Posts Tagged ‘conference’

Growing complex

April 23rd, 2012

I am on the long flight home from a series of workshops and classes in Boston: at Harvard, at Children’s Hospital, with world-class coaches and consultants. In each of these places, the idea of complexity looms large—not just because I bring it along, but because it’s already there.

I ask my participants about the increasing complexity in their lives and give them time to think about it. They erupt in a storm of talking. Their lives are more complex on every dimension: there are more uncertainties to watch, there are more interconnections among the parts, there are more players in each of the realms, some in person, and some virtually. Everyone has a story of the way their work is increasingly international, from the 20 countries represented in my class at the Kennedy School to the students who have never left the US but are connected to people around the world. The swirling together of uncertainty, diversity, and change leave these people–graduate students, doctors, teachers, and leaders at the top of their careers—all a little dizzy and confused.

While there are no key competencies easily named in these many places, these folks are thinking hard about participating and contributing in a more complex and global reality.

How is it, though, that we can grow better able to deal with complexity? And, if this increasing complexity is puzzling and unsettling these adult learners, what might it be doing for the students in classrooms around our country?  Might it be that woven through each individual challenge (whether it’s finding the problem as Sue writes about or inviting a friend over after school) is a growing demand for our participation and contribution in a more complex world? And would we adults—who are dizzied by the complexity around us—be able to help prepare young people for this uncertain future?

My daughter came home from her year 10 class with a furrow in her brow a few weeks ago. “My teacher told me today that we are preparing for careers that don’t even exist yet!” she told me, frustrated. “How on earth are we supposed to plan for that?”

How indeed. It may well be that helping all of us develop a greater facility for complexity and uncertainty is a core piece of 21st Century education. As you think about your experience as a growing and changing adult, what has helped you get better at that?

Dealing with complexity, Workshop 2012 , , , ,

Help us take shiftingthinking forward (or sideways, or…)

May 5th, 2010

I’d like to welcome new visitors to this site, particularly those who’ve met me or Jennifer during the 2010 AERA conference in Denver. If you met us there or you’ve been following the “shifting research” blogstream you’ll know that Jennifer and I presented a paper about shiftingthinking. If you’re interested in reading the completed paper, please email me and I’ll send you a copy! And read on, because I’m about to explain the request in the title of this posting.

Briefly, our AERA paper aims to do three things:

  1. To give the “backstory” to the development of shiftingthinking (where did it come from? what ideas were behind it? what happened?)
  2. To reflect on what’s happened, and most importantly, what we have learned so far
  3. To open up some new questions for ourselves, and (we desperately hope!) for others to engage with us in exploring. For us one of the most exciting and interesting of these new questions can be summed up quite simply as: What next? (and why?)

I’m quite serious about this. One of my tasks for the coming year is to take a serious look at shiftingthinking and think about how it fits with, adds to, or could potentially change the shape of, all the various different aspects of our work here at the New Zealand Council for Educational Research: Where can we take this thing next? That’s kind of an “in-house” job for me – but the very nature of shiftingthinking as a publicly accessible online community/blogspace that these questions of “what next? (and why?)” simply demands a much wider range of views, perspectives, and inputs from the wider shiftingthinking community.

In other words, I need YOU!

A number of questions, ponderings, and thoughtlets have been circling around in my head (particularly after conversations I’ve had or sessions I attended at AERA), and I would seriously appreciate some input and feedback on these. I’ve numbered them below in case you want to reference them in your comments.

1. Who are you, and why are you here?

This question isn’t quite as existential as it sounds! For a long time we’ve been exploring different ways of knowing who’s visiting this site, why they came here, and how they engage. One way is to track our visitor stats, which tells us how many times we’re clicked on, and where those clicks are coming from. We also invite people to make themselves known by joining the shiftingthinking community where you can write a brief bio  about yourself (however, see Q. 3 below). And of course you can give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, or comment on our blogs. Over time we’ve developed a sense of who’s interested in the ideas this site, and we have a few additional ideas about who else we think might be interested. Lumped together, these two categories seem to include

  • Teachers and school leaders interested in rethinking their own or their school’s ways of doing things, including ideas about knowledge, curriculum, and teaching;
  • Other researchers working across the areas we are interested in;
  • University graduate students who are learning about, or interested in the educational ideas and theories pertinent to this site;
  • People who work alongside schools and teachers to support professional learning, educational transformation, etc;
  • Occasionally, other people such as parents, or other people with a general interest in these ideas even if they aren’t working in an education-related field

What we’re wondering is, what’s the “payoff” for each of these different kinds of people in being part of the shiftingthinking community? What are YOU getting out of being here (or if you’re not getting anything useful, why?). What else would be interesting/useful/engaging for you? And how did you find your way here – do you follow us on Twitter? Did you come here through a google search? Do you know our work at NZCER?

