Posts Tagged ‘Act III’

The script for the play

December 8th, 2009

Due to several requests, I am hereby posting the script for the play performed during Act III of the Shifting Thinking conference!
(You can view a video performance of the play here).

Here is the script:

As a  pdf file: Shiftingthinking-ACT-III-PLAY-Script-Original

As an editable word doc:  Shiftingthinking ACT III PLAY Script Editable.

The script is formatted in a “traditional” stagescript style, so don’t be surprised by the old-skool courier typography!

The script is licensed under creative commons, meaning you are free to modify, adapt, remix, etc. as long as you don’t use it for commercial purposes, and as long as you maintain the same licensing conditions (so others can share, add, remix, etc).

Creative Commons License
This is school: Or Changing the script by NZCER is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License.

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Keeping it complex

November 12th, 2009

I think I have been underestimating how much interest there is in complexity theory and what it might have to say to us in education. Not any more! During my first session of the conference “book club” strand I had planned to explore links between complexity thinking and Rachel and Jane’s book Disciplining and Drafting or 21st Century Learning? (I love this book – a gem on every page). A comment made as an aside by the person who sat down next to me (thanks who-ever you were – I didn’t see your name) decided me to change tack and foreground the complexity ideas rather than the book. Judging by the reaction I’m glad I did. How powerful it can be to take time to play in the world of ideas when we seem to be facing overwhelming practical challenges. So, in the spirit of wider sharing, I thought I’d start a conversation thread about complexity ideas and how they might help us find new ways to at least frame the challenges that face us as we live our “now” in the midst  the whirlwind of social change – and coming changes to our planet as well, but that’s another story!

Because there are so many ideas, I thought we might take a few at a time, so maybe this will become another multi-stranded conversation, much like the Shifting Thinking conference itself.

I’ve found that a good place to start is with the distinction between complex and complicated systems. This was important to the breakthrough thinking about complexity during the second half of last century. It was started by the physical scientists thinking about interactions between and within planetary systems and living organisms. More recently the ideas have been picked up in the social sciences (as in Capra’s book The Hidden Connections which Rachel has discussed in her blogs). I think idea of learning as a complex phenomenon and schools and education systems as complex systems has got important implications for education. Complicated systems are understood as being the sum of their many parts – to know the bits is potentially to know the whole. I see the industrial age model of schooling as a complicated system, in its design, enactment and accountability mechanisms. We can see this in the diagram of the traditional model of the senior secondary school on page 20 of Disciplining and Drafting – the assessment, curriculum, community-input and student-output bits all fit to make a tidy whole.  Complex systems, by contrast are more than the sum of their parts, and we can’t necessarily predict what will emerge as those parts interact. They are messy and have inbuilt uncertainties. Contrast the diagram on page 42 of Disciplining and Drafting – this is already the messy “now” for secondary teachers and the ground is still shifting. With our firm grounding in linear complicated systems thinking it’s no wonder the shifts can sometimes feel alarming and overwhelming.

One important idea from complexity theory is that complex systems adapt and learn as new connections are made and the consequences tested. The multiple emergent possibilities stand in contrast to the typical “if this, then that” logical linear prescriptive reasoning that underpins ideas in complicated systems. When links between things or events are seen as fixed and predictable, it’s so easy to see alternatives as mutually excluding – it will be either this, or that, but never both. This “binary” thinking is so deeply embedded in Western European culture that it’s really hard to escape. But complexity thinking challenges us to replace our either/or way of seeing our options with both/and thinking. Some of us have been trying to do this for a while now and it’s hard – the either/or default is almost a reflex!

