308 posts categorized "Notes"

October 03, 2011

Can your students join 10,000 others designing our future?

Problem finders
At TEDxLondon, BLC, Naace and a few other events this summer I asked if people wanted to join me in trying to encourage more curricula that were based less on students solving the irrelevant, contrived pseudo problems given to them in textbooks, and based more on finding great, real world problems that need solved.

A superb opportunity for action has come along.

Ever wondered what 10,000 young people could do to solve some of the world’s greatest problems? We want to know for the world’s most important ICT event, ITU Telecom World 11, by gathering young people's vision for the future on world2011.us.

The October 24-27 event is the flagship meeting of the world’s telecoms industries, brought together by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the specialised United Nations agency responsible for information and communication technologies. In the run up to the event, and during it, we’ll be showcasing the ideas of young people, aged 8-18, alongside the debates, panels and corridor discussions of these influential delegates.

I've been at so many events recently that have either totally lacked the student voice, or made third party reference to it through second-hand reportag from their teachers. This is a real chance for your students to make a global impact on problems that matter, wherever they are.

It’s a once-in-a-lifetime real world project-based learning opportunity, that ties into most teachers’ curriculum at any given point in the year.

We’re providing some brief points of inspiration to get you started, over the seven key themes, and will open up a wiki space today where teachers can collaborate and add to each other’s resources on the areas.

By October 24, we hope to have videos, photos, blogs and examples or prototypes of what young people believe might help solve challenges on their own doorstep. Sign up your class, school or district to begin sharing the ideas of your students. We want you to tell us how technology could be harnessed to:

To take part, you just have to sign up your interest, and from there you’re able to submit posts to the project.

Pic: some problem finders in one of our schools in Ormeau, Brisbane, Australia.

September 18, 2011

Ewan McIntosh #TEDxLondon: The Problem Finders

The Problem Finders
I don't normally write out talks before I give them, but to get a point and a passion across in six minutes, I went through the exercise for TEDxLondon. There will be a call to action later this week at theproblemfinders.com. In the meantime, this is the talk I gave:

I’ve been lucky enough to see our education system from several sides. I’ve been a teacher, an education advisor for governments and I’ve worked as a talent spotter for TV companies and Venture Capitalists, working alongside digital startups in the creative industries. It's through the lens of these last encounters that I’ve noticed something in the way that we teach our young people that has a negative knock-on effect on their very ability later in life to contribute to a creative, sustainable world. With my teams of educators all over the world I’ve also seen the impact of a simple mindshift that every teacher in every classroom can make.

Success rates of the creative industries
Over the past four years I've sought out ideas that people had come up with and invest in them. The key: they had to find a problem that no-one else had solved. Out of 3000 ideas, this past three years, I think I’ve recommended about 30 of them. That means that our most creative people have about a 1% success rate in finding problems that need solving.

Currently, the world’s education systems are crazy about problem-based learning, but they’re obsessed with the wrong bit of it. While everyone looks at how we could help young people become better problem-solvers, we’re not thinking how we could create a generation of problem finders.
And I’ve discovered just how many per cent of our learners are working in a problem finding curriculum.

Simon Breakspear
This summer, I met Simon Breakspear, an educator from Sydney living in Cambridge. He told me that the biggest headache he had in his current venture was finding a problem that no-one else had looked at. He went on to point out that he had never had to find a problem like this until this very moment, 25 years into his life. Simon was part of the one percent of us who undertake that bastion of quality learning: a PhD.

Alan November
Another educator and good friend, Alan November, told me story a little later this summer. He once taught a Community Problem Solving course where, on the first day, he set students the task of finding a problem in the local community that they could then go off and solve using whatever technology they had available.From the front row a hand shot up. “Mr November?” began one of the girls in the class. “You’re the teacher, we’re the students. It’s your job to come up with the problems and give them to us to solve.” This was in 1983.

All our students, their parents and the people teaching them, have been indoctrinated that is teachers who sift through all the things we can learn, find the areas worth exploring, and make up theoretical problems for students to solve. On top of this, most educators believe that it is their job to invent problems at just the right level of difficulty to appeal to every one of the 30 children in front of them.