2. What do or don’t you like about what you’ve found here?

Given the somewhat “emergent” pathway that this site’s development has taken, it’s sometimes hard for us to step back and evaluate this site as a whole, and to imagine what fresh eyes make of it. In the past, people have told me they find the site a little confusing to navigate, and they’re not sure where to begin. That’s hardly surprising, as we are very much a web 2.0 space. I’ve tried to address this with the “where should I begin” comments on the home page that try to give you ideas about where to start.

We’ve also tried to develop a range of different kinds of content for the site . We’ve got blogs, theory pages, and various other resources, both text-based and multimedia-based. What I want to know is – what “things” on the site are interesting or useful to you? Do you come here to browse? To get information?  To engage in discussions about ideas? To find resources/videos/things that you can use with other people (such as teachers you work with, or students you teach, or anyone else you are interested in “shiftingthinking” with? What other “stuff” would be useful for you in relation to our wider goal of shifting towards 21st century ways of thinking about learning and education? And if you’re here because you’re interested in shifting other peoples’ thinking as well, who are these other people we ought to be connecting with, and what do you think would be interesting/useful/engaging for them?

Plus, does all the “stuff” on this site feel like it’s interconnected into the wider narrative of “shifting towards 21st century ways of thinking about learning and education”? Or does it feel like lots of disconnected “stuff”? If it’s the latter, how can you and we start to weave all these pieces together in a more coherent way?

3.  Whose space is this? Yours, ours, or everyone’s?

This site is built on a blogging platform called wordpress. It’s a free and relatively easy and flexible platform, which is great because we’ve built this site more or less on a shoestring. We describe our reasons for this in our AERA paper (email me). Way back when we started shiftingthinking we had a lot of competing ideas about who ought to “control” this space, who would be in charge of managing the quality of what went up here, and so on. We could have chosen to build the site using very web 2.0 platform such as a Ning or other “web community” platform  - which more or less enables all members of the community to create and post content (blogs, pages, video, etc). However, we were still grappling with our own competing ideas about what the site ought to be like, what content it ought to have, and how it ought to “work” in terms of engaging people in thinking about the ideas/theories/shifts that we think are important for exploring together. We also weren’t sure who might be interested in joining our community. And let me tell you, there is nothing sadder than building a web-based community that nobody joins – and hence nobody except you ever creates content.

So now we have a blogging platform which also includes a modest, slightly clunky community feature . At the moment only we (the NZCER team) can blog, although we have invited other people to be guest bloggers from time to time. Everyone else can participate through the “comments” function. Is this enough? Do we need to open up shiftingthinking more widely, to enable all members of our community to create and contribute content? What might happen to the site if we do this? What are the pros and cons of the current setup, in which our team sort of controls the “metanarrative” of the site, as opposed to a much more open, community-driven site like a wiki where the “metanarrative” is generated through the collective inputs of all its members?

OK, as you can see I tend towards long and rambly trains of thinking dotted with questions and half-thought-out ideas – so that’s basically your invitation to do the same. Let’s talk! (PS. remember, you can leave audio comments and webcam comments as well as written comments!!)

Shifting research , , ,

Research announcement

February 3rd, 2010

We would like to share some important news with all our shiftingthinking readers and community members. Please read this announcement carefully as it may be relevant to you.

We (Rachel Bolstad & Jennifer Garvey Berger, supported by other NZCER team members) have successfully submitted a proposal to present a paper at the 2010 American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference, to be held from April 30- 4 May. The paper is called “Shifting thinking about qualitative research methods: Conversations and co-construction from the bottom of the changing world”. The short abstract for our paper appears at the bottom of this posting.

The objective of our AERA paper is to explore and discuss the development of this website – – as a tool, methodology or way of “doing” (and thinking and talking) about qualitative research. We are very excited to have this opportunity to do some thinking and writing that will help us to take stock of our journey so far with, and to consider the directions that we might go with this site in 2010 and beyond.