A personal example might help illustrate both the point and the dilemma. When I first read Disciplining and Drafting, one of the pleasures for me was seeing some research I’d been a part of discussed by others whose purposes were wider than those of the original research. I am thinking in particular of a project that Karen Vaughan and I completed together called Learning Curves, which tracked the rolling implementation of NCEA in six medium-sized secondary schools, over its first three years. At the end of the first year we were cautiously optimistic that NCEA might achieve one of its stated goals – parity of esteem for different pathways through the senior secondary school, with credits awarded to all genuinely worthwhile learning achievements, regardless of their traditional “academic” status. By the end of the third year what we saw instead was a hardening of the academic/vocational divide, whose consequences are with us still. Through the complicated lens, learning can be one or the other – but never both. Yet many life situations, including but not limited to employment opportunities, require both. There are indications of this tension in the technology curriculum. Some opponents of the recent changes say the subject has become too “intellectualised”. Supporters of the changes say this reflects the nature of contemporary technological work. Thus through a traditional lens learning still has to be “either this or that” with a specific type of future pathway in mind. Through the complex lens our challenge is to find ways to make it “both this and that” and to value the many fruitful learning pathways that are likely to emerge.

There are so many other either/or questions and challenges that I think need to be reframed as both/and explorations but I’m curious about how others see all this. Can we have a conversation about other traditional binaries that we could reframe to help address the education challenges that confront us?  How many can we identify? Which ones should we tackle first and why? How might we go about reframing our choices through a complex lens? Please share your ideas and let’s think together about this.

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Two learning group “harvests”

November 11th, 2009

During Act III of the Shifting Thinking conference, participants split off into 18 learning groups of about 6-8 people. Each group was facilitated by a learning coach, and began the day by discussing a “quizzical quandary” they’d selected to focus on.

The learning groups had to decide how they would navigate the array of breakout session choices during Act III. For example, would they split off and each attend different sessions so they could share their learning back to the group later? Or would they travel the day’s journey together, to build a collective group experience – or would they mix together a bit of each?

A learning group

At the end of the day, learning groups came back together to talk about their day and to discuss where they had got to with their thinking. Then people from different learning groups mixed-and-matched in a jigsaw activity, to share their thinking further amongst groups which had focussed on different quandaries. Some groups’ discussions moved well beyond their original quandary question, as they talked through the flood of ideas, inputs, and experiences they’d had during the two days of the Shifting Thinking conference.

Although there was no formal requirement for the groups to capture or harvest their discussions “on the record”, a couple of learning coaches managed get some of their group’s thoughts down on paper.

Here is an example from learning group 1, which began the day thinking about this quandary:

Parading purposes: You’ve heard today about the various purposes of schooling and how those purposes need to shift and change to keep up with the changing world. What purpose should schools have in the 21st Century? What purposes do we need to let go of? What would this mean?

Ideas from learning group 1

Ideas from learning group 1

Meanwhile, learning group 9 began the day thinking about this quandary:

Self-managing change: In a system like New Zealand’s where the schools are expected to be self-managing, where does the impetus for change come from? How can we ensure that the changes happen across the whole system? Does that even matter?

Click hereto view a document summarising some of learning group 9′s thinking by the end of the day.

We invite all the Shifting Thinking conference participants and learning coaches to share some of the ideas that emerged during their groups’ discussions!

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Conference play video

November 9th, 2009

[Flash video, 18 minutes length]

Rachel Bolstad wrote this play especially for the Shifting Thinking conference, and it was performed on the morning of the second day of the conference.
Rachel explains:

The inspiration for the play came from ongoing discussions amongst the conference organising team as we struggled with the complexities of imagining and choreographing a 21st century learning experience at the conference. Originally we thought of performing a play about our seemingly endless and often mind-twisting planning meetings – but later I took this idea in a new direction and was inspired to write a play-within-a-play featuring an imagined cast of players. The play is a metaphor for the conference, and for 21st century thinking in general. It shows the difficulties of trying to “direct and stage manage” something when everyone is taking an active role in trying to build ideas collectively and collaboratively – but it also shows that wonderful things are possible once we begin questioning our assumptions and start thinking together about how these could be different.”

The play was performed by a dedicated and talented group of NZCER staff.


The Director: Jenny Whatman
Teacher 1: Jim McNaughton
Teacher 2: Rachel Bolstad standing in for Georgina Stewart
Student 1: Nuku Stewart
Student 2: Rachael Kearns
Community educator: Diana Todd
Early childhood educator: Tina Foulkes
Tertiary educator: Alex Neill
Special effects: Josie Roberts

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Rachel Bolstad on Act IV of the conference

November 7th, 2009

Video: Mike Vannoort reflects on day two

November 6th, 2009

Papanui High School deputy principal Mike Vannoort gives his views on day two of the conference.