So we see this disingenuous belief that framing fake problems in different coloured books (the pink ones for the clever kids, the yellow ones for those “who need support”) is the best way to create problem solvers.

It is not.

The teacher does the learning
Teachers, for too long, have actually been doing the richest work of learning for their students.
Teachers find problems, frame them and the resources young people can use to solve them. Young people get a sliver of learning from coming up with ideas, based on some basic principles upon which the teacher has briefed them, and the teacher then comes back on the scene to run the whole feedback procedure.

How about something different?

TEDxKidsSland Peer Support
In the classrooms in which I work, students explore the twenty or so themes upon which our planet really depends, immerse themselves in the ideas and information their teachers, peers and whole communities can impart, find the problems they feel are worth solving, theorise which ones will work and then try them out in a prototype. In their world, we don’t just write an essay or create yet another wiki or blog to describe what our idea is, but we actually build the solution to the problem with our own hands – in this case, these seven year olds built the world’s youngest TEDxKids event, and talked about their research and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing – or simply most interesting - problems. Do animals talk? Do babies have a secret language? Which cancer should we invest in curing first? Why do slugs needs slime?

Others in a Brisbane primary school we’re working chose to explore living for 24 hours without technology to immerse themselves not just in what makes technology so vital, but also the challenges and problems to our wellbeing that technology brings.

It takes courage for a teacher to let go of the reins of learning sufficiently to inspire problem finding where no textbook, teacher or standardized test knows the answer, where the teacher’s voice is but one of 30, 300 or 3000 others chipping in, guiding, coaxing and coaching through the ether. But this kind of learning surpasses the depth of thinking demanding by any traditional textbook, teaching or standardized test. The teachers and learners I work on problem finding with say it's the most rewarding learning experience they've ever had.

I began with a story about my friend Alan’s class, his students protesting that “he was the teacher, and they were the students”. Well, he persisted. After a year of problem-finding, those students insisted on the school opening up over the summer vacation so they could continue to find problems and solve them. When a new computer arrived, a student broke into school over the vacation – he didn’t break in to steal the computer, but to practice coding it. It’s rare we hear of students breaking into school to learn. But, I guess that’s what Problem-finding does to people.

I pledge that before the end of 2011 I will help 10,000 young people discover a problem-finding curriculum, through the development of confidence and skills in their teachers. If you want to be part of that journey, help add the next 10,000 problem finders, or come up with ideas about how we can help young people find more worthwhile problems, please add your support.

September 17, 2011

Our students: this week's TEDx Editor's Pick

TEDxKids Weekly Highlights


In the week that I'm giving my own TEDx talk for the first time, at TEDxLondon, I was over the moon to see NoTosh's last project with Thorney Close Primary School in Sunderland hit the homepage of the TEDx talks site.

My own talk this afternoon is about the very shift in vision that enabled the teachers at Thorney Close to let go of many of their reins of learning, and furnish seven and eight year old children with the power, and challenge, to find problems worth solving, or epic questions worth tapping into.

Layton's talk on Why Do Slugs Need Slime? was one of many that passed the "so what?" test of their peers, and their teachers. You can view it on the TEDx site along with a few others, and see more of the thinking behind how we handed over more of the learning process to young people on our NoTosh site.

TED is a revolution... for my students

Now, some grown ups have been getting their knickers in a twist about the TED movement and whether or not it can represent a revolution:

John Connell doesn't get TED

For these children and their teachers this was, to date, the most powerful learning experience they had ever had: read their comments for yourself. That concentration of effort, the real sense of audience, both in the room and out in the virtual world, and the responsibility given to them for their own learning, make this an invaluable life experience for adults and kids alike.

I'd encourage any educator wanting to experiment with handing over the reins of learning, and getting their students to find the problems they will explore, to consider undertaking a TEDx process with them. 

 

August 27, 2011

Why Eric Schmidt is only partly right about science & technology education [#mgeitf]

Eric Schmidt Google

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt was the first non-television exec to deliver the McTaggart Lecture at the Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival last night. A core part of his talk was on the state of "UK education", and how "over the past century, the UK has stopped nurturing its polymaths. You need to bring art and science back together." Britain should look to the "glory days" of the Victorian era for reminders of how the two disciplines can work together, he said. 

