Almost one in five young people in Scotland wake up in the morning wondering if their country needs them. In a country that has in many ways never felt so optimistic and excited about its future, this should be a momentous wakeup call, a call-to-arms for the whole community. The line comes from the opening page of Sir Ian Wood’s report on how employers and education might manage a genuine culture of partnership, and answering this claim was the palpable bone of contention during an evening last week of discussion, talks and food, with some of Scotland’s education leaders and management, at SELMAS.
In Scotland, based on my experience and the stories told at Thursday night’s event, I’d suggest that there are three fatal blows to closing an achievement gap, most of them rooted in how education and business choose to play with each other. I'm going to walk through them over a few blog posts to come:
1. For some schools and businesses there is a lack of interest in partnering - the “what’s in it for me” just isn’t visible.
2. For other schools and businesses, there is a lack of knowledge on how to partner and what to partner on - “the what’s in it for me” is maybe agreed upon in principle, the enthusiasm is there, but what the “it” might be is the challenge.
Teachers take the seemingly impossible and make it happen. Every day. Teachers are the moonshot profession. We want to work with as many of you as possible in London and Amsterdam this year, at our GTA design thinking workshops.
When NoTosh took the Google Teacher Academy (GTA), we wanted to move it beyond simply exploring 'tech tools' and see if we couldn't harness the talents of educators, a sprinkling of technology, and a foundation of inspiration and moonshot thinking to really change the world of education.
Well, Google let us do it.
This weekend is the time to get your application in for London or Amsterdam's GTAs this autumn. Applying is the first step in opening up an amazing year ahead:
two weeks to put forward the education challenges you face on your doorstep or in your classroom;
two days intensive design thinking / technology professional development and action with the NoTosh crew, Googlers and selected Google Mentors
six months support from the Mentor team to put your prototype ideas into practice and continue to transform learning in your school.
If you're a school leader, please apply yourself, or encourage your teams to do so. If you're an innovator teacher, jump in and share your dreams for learning. If you're an educator in FE, HE or early years, consider representing your sector with an application, and add something different to the mix.
The Google Teacher Academy has been redesigned to help teachers gain understanding of the latest technologies while working in collaborative teams to solve chunky challenges that they've identified. Participants will be coached in harnessing the design thinking process to select and frame the chunkiest challenges in education, locally and globally, before working over two intensive days to prototype solutions alongside Googlers and selected expert coaches.
Design thinking is an innovation process used by some of the world's most successful organisations to find and solve the greatest challenges on the planet. It is a simple process that can be harnessed back in your classroom, putting your students in the driving seat of their learning.
Selected expert mentors and Googlers will introduce new technologies with the potential to transform learning, as well as revisiting more familiar tools with a lens of student-centred learning in mind.
Participants will learn by doing, working in teams of fellow educators to trial their ideas there and then, before being supported for six months by a mentoring team as they try out new methodologies and technologies in their classroom.
NoTosh, your facilitators for this journey, are global experts in innovation, creativity and learning, with offices in Edinburgh, Melbourne and San Francisco. The entire team plus a group of selected educators from the UK and Netherlands, will be on hand to support you as you put your ideas into practice.
Finally! How To Come Up With Great Ideas And Actually Make Them Happen is out, in iBooks, at least. You can buy a copy now in your local store, and get your own ideas to fruition quicker and better, with your community in mind:
Thank you to all those who pre-ordered and waited patiently for it. I'm delighted that my first book is finally out there in people's hands, and cannot wait to hear back from readers on how they develop their innovative ideas.
Here's the blurb for those of you who've not yet dived in:
How can students, teachers and school leaders in the education world innovate, share and build on new ideas, taking them out of individual classrooms to have a wider impact? What could schools ever learn from luxury fashion houses, political campaigners, global tech, media and telecommunications companies, and the world's biggest businesses of tomorrow, the startups?
You can achieve ambitious visions for learning through swift innovation by borrowing from the people who invent, create much from little, and refine their ideas with a swiftness few of those large corporations, Government or schools have seen.