To write this AERA paper, we intend to collect and analyse various kinds of data. This will include at least two kinds, which we will call “private data” and “public domain data”.  Private data is any data that is not publicly visible (e.g. data that is not on the shiftingthinking website). This may include:

  • Field notes from in-person meetings we had at NZCER about, where we discuss methodological and practical issues, as well as our own our learning.
  • Emails between NZCER researchers, or between researchers and research participants and/or members of the changing on-line community.
  • Research journals kept by the investigators as they explore the variety of methodological and other concerns and delights over the course of the project.

“Public domain” data is anything that is openly visible to a visitor to, e.g.

  • Web-based blogs and comments already posted, or which will be posted, on this website.

Ethical issues

Below, we explain how we plan to deal with ethical issues that might arise from this process.

In the case of private data generated by people outside NZCER, (such as emails people have spontaneously sent us, comments people have made to us in person, etc.), we will consider each piece of data on a case-by-case basis. Any such data we use would not be linked by name or personal description to the individuals who sent it to us. (For example, we may quote an email from a tertiary student asking how to properly reference the shiftingthinking website in a university paper, or paraphrase comments people have made to the researchers in passing about the site). If we use any private data that is more personal or identifiable than the two examples above, we will contact the person directly to check that they are happy for us to use their data.

In the case of “public domain” data – i.e any blogpostings, pages, and comments published on the shiftingthinking site–we will not contact individuals to seek their permission to quote from postings or comments they have made on this website, as this data is already publicly available. We may attribute any or all comments or posting we cite to their authors using the username that the author used on the website when they made that entry or posting.  However, in the spirit of ethical research practice, we are posting this research announcement to inform registered members of, and visitors to, the shiftingthinking website about our project, and to invite your comment on it.

So, if after reading this announcement, you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please contact us. We will treat all messages confidentially and conscientiously. Please contact us directly. Our email addresses are:

You may also leave comments on this blogposting, if you would like your comment to be publicly viewable.

Keep track of our research paper as it develops

We plan to write blogpostings about our research process over the next few months in the “shifting research” blog category. We invite all readers to contribute to our shaping of this AERA paper by posting their comments, thoughts, ideas, and other responses to these postings.

Once the paper is completed and has been presented at AERA, we will provide electronic copies to any registered shiftingthinking community members who requests this.


Shifting Thinking about Qualitative Research Methods: Conversations & Co-construction from the Bottom of the Changing World


This paper discusses the methodological implications of an innovative, 21st Century approach to data collection, analysis, and reporting. Breaking away from a 20th century paradigm of “filter then publish”, we put a variety of research projects undertaken by our organization inside a single web-based “ecology” where the boundaries between data collection, analysis, and reporting were intentionally blurred, and invited a range of people to engage in thinking about their implications together with us. This paper is another step in the development of a novel methodology designed to reshape our research and research knowing and helps us reconsider the way research can act on the world when we step away from our familiar 20th century processes and cycles for investigating and disseminating findings.

Shifting research , , ,

Thinking Tool 1: Transitions: Neutral Zone

October 28th, 2009

Last week I wrote about the ShiftingThinking tool of understanding transitions, and about how mourning what we’re leaving behind is so important (you can read about Endings, and about the tools in general in past posts). Today I’d like to write about the second stage of William Bridges’ Transitions: the Neutral Zone. I think that maybe this is the most helpful part of the theory, a part that has supported and sustained me though the major changes in my life, and has helped me support and sustain clients through the major transitions for them. For me, the idea of the Neutral Zone is a thing to hold on to when so much else that you might hold on to has dropped away.

A view to the Neutral Zone?

A view to the Neutral Zone?

The Neutral Zone is a place where we can’t see where we’ve come from and we can’t see where we’re headed. I think about crossing the Rimutaka Range from Wellington into the Wairarapa. There is a long and windy and car-sickness-inducing time where you can’t see the Hutt valley and you can’t see the Wairarapa. You’re just winding around, hoping it won’t snow or rain and that the children don’t throw up! There is beauty in the Neutral Zone but it is a wild, untamed beauty, an uncomfortable place where you can’t find a clear idea of what’s next for you.

The Neutral Zone is like the liminal spaces at the edges of landscapes, where one thing turns into another. There’s the marsh that separates the meadow from the river, the rocky shore where the sea hits the land. Some life is designed specifically for these liminal places, and my children and I take great delight in searching for this life as we wander around the edges of New Zealand. There is new possibility in these spaces which are neither here nor there, neither the sea nor the land.