"It was a time when the same people wrote poetry and built bridges. Lewis Carroll didn't just write one of the classic fairytales of all time. He was also a mathematics tutor at Oxford. James Clerk Maxwell was described by Einstein as among the best physicists since Newton – but was also a published poet."

"I was flabbergasted to learn that today computer science isn't even taught as standard in UK schools. Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it's made."

It's a shame, though, that he didn't Google a little more on the education system of the country in which he was speaking. Scotland.

There is no such thing as "UK education", only English and Welsh, Northern Irish and Scottish. The latter is significantly different from the others, and programming is a core part of our curriculum for excellence Technologies strand, from age 3 through to 18.

It's why my daughter learns input-process-output at nursery school (kindergarten) through computer programmes and robots. It's why the literary structure and coding expertise needed to create a computer game is taught in more and more primary (elementary) schools. It's the reason that the very "learn how to use, not how to make it" approach to software has been questioned for the last eight years or more in Scottish computer science circles, and moves are made to reinstate the importance of programming at secondary (high school) level.

It's why our definition of 'text' in the Literacy (arts) guidance moves well beyond "the three Rs" and includes the likes of text messaging, computer games and the web at large.

In England, the education minister has gone from not mentioning technology at all in his curriculum and policy plans, to making piecemeal and out-dated contributions about how technology provides a great carrot and stick for learning. The differences between this and the forward-looking ambition of his Scottish counterpart are stark.

Yes, the McTaggart lecture is designed to "boil down to anger and arch-villains, impossible proposals and insults". But, Mr Schmidt, before going in for a great, potentially constructive insult for our neighbours, please accept an invitation to discover more about the country - and its own education system - that you have been kind enough to visit.

Read the McTaggart lecture in full.

Photo from TechCrunch

August 15, 2011

TEDxLondon: The Problem Finders at The Education Revolution

TEDxLondon Ewan McIntosh


I'm thrilled to have been given the platform at TEDxLondon this September 17th to share my big idea for education, building on my plea to change learning from a pseudo-problem-filled irrelevance to a universe that inspires young people to become expert problem finders.

A very limited number of tickets are available on application from the site to hear an amazing bunch of speakers give their vision and call to action for learning, including a virtual beamover from Sir Ken Robinson in LA.

July 24, 2011

Coming up at #BLC11 from Ewan

Ewan's BLC
This week is, ahem, a busy one at Building Learning Communities (#BLC11) in Boston, MA. I'm getting a chance to hear plenty of other talks, seminars and keynotes and will do that now seemingly old-fashioned thing of live blogging each session as it happens, as is my wont.

I'm also offering up a fair few sessions in this packed week:

Most of these, including the keynote, are real hands on, brains on workshops, and I want to be aiming, in fact, to be talking as little as possible, providing some great frameworks for people to play and learn something new for themselves, with prompts and support to take them further beyond the often brief sessions we have together.

I can't wait to catch up with so many people, including the chaps and chapesses at AlasMedia, with whom I first sailed up the Charles River four years ago as they toyed with the idea of setting up a film, media and education company. They're a roaring success and steal the show every time they come to BLC. Their FlickSchool is a delightful place to learn how to make some great films and shoot super photos. Above all, their friendship over all those miles means  a lot to me, and the connection I feel always makes me stop off in LA when I'm off to New Zealand or Oz to say hi, eat some (too much!) great food and trade stories. They also caught on camera the first time Catriona was ever really scared of something (it was a microphone windshield).

And that's what BLC is about - connections. I'm grateful to Alan November for his invite which, after a three year break, I'm finally able to take again. He's the only person I jump onto American Airlines for, in the hope that I might catch even just one fish off the shore at Marblehead. And I'm grateful beyond words to Jennfier Beine who took over the task of organising the event, sorting me out for tickets, hotels, round tables for my pre-conference in a room that shouldn't really have them, and introducing me to the world of Kinko's. 

Enough of the politesse, and on with the show! Fasten your seatbelts, fire up the aggregator and get ready for some good, old fashioned reflection and reportage on the blog.