Learn more through practical steps, workshop activities for your own teams in your learning environment, and plenty of real success stories, to help kick-start the innovation for you.
How To Come Up With Great Ideas And Actually Make Them Happen can be purchased on the iTunes store as an iBook, and in paperback on http://www.notosh.com/books
I'm working on an advisory project at the moment where the team in charge is largely remote: we're all spread around the world and the people organising things spend too much time in front of Word, PowerPoint and Outlook. The result? Lots of text gets sent back and forth and that text is festooned with bullet points, numbers and linear thinking.
I first came across the antithesis to this from the creator of "the learning organisation" concept Arie de Geus' The Living Company: hexagonal thinking. Hexagonal thinking involves writing down key components of knowledge, observation and understanding on hexagons, not in lists, and then placing them in patterns that show the connections between ideas, and the connections between clusters of those ideas and other clusters. It is complexity made simple.
De Geus had found that when he and executives were trying to help insurance people better understand their complex products, the expensive computer simulations they had developed were not doing the job: staff were too busy trying to "win" the simulation that the more significant, and complex, information about the products was lost. With the introduction of hexagonal thinking those complex connections were made swiftly and deeply.
It's an oldie that I've only just unearthed. Nearly two years ago I spoke to 500 'creative agents', people from the creative industries working in schools, at their national conference in Birmingham on how to manage creativity in education.
20 years ago if you wanted to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race, you got yourself a good car and a good driver. Today, you need a team of scores of computer scientists, engineers and mathematicians, analysing your car's computer eveyr millisecond of every lap: without this data harvesting and analysis you will not win a race.
Today's cities, says, Ratti are heading the same way, and many are getting there already. Having placed billions of data connections in our cities over the past few years, cities are beginning to talk back to us, as the artefacts in MoMa's Talk To Me Exhibition show. And it's important that we harness this. Cities currently take up:
2% world surface
50% world population
75% of energy communication
80% of CO2 emissions
Managing cities based on cell phone use
During the World Cup final Ratti's team at MIT's Senseable City Lab saw how cell phone use matched the to and fro of people around the match itself and in cafés and homes around a city. How could this data be used to provide better information to public transport, buses and taxis?
We spend so much energy in our cities and corporations sourcing the goods that make our products, but we know very little about where the waste from our products ends up. Here, harnessing data from pervasive geo-location-aware tags on 3000 products, Ratti's team were able to see the extent to which our waste travels around the world and back. Using this data, could our city fathers and corporations design better waste solutions, not just better sourcing solutions?
Planning a great response to great (and pervasive) data
Analysing data reveals stories - in a telecoms example in the United Kingdom Ratti's team looked at the two connections made with every network communication. This helped redraw the map of Great Britain, with Scotland the first, most clearly marked out communicative community, but with countries like Wales split in two, north and south, and the epic-centre of the echo chamber that is London-London communication clearly marked out:
This analysis of data can therefore suggest to us several things, and reveal the communities around which we might want to build specific services, which often don't match the "official" boundaries marked out by politicians. Something for Scotland will, naturally, be very different for something based around the communication habits of someone in London or Wales. More on the analysis process can be seen in this video and the research paper:
The Copenhagen Wheel - helping individuals to help the community
And how can data be harnessed on a level much more "on the ground", by citizens? The Copenhagen Wheel was a creation from the MIT Senseable City Lab, which makes life easier for the cyclist but uses their efforts to provide information about the city that can be used to help everyone:
It transforms ordinary bicycles quickly into hybrid e-bikes that also function as mobile sensing units. The Copenhagen Wheel allows you to capture the energy dissipated while cycling and braking and save it for when you need a bit of a boost. It also maps pollution levels, traffic congestion, and road conditions in real-time.
Conclusions (and questions that remain!)
How can we make data more useful in other contexts than it currently is?
What is there we can do to make the collection of data from one person actually helpful to them, while beneficial to the wider community, not just the political or adminstrative élites?
