Is Better’ Rule Wrong

Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits

4. The Age Education Section

As does The Age in Melbourne.

Teachers told to take control

What links and websites have you found useful?

I just finished scanning through a fascinating report that I think is worthwhile reading by Secondary School teachers and administrators about “How High Schools become Exemplary”. Now while it is focussed in the United States (and I actually don’t think too much of their educational school structure … and that’s a loooong story there) I think the analysis carried out in this report has some fabulous insights for Australian Secondary Colleges.

Here is an excerpt from the abstract that I am thinking about:

“The main lesson from the presentations was that student achievement rose when leadership teams focused thoughtfully and relentlessly on improving the quality of instruction. Core groups of leaders took public responsibility for leading the charge to raise achievement. Stakeholders crafted mission statements that later helped keep them on track; planned carefully, sometimes with outside assistance, for how they would organize learning experiences for teachers; clearly defined criteria for high quality teaching and student work; and implemented in ways that engaged their whole faculties. As they implemented their plans, these schools carefully monitored both student and teacher work in order to continuously refine their approaches.

Leadership teams succeeded initially because they used their positional authority effectively to jump-start the change process. Then they built trust. More specifically, they demonstrated commitment through hard work and long hours; they studied research-based literature to expand their knowledge and competence; they persevered to follow through on the promises they made; and they found ways to remain respectful of peers, even when asking them to improve their performance. In these ways, leadership teams earned the respect of their colleagues and the authority to push people outside their comfort zones. With cultivated competence and earned authority, they were able to help their colleagues overcome the types of fear and resistance that so often prevent effective reforms in American high schools. All these schools remain works in progress, but they are not typical. Their stories convey critically important principles, processes, and practices that can help high schools across the nation raise achievement and close gaps.”

The report can be downloaded here How High Schools Become Exemplary

This summary reflects completely the work that we are doing in two realms – coaching schools and coaching companies.

We are working with a couple of schools to assist their year 7 teacher teams to redesign the way they approach educating new high school students. Year 7 is a critical year for a student as they come from their primary school communities to a new high school community made up of many smaller groups. Year 7 thus begins as a mish-mash culture that needs to be created and built right from the moment they walk in. However, if the language and the schools’ approach is not consistent this can lead to many transitional challenges as well as poorer learning outcomes. So the work we have been doing with these schools and colleges is to have them identify what is the culture they wish to create and then how are they going to develop it in every aspect of the educational life of the students. From this point we support them in developing classes, rubrics, and curricula that reinforces the culture and language used through out the year level. The process is remarkable and what we are finding is that it ignites the willingness of the teachers to experiment and think from empowering the whole (not just the individual).

Which then leads us to the domain of coaching the company. I discovered a fabulous book through the year as I was coaching a particular financial company called the Speed of Trust (by Stephen M.R. Covey – son of the “Effective Habits” Covey). Stephen Covey clearly and simply articulates the power of building trust and creating trust at the personal, relationship, organisational, market and societal levels. The ideas contained in the book have assisted us in transforming the culture of the company and doubled its profit in the past year. The comment made in the abstract quoted at the start of this blog reflect exactly what Covey was saying. As trust grows so does productivity.

In schools, if we are building a culture, one of the questions we need to be asking is “How are we building trust amongst the teachers, administrators, parents, students, and the community?” Fundamental action taken to build trust will create an extraordinary school.

What do you think?

Recently in preparing to talk at the NSW Department of Education and Training Conference I thought about what would be necessary to think about if we are preparing young people for the 21st Century.

One of the topics that came up for me was school architecture. I visited Rowellyn Park Primary recently and had a walkthrough of their new school building with the principal and teachers. One of the conversations that came up was about thinking about using the new space. What a number of the teachers had discovered upon visiting other schools with open learning spaces, was that some teachers had begun to block off areas to limit the space. It brought up the point that we really need to rethink how we use space and how we develop students to respect and be responsibile for the way the space is used.

Given this and further discussions I have discover an article which i thought I would share with you from on design recommendations that American Architects are making to school designers and school districts. This article si 4 years old but highlights the importance of thinking about school design and use!

Here is the article in full:

Here are eight key principles for effective school design in the 21st century.

The National Summit on School Design, convened by the American Architectural Foundation and Knowledge-Works Foundation, recently brought more than 200 participants from around the country to Washington, D.C. After discussing several school-design topics, summit participants agreed on eight key principles for effective school design in the 21st century. These are:

1. Design schools to support a variety of learning styles. Not all students learn the same way, studies show. In designing new schools, stakeholders should reexamine the idea of the traditional classroom setting and focus instead on new kinds of environments that can support student achievement. This requires greater flexibility to accommodate a range of learning scenarios, both inside and outside of school.

2. Enhance learning by integrating technology. Besides the use of technology tools in classrooms, recent advances also allow schools to better control heating, cooling, air flow, and noise and to improve communications with stakeholders. Consult students about what kinds of learning technologies they’d like to use in school, summit participants recommended–and don’t forget to train educators in their use.

3. Foster a “small school” culture. Though the size of a new school should be determined within the framework of a community’s needs, vision, academic goals, traditions, and economics, there are important benefits to developing a “small school” culture that fosters close relationships, participants said.

4. Support neighborhood schools. Look for ways to preserve neighborhood schools whenever possible, participants urged. Neighborhood schools allow many students to walk to school; strong neighborhood schools boost property values for nearby homeowners; and preserving neighborhood schools reinforces the link between the school and its community.