July 23, 2011

#BLC11: Help write the keynote

This week I'm back at Building Learning Communities (#BLC11), Boston, MA, after a three year hiatus (as I dipped my toes into something totally different). I can't wait to see old friends and make some new ones, and to hang out with some of the brightest thinking you can get in the education space.

The keynote is the one thing both Alan November, the host, and I wanted to do differently. Based on NoTosh's work with Cisco this past 18 months, I'm delighted to be in a conversation with their Director Global Education, Bill Fowler, a conversation we want you to help shape, whether you're at the event, or spectating from afar.

There are seven key questions we're probably going totally fail to tackle over the hour, but I vouch on my part to follow them through for the next few months in the work I do with schools around the world with Tom. Most of the readers of this blog have influence - on their school, their district, their government. We want you to join the already burgeoning debate and contribute your own take on things.

Can you add your own thoughts, arguments, research pieces to these questions and help us create a long-lasting set of strong arguments with which to influence the Governments, districts and schools with whom we all work?

  1. What are the main opportunities from around the world in building more effective learning communities?
  2. What binds learners from around the world, regardless of geography? (my personal issue here is the hidden digital divide of time zones - technology alone can't be enough).
  3. What leads to more engaging learning for under-motivated/disengaged young people?
  4. How do we adapt pedagogical approaches?
  5. What is the balance of control between the teacher and the learner?
    Are you currently satisfied with relationships within your education community (leadership, parents, community, etc)?
  6. What strategies can we employ to empower the learner to take more responsibility for managing/leading their own learning?
  7. What are the process skills needed to leverage technology?

The questions are co-written, and those of you who know me well will know what my own angle would be on some of them - but I want challenged, pushed, cajoled into thinking about others' views on the same subjects.

There is also a less chunked up discussion on the same issues over on the GETideas site, for those of you who are members there or want to sign up today.

The keynote later this week will be tweeted live, hopefully webcast, too, and I'll be doing my best to keep up with the live online action as well as responding to points from Bill and the audience. I look forward to seeing you there, in person or online!

June 19, 2011

Rupert Murdoch on education: a colossal failure of imagination

Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch isn't someone I'd normally have flocked to for advice on how to transform education, but I was delighted when a contact at the EU forwarded me a speech he had delivered to senior government officials from around the world this May.

Murdoch makes some powerful points that speak the language of Government and business, two groups that must be convinced the current conservative and Conservative means of bullying learning into doing better just will not do. Here are some of the most compelling parts:

Every CEO will tell you that we compete in a world that is changing faster than ever. That it is more competitive than ever and that it rewards success and punishes failure to a greater degree than ever before.

In other words, our world is increasingly, and rightly, a world of merit. In such a world, the greatest challenge for any enterprise is human capital: how to find it, develop it and keep it.

No one in this room needs a lecture about how talented people in tandem with technology are making our lives richer and fuller.

Everywhere we turn, digital advances are making workers more productive - creating jobs that did not exist only a few years ago, and liberating us from the old tyrannies of time and distance.

This is true in every area except one: Education.

Think about that. In every other part of life, someone who woke up after a fifty-year nap would not recognize the world around him.

My friends, what we have here is a colossal failure of imagination. Worse, it is an abdication of our responsibility to our children and grandchildren - and a limitation on our future. As Stendhal wrote: "Qui s'excuse, s'accuse".

We know the old answer - simply throwing money at the problem - doesn't work. In my own country, we've doubled our spending on primary and secondary education over the last three decades - while our test scores have remained largely flat. The reason this hasn't worked is that more money has fed a system that is no longer designed to educate - it's become a jobs program for teachers and administrators. And yet we Americans wonder why we have cities like Detroit where nearly half the population can't read and the disadvantaged are on a fast-track to failure.

The mandarins of mediocrity will tell you that the problem is that the kids they are teaching are too poor, or come from bad families, or are immigrants who do not understand the culture. This is absolute rubbish. It is arrogant, elitist and utterly unacceptable.

If we knew we had a gold mine on our property, we would do whatever it took to get that gold out of the ground. In education, by contrast, we keep the potential of millions of children buried in the ground.

Fortunately, we have the means at our disposal to transform lives.