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Future focussed issues (liveblogish)

November 4th, 2009

I’m blogging from the Future focussed issues stream: Josie, Rachel, Bob Frame, Stephanie Pride, Billy Matheson,  Fiona Beals
I’m trying to follow in Rachel’s footsteps on this but I have to say that she’s set a really high bar.
Josie is introducing people and letting us know about the ways the future focussed issues are running through the curriculum and asking what they mean:
She wants to know whether these are the most important words-these are the ones found in the curriculum.

Rachel talks about the research project she and Josie are running at NZCER. These future focussed issues aren’t well enough explored in education and so they’re looking outside education at what she calls:
“Self-generating knowledge building networks for knowledge building, learning and change.” Rachel plugs the future-focus issues space on the blog.

How do we describe these four issues—separate? Interlinked, stacked on top of each other? Or with sustainability as the big idea and the other ones all a subset of that?
She quotes Bob Frame who said something like:
In one way, these words are just empty signifiers. They are something which each individual populates with his or her own meaning: Who is using the word and why.

Bob Frame talks about what sustainability means to him from his many years of study.
For him future generations underpin: “Will our institutions act as an anchor or a sail?” Sustainability is a mindset. Critical issues—not just climate change but a perfect storm of other issues too which are interconnected.
Sustainability: of what? Of who? And why?
If we all do a little, we’ll get a little: we need to do something big.

Bob says we need to get some “early adaptation to new equilibriums”.
Now Stephanie Pride is talking about how important the both/and is now: if we want to have skills for sustainability, we all need futures capability. We need to figure futures capability—futuring—into everyone’s world. Needs to be distributed like literacy and numeracy across the whole population. Have to learn by doing, understand complex systems and your own values inside them, how to make decisions with other people. Educators have to be in the front showing how this works.

Can’t take these as content knowledge—we won’t make the changes.
Every day, all the time, every teacher needs to model adaptability and futures capability! Yikes! How will we do this!

But Stephanie says that teachers are already doing this—it’s not a NEW thing. Only connect (great line, from Howards End, I think). Connect to the way you already do all these things and just run them as a stream through everything. I think this idea about future-thinking as a new core competency is really cool. Now we have to figure out how to do it!

Now it’s Billy Matheson’s turn. “Layers of belonging”. Billy says that if you don’t help young people deal with belonging as a central issue of citizenship you’re missing it. Talks about becoming indigenous again: “Indigenous people to the planet” (he’s quoting William McDonough Cradle to Cradle)

Billy will share 4 layered models: from either/or to yes/and
The world can be simple, complicated, or complex: we need all three of these but need to be able to discern between these layers and move from one to the next—and to act on these layers, have simple, complex, and complicated conversation.

Model 2
Layers of time:
Billy tells us that the top two are so much more easily accessed than the others.

Also of scale:
Billy asks: Why is our democracy so stuck at the local level?

How to we shift into a chapter that holds both the individual and a new sense of connectedness (maybe like what Keith was talking about yesterday?). Talks about the “Obama-model” of taking the skills we learn in the community and using them in larger and larger scales.

Then he shows a beautiful “diversity fern” (I’ll try to get a picture of this up at some point). How do we find the learning space necessary to cultivate the genuine experiences of cultural diversity?
Billy asks:
How do we develop “civic hardware and social software that holds this wonderful diversity”

Fiona Beals: Tells us that the thing that blew her away here was running into her biology teacher. She tells her personal story—that by the time she reached high school she was in bad shape. That Biology teacher made a big difference for her. Then later Jane Gilbert helped her get a PhD.  Lots of connections at this conference for Fiona! She understood that what was wrong in her schooling wasn’t the teachers or the people but the way school happened.
In order to be future focussed, I need to be outward focused. Need to grab people’s passions and turn them to good.
Futures focused education started with development education. We can not only learn about these countries but can learn from these countries.
How many of you take technology for granted—how many people actually write code? Or ask: what else can I do with my phone? In the developing world, people go into their cell phones and write code. In Africa they’ve been using cell phones for banking since the 1990s. This is a great example of global education.