What innovations in data collection for the common good are there to be found in education? But also in parenting, transport, food and drink, energy consumption and creation?
This talk was the opening keynote at Smart City Expo in Barcelona, Spain, where I'm giving a talk on how we can harness design thinking to better involve our communities, and our children, in building better cities.
Success with digital media for museums, education and cultural organisations isn't about scrambling to sign up to the latest fads, those teasmades of technology, and more about attitudes of organisations and the individuals within them. What are the handles we can grab hold of to begin or better develop our journeys into digital media use in the world of exhibition, performances or engagement of new audiences?
In 6 minutes 40, the 20 ideas I think will affect educators in a big way in the next couple of years. This appears as part of New Zealand Core Education's EDTalks:
20. QR Codes and other smart mobile means of making the real world expand into the virtual world will become commonplace in the pockets of our students. With Layar you could craft a living history of your school transposed onto existing real-world buildings viewed through a smartphone camera. 19. We will gain a better understanding the hype curve, and what types of behaviour with technology can be spotted along it. 18. This gives us a chance to shorten that lead time to get to the learning quicker 17. Anything 'touch' changes the game, not necessarily because of the device itself but because of the way it affects the design of everything else around us, especially websites. 16. More will leave the desktop and go online, whether it's MIT's Scratch heading online next year thanks to the MacArthur funding we awarded earlier this year, or 15. Making real life products that students can feel, touch and use will be where the best learning takes place. Students will stop "doing" stuff at school and will more likely "make" stuff at school. 14. We'll think about how we build more interaction into our virtual spaces but also our physical spaces. 13. Think how engagement of the senses can do something as simple as encourage people to walk up the stairs rather than take the escalator. 12. The last 30% of our planet will get online in the next year as more of the world, south of the equator, gets powered up and online. This will mean an explosion in connections. 11. These connections will nearly all come from Africa and South America initially - most African countries are at the birth of their internet journey. 10. When we start collaborating with all these new partners at scale, we'll find that the ultrafast broadband of which our schools are so proud will become, rather quickly, slow-feeling. 9. This is especially true thanks to our changing TV habits. We'll be watching more television online than we do on the television, which will contribute to this higher demand for bandwidth. 8. We'll actually watch less television, but all of it online. Television choices will start to be made for us, using algorythmns to work out what we might want to watch based on our friends' and our previous selections. 7. We'll also stop just watching the television, and start interacting even more around it, online more than with the people in the same room as us. Maybe education will have a second chance at getting television use for learning right. 6. Understanding open data will become more important than social media has been in the apst five years. 5. This means, in the next two years, we might actually find ourselves with a teaching population that is more illiterate than the youngsters they are teaching, as this basic skill of understanding complex data is mastered by young people quicker. 4. There will be less money for spending in education, and innovation will start to appear as a result. 3. Open Source technologies will increasingly make us question why we spend so much on corporations' pay-for technology when so much else is available for free from passionate communities of practice. 2. The innovation will start to appear not from big industry making big things that do things for people, but from 'small' people in their bedrooms and startups making things that empower people to do stuff for themselves, and that includes learning. 1. And the people we're empowering will come at all ages, all cultures. The lead time for people to understand how they can become collaborators, makers and doers has decreased from the years and months of the industrial age to hours and minutes for new generations. Just see it in the way my daughter reacted to Skype over four minutes, from horror to fear to curiosity to comfort.
The Byte Night Bedtime Story aims to beat the Guiness World Record for the world's biggest crowdsourced bedtime story in history. It's a great way to get students reading an (ever-longer) story and then adding their own 140 characters' worth, without the need to register for Twitter or another service - this makes it ideal for kids no matter how young or old they are.
What's more, you help raise money for Action for Children’s annual charity sleep-out event that takes place in various locations across the UK, this year on 8th October. There's no reason, in fact, why the sleep-out couldn't take place in other countries around the world, highlighting the plight of homeless children and raising some supporting cash in the process.
As of the time of writing you have 18 days to make your contribution to the story.
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.