Loving the liminal zone

Loving the liminal zone

But for us humans, the Neutral Zone is a place of discomfort, a place where the water splashes up over us enough to keep us damp but not enough for us to warm in the sea. It is the place where you know that you do not want to be a lawyer anymore, but you have no idea what you want to be. You do not want to be married to her anymore, but you also don’t want to be not married. You have mourned the loss of the lovely sense of power and control you’ll have to give up for these new forms of teaching, but you have no idea, practically, what you’re moving to in the end or what schools will look like.

The comfort of knowing about the discomfort of the Neutral Zone is the reassurance that every transition has this uncomfortable time, and that the time is generative, is like the spring weather which we’re grateful for when the hills turn neon green and our broad beans grow faster than we can tie them up. You might not enjoy days of rain, followed by showers, turning to the south on Thursday. But you know that the rain will end and the sky will be washed clear and turn cobalt blue, that the wet spring will give way to a drier summer and that the seasons will move with some consistency into the future (or so we hope).

Our changes into a new way of having school will have this uncomfortable feel as well. When we begin to give up–really give up—old ways of teaching and learning, we’ll have a time of trying things out and feeling unsure about them, feeling a qualified success or a horrible failure. From my perspective as a researcher and a teacher, I understand that this time must come. From my perspective as a mother of school-age children, I would love it if the time had come 15 years ago and we could have worked out the bugs already.

So we’ll have to help other people understand about the Neutral Zone too, understand about the richness of the transition, about the great benefits in terms of creativity and growth as well as the concerns over not really knowing what’s next. The danger of this period is not, actually, that we’ll get stuck in it forever (which is what it feels like when you’re inside it). The danger is that we won’t spend enough time in it, that we’ll leap out of it toward any new beginning at all (in relationships we call this “on the rebound”) or that we’ll fall back into the past because the Neutral Zone is too uncomfortable. And it all feels too hard anyway. We need to support ourselves and one another in the exciting and unsettling Neutral Zone, to hold fast to our dreams for the future, and learn like mad. It’s only then that we’ll make it through to the other side transformed and stronger and better than we were before. In New Zealand, you should know this better than any other country. Here you’re on the edge of the world, with a country that has landscapes that move from desert to mountain to sea in the blink of an eye, with a culture that blends and changes and shifts and attempts to find the creative and beautiful space that exists as Maori and Pasifika and Pakeha and other cultures bump up against one another. So here in New Zealand, we should be more prepared to step off into the wilderness, to get off the road and walk in the bush. We know about uncertain weather and seasons and heat in a valley which turns to snow on the mountain. Bring supplies for you and a friend and plenty of layers because the weather is uncertain, but let’s not let that stop us. Let’s take the plunge.

Conference: November 2009 , , , , , ,

Playing with ideas strand

October 28th, 2009

In this Day 2 strand of the Shifting Thinking Conference we will be drawing on both the published ideas of some key educationalists and each others’ ideas as we attempt to think differently about what school could be like.

Session 1: What’s the point of school?

Facilitator: Ally Bull

This session will involve taking some of the key ideas from Guy Claxton’s latest book, “What’s the point of school?” and thinking and talking about what the implications of these ideas are. What are the implications if we see education as building our learning muscles, rather than filling our minds with important stuff?

Session 2: Keeping it complex

Facilitator: Rose Hipkins

This session will make space to think critically about the deep ideas that underpin the familiar structures and practices of school. We’ll explore different metaphors for organising schools and learning, including those introduced in Disciplining and Drafting or 21 Century Learning? (Bolstad and Gilbert, 2008).

UPDATE: Read Rose Hipkins’ post-conference blog about this session

Session 3: Shifting thinking through literary engagement

Facilitators: Sue McDowall and Juliet Twist

Acts of reading deeply, like the acts of cultivating, nurturing, and tending that are part of gardening, generate knowledge that transcends the acts themselves (Sumara, 2002, xiii).

Come prepared to talk about a book (fiction or non-fiction) that has shifted your thinking and to hear about one that has shifted ours: Why Reading Literature in School Still Matters: Imagination, Interpretation, Insight (Sumara, 2002) – a book that explores the transformative potential of literary engagement.

Sumara, D. (2002). Why Reading Literature in School Still Matters: Imagination, Interpretation, Insight. Manwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Session 4: The book club with a difference

Facilitator: Rose Hipkins

Come to this session ready to talk to a partner about a book that’s shifted your thinking. (Bring the book with you if you can). Let’s think and talk about how the ideas in these books connect with each other.