...

Technology will never replace the teacher. What we can do is relieve some of the drudgery of teaching. And we can take advantage of the increasingly sophisticated analytics that will help teachers spend more time on the things that make us all more human and more creative.

Let me be clear. What I am speaking about is not the outline of some exotic, distant, fictional future. Everything I have mentioned is something I have seen in the here and now.

Download Murdoch on Education - The Last Frontier, May 2011 - it's worth 10 minutes of your time.

Photo from the World Economic Forum.

May 18, 2011

Fewer instructions, better structures

_MG_3354

In schools and in 'educational' media created for young people, the adults always give too many instructions rather than investing in better structures for thinking.

Gever and I ran a session together today at INPlay where we wanted to take educators, games designers and media producers through the experience of being a learner again, learning how, not what, and hopefully gaining more empathy for the five year olds for whom they design media products.

We kicked off with some structured constrained activity, but with no knowledge of what the final result looks like, using John Davitt's LEG to find loosely structured activity for our delegates. The picture above shows one group doing "A 12 Bar Blues as a Mind Map", but harnessing filled glasses of water, laid out to create a blues tune when struck in sequence with a spoon.

We then asked the producers to conceive of a new experience, rather than an educational product, concentrating for 8 out of 10 minutes on experience, and only at the last moment working with the idea on what it might teach a youngster. It was hard for teams not to slip into the habit of tying things to curriculum-filling exercises, but there were some genius kernels of ideas generated after teams concentrated on empathising with what it feels like to be a four/five year old wanting a great engaging experience, first and foremost.

Our goals?

  • Encourage people to design experiences, not lessons.
  • Encourage people to speak less. Poorly reviewed games on the app store invariably have too much speaking in them, too many instructions and hints. Poor classrooms feature too much teacher-talk.
  • Producers and educators could experiment with concentrating first and foremost on quality of engagement and experience, only second of all on what content is being sought to be learned.
  • Producers and educators should invest more their time empathising, observing and asking young people what makes them tick, what experiences engage them and then co-design learning solutions to that, rather than pulling young people in to 'test' games or experiences after they have been designed by the adults (or co-designing lesson plans rather than being subjected to the planned lesson after the fact).
  • There is a difference between instruction and structure. Kids do not need instructions - games like Sesame Street's A-to-Zoo have so much instruction it turns kids off sharp: try it for yourself, below:

What works better for young people and creative designers alike, is not instruction from on high (with a degree of tacit pre-task knowledge of the outcome already in the teacher's mind - and quite possibly the learners') but structures within which the learning journey, or game, can play itself out.

Structures for learning include formative assessment tools, good questioning, the use of learning logs to chart learning and what learning direction the student thinks they need next, design thinking structures, or Gever's Brightworks learning arc structure.

With these last two structures the name of the game is divergence of thought and investigation. It's only having explored a large amount of content that the learner creates their plan for what they will construct from it. This doesn't work if the teacher feels the need to organise it, to direct, to instruct. It only works if the youngster is free within the confines of a structure.

Is there a difference between instruction and structure? I think so, but am amazed that until now I hadn't discovered much appetite for exploring the difference between these terms, and these approaches, in the world of game design, media production and, vitally, teaching and learning/instruction/schooling/education.

Gever Tulley: Killing Learning With Grades

IMG_1238
This is the most depressing picture out of yet another stellar Gever Tulley keynote, this time at INPlay11, a conference I help curate in Toronto, where play, learning and the video game industry meet. An infant's picture, graded. C+. I wonder what the + was for.

There are two things I despise about how elements of learning have been systemically misinterpreted in pretty much every school setup around the world. One is teacher-designed homework, and the pathological belief, against the odds, that it adds any value to the learning process. The other is the use of grades to justify the teacher's existence, while destroying the confidence, self-esteem and understanding of what learning is for amongst our young people.

As Gever suggested, there is one chap who covers both areas particularly well with great roundups of his research and others'. All school governors, principals and decision-makers in Government would be in a more informed position to make some seismic changes to the happiness of young people and the families, with whom they row every night about homework and the mission for great grades, after a read of Alfie Kohn's The Homework Myth and Punished By Rewards.

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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