Fiona is starting to take out the world “developing” to describe countries and talking about the word “majority” because people living in poverty are actually MORE of the world than not and we should start to understand that.

Rachel and Josie about E4E
The moral issues about E4E very important (some people say it’s E$E). Josie and Rachel have found that peoples’ experience in school is really local and maybe moves beyond a focus on the difference between education for enterprise and education as a social good. Still, they think that distinction is really important to talk about and understand, and they’ll help people do that in their longer session (which I can’t go to—bummer!). These all look SO good! Lots of food for thought here.

(I’ve also learnt that I can’t imagine how Rachel does this!)

Conference: November 2009, Future focussed issues , , ,

WOW (The Play) – Act III of Shifting Thinking

November 4th, 2009

No liveblogs from me today until now – this was day 2 (Act III) of Shifting Thinking and I think I can unashamedly claim that it was AWESOME! (And we still have another hour and a half to go).

The day began for me at 6.55am with a phone call letting me know that one of my castmembers was unwell and hence I would have to play her role in the secret “surprise” opening to Act III – a short 15-minute play I’d written especially for the Shifting Thinking conference.

(The play, in case anyone is interested, is called “This is school: Or, Changing the Script”)

So picture this.

You are an audience member at the Shifting Thinking Conference. You arrive on time (as instructed) and file into the theatre. Onstage are four people, sitting on chairs, chatting quietly to one another, apparently oblivious to the incoming audience. You chat to the person next to you, until a message appears on the screen behind the stage: “Quiet please”

A hush comes over the crowd. And suddenly, a cellphone is ringing! A woman, in conversation on her phone, walks onstage. She is saying something about a dress rehearsal….. wait a minute! I think a play is about to unfold onstage!!

Changing the Script

Changing the Script

Click here to watch a video of the play!

This was how we began Day 2. Our 15 minute play attempted to encapsulate, with humour, some of the main tensions, challenges, quandaries, and opportunities that have threaded through the entire ST Conference. “Changing the Script” was play within a play. The main character, a director, attempts to stage a nice, simple play about school. Her actors have all come to rehearsal on time, they have their scripts in hand, but little does the director know that at today’ rehearsal, nothing is going to go as she has planned it.

The two actors playing the “teachers”, for example, don’t even seem to have read the script, and immediately they begin to suggest doing things differently (despite the director’s pleas to simply act their parts as they are written in the script).

As for the actors playing the “students”, well one of them has already figure out he’s supposed to be a so-called digital native, and he’s more interested in listening to podcasts than listening to the director. Meanwhile the other student has abandoned all interest in this silly little play – she is far more concerned with what she sees as the impending doom of environmental catastrophe. And to top it all off, people who aren’t even IN the script keep interrupting the rehearsal asking to be written into the play!

The poor director. She doesn’t know who wrote the script, but she is desperate to execute it exactly as it is written. How can she cope with all these questions and these highly uncompliant actors!

If you were at the Shifting Thinking conference, you’ll have seen what happens…

So I’m wondering, did this play make sense to you? Did it make you think?Do you think we ought to write a sequel for the next ST conference? (heheh if we ever dare stage such an ambitious conference again)

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inspired TED talks!

November 4th, 2009


inspired TED talk sessions, I am sure that those who attended gleaned some useful insights from the talks we viewed.
During the conference we have been presented with tons of new ideas and challenges to our current way of doing things. Many of these ideas are re-iterated by the speakers featured in the TED talks. Some highlights include:

  • “who am I being if my children’s eyes are not shining” – Benjamin Zander
  • “Inventors of things will not be able to say what an innovation is for – it will be worked out in use in collaboration with users” – Charles Leadbeater
  • That Pirate Supplies, Superhero Store and Timetravel can be useful metaphors for engaging 1:1 tutorship between community and learners – Dave Eggers
  • “members of the former audience are now consumers and the producers” and “planning is now replaced by communication” – Clay Shirky.

Final thought: look out – here comes overybody! (play on Clay Shirky’s recent title!)
cheers, Hugh

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Feedback: The Shifting Thinking conference

November 4th, 2009

Great to see you at the conference, please fill out the following survey!

On completion you will receive an email from the Shifting Thinking WordPress CMS. Many thanks!

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