5. Create schools as “centers of community.” Many school districts are building schools that serve as the hub, or central resource, of the entire community. In these cases, the facility is used not only as a school but as a location for other community services, such as recreational centers or performing-arts spaces–fostering greater public support and playing an important role in the community’s health. If you choose this route, however, make sure you consider policies and design elements that will ensure the safety of students.

6. Engage the public in the planning process. This process should start early, participants said, allowing for community feedback long before final decisions are made. The process should include all school and community stakeholders, recognizing minority opinions as well. It might help to start with a “visioning process,” in which stakeholders agree what the school’s role in educating students and serving the community should be.

7. Provide healthy, comfortable, and flexible learning spaces. Summit participants overwhelmingly agreed that school leaders should strive to improve the quality, attractiveness, and health of their buildings. Research and experience have shown the impact of spatial configurations, color, lighting, ventilation, acoustics, and other design elements on student achievement. Far from luxuries, these elements can affect students’ ability to focus, process information, and learn.

8. Consider non-traditional options for school facilities and classrooms. Explore options for employing underused civic, retail, and other adaptable, non-school spaces, participants urged. Many cities have community assets such as museums, colleges, research labs, and other institutions that offer the potential for experiential learning and real-life applications of lessons.

I just returned from running workshops in Queensland and the group of teachers and I had a fantastic discussion around safety, connection and learning.

Let me tune you in to how we got into it by reproducing a bit of the morning of the Advanced Inquiry Workshop.

Our brain is designed to to ensure the safety and survival of our bodies. So it is always scanning to ensure that the body is safe. Given that survival and safety is paramount for the brain … the learning environment must be safe.

But .. are our learning enviroments safe for the brain?

Fear is the foremost inhibitor to learning and growth. The brain, however, cannot distinguish between fear of failure /getting things wrong / making a mistake in a peer environment vs fear of dying or suffering injury. Research has shown that the physiologically they produce the same body reaction. This is understandable because the environment that we exist in has evolved from the dangers of survival out in the wild to the dangers of survival in the modern world.

What this points to is that we must go beyond looking at physical saefty issues like bullying or many of the overt factors that create an unsafe environment for learning. We need to also look at the systemic structures that the brain will interpret as a danger or survival issues.

One of the unfortunate byproducts of a content focussed traditional school environment is that we have created an environment of wrong / right, good / bad  … a breeding ground for fear. Students over time adapt by unconsciously becoming passive learners as a way of mitigating this fear as they haven’t yet learnt the skills to mitigate the fear using their pre-frontal cortex or reasoning part of their brain to reframe their perception. By the time we become adults many of us have not developed the capacity to mitigate the emotions and feelings that fear drive up – notice how public speaking is still feared more than death!

When I shared that with the teachers that I had a face to face example of the passivity that our education system breeds with a large group of first year pre-service teachers only last week … they began to share about their experiences of students from year 8 onwards and how they developed themselves to overcome the fear suppressor with the students.

Social networking research indicates that unless the individual has very strong self-confidence and wherewithal to go against group behaviour (the fear of speaking up and being wrong or humiliated) they will be passive and go along with the beliefs of the groups they are in. A simple example of this is how we can be chameleon like when we are in different groups of people. Fitting into a group is a survival technique that is fundamental to design of the brain in most species.

So a learning environment must be safe and develop the self-confidence of the child to question, to challenge, to develop their own place in the world. Young people must learn how to fail and learn from those experiences without fear of consequences for failing (e.g embarrassment, teasing, bullying, etc).

How do we create this?

Well the very best teachers practice it all the time. They know that they must be connected on a deep level with the students. They actively build a safe environment. They share their lives and create mutual respect. They honour their word. They consistently role model behaviour and relate to the students as their learning partners. They create environments where it is Ok to fail and make mistakes. They sometimes ask the students for feedback so they can improve their ability to deliver lessons that are more inspiring or have the students learn better.

Even more than this … why inquiry learning is becoming a more spoken about learning approach is that it is not about right or wrong, good or bad … but it allows students to discover and voice opinions and try different things out in an environment of discovery.

You might realise my point by this time. Unless we move from a content focussed paradigm which is all about passing the test, getting things right, etc .. we will not be preparing students for a world that is profoundly changing.

If we want our students to be self-confident, risk-taking thought provokers who adapt to an ever changing social and technological environment then we need to shift OUR paradigm of education.

The leap isn’t large … but it is becoming more and more urgent.

This week I thought I’d make a short entry but one that could be really useful for you. Yep … I am giving you stuff in this one!

When I lead inquiry learning workshops with teachers one of the skills that they highlight as important for young people growing up in a 21st century environment is planning and organisational skills. If we are going to develop those skills we need to systemize the process such that the students know what to do.

For example, at a secondary school I have visited, they have a set number of templates that they use to generate ideas, capture ideas, display ideas, use to link and mind map, etc. So they train the students to go straight to the templates (tools) when needed. This approach will develop the habits that build the planning and organisational skills. It also lessens the workload for teachers once their students have be trained!

There is no need to reinvent the wheel as there are many resources available on the internet. Here are some:


Search through for what you can use and adjust them to your needs.

The second part of this week’s blog is around De-schooling school and the future of education. I came upon two interesting videos (which I have attached from Youtube) by George Siemens, an educational technologies expert. The first video discusses how schools (and society) are institutionalised and because of this constraint limit what is possible in schools.

The second video, Robin Good (the interviewer), questions George Siemens about what he sees the future of education. George raises soem very interesting ideas and thoughts about the skills for the 21st century and beyond.

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