Conference: November 2009 , , ,

What are schools for?

October 16th, 2009

Michael Young-1 If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that our first guest speaker in Act II (Tuesday 3rd November) will be Michael Young, and the title of his talk is: Schooling, curriculum, and social justice.

If you’re interested in brushing up on your sociology of education ahead of time, Michael has sent through a book chapter he has written entitled “What are schools for?”. This chapter gives an interesting overview of the main arguments and debates in the sociology of education since the 1970s.

Young, M. (2009). What are schools for? In: Knowledge, Values and Educational Policy (eds H.Daniels, H.Lauder and J.Porter. London: Routledge.

Conference: November 2009 , , , , ,

3 weeks til conf – an update for you

October 13th, 2009

Just 3 weeks to go til the Shifting Thinking conference, and registrations are continuing to roll in. We think it’s time to give you an update on things you can start to do – and things you can start to think about – in the leadup to November 3rd.

1. Get registered for the conference! (If you haven’t already)

If you’ve been thinking about coming to the conference but haven’t actually registered yet, why wait?  Simply click here to be taken to NZCER’s registration page. Spaces are filling steadily, and we’d hate for you to miss out.

2. Join the shiftingthinking community (If you haven’t already)

Part of the goal of the Shifting Thinking conference is to start building a community of people who want to think together about the shift to 21st century ways of thinking about learning and education. One way to signal your interest in thinking together with us is to register as a member of the Shifting Thinking online community, where you can add bio details and photos of yourself which are only visible to other registered Shifting Thinking users. You can get involved by commenting on blogpostings, and we will continue to look at ways our registered users can contribute to Shifting Thinking further.

3. Get familiar with the conference programme & castlist

If you haven’t already found it, the most up-to-date version of the conference programme is available here. (Please note that ongoing small changes to the programme are occuring as scriptwriting for the conference continues – so keep checking this page for new details!). You can also find out more about our “cast” – the speakers and facilitators who will be gracing the stage of Circa Theatre on Day 1 (Act II) and facilitating breakout sessions across Circa, Te Papa, and Mac’s Brewery on Day 2 (Act III).

4. Contribute to Act I (it’s happening right now!)

We’d love you to explore and comment on the many pages and blogpostings already up on this website – the more ideas we have from you, the more we can integrate them into our planning for the two days of the conference.  Jennifer Garvey-Berger has already put out a call for contributions to her dastardly dilemmas list. These dilemmas, challenges, and tensions for 21st century learning will form the backbone of our work together as a learning community on Day 2 (Act III) – so start thinking and posting your comments today.

You’ll also find some suggestions for parts of the site you might like to explore in relation to some of the breakout strands on Day 2 (Act III) here.

5. Set yourself up on twitter

If you’re already a twitter user, we hope you are following us (@shiftingthinkng – note the missing “i” in the word *thinking*). We hope to have people twittering their thoughts and ideas during the conference, and we will have a live twitter feed so you can see what others are saying. We’ve got a wee issue with Internet access on Day 1 at Circa Theatre, so ideally we would like all twitterers to set themselves up to be able to twitter directly from their cellphones via text messaging. Check out this blogposting by Hugh, our Twitter helpdesk go-to-man. If this all sounds completely confusing to you, don’t worry because Hugh and his team of helpers will be available at registration and during morning tea and lunch breaks to help you get set up to twitter by text. However,  if you know your way around Twitter, you can save time by setting yourself up to be Twitter-text-ready ahead of time. (Hint: Twitter has lots of helpful videos which can teach you what you need to do).

6. BYO laptop, especially if you think you’ll want to liveblog!

If you would like to bring your own laptop, we’ll have a couple of places where you can connect wirelessly to blog, twitter, or surf the Internet during Day 2 (Act III). As mentioned above, Internet connectivity at Circa theatre on Day 1 may be more limited, so please don’t be disappointed if you can’t get online that day. We’re trying our best, but we might have to come up with a suitably 20th-century solution (perhaps a wall of post-it notes where you can paper-blog your thoughts?). If you’ve got your own sneaky way of getting online (for example, if you have a Telecom T-Stick, a Vodafone vodem, or anything similar, you might like to bring it with you to guarantee Day 1 Internet satisfaction:)

7. Still got questions? Get in touch with us

We’re always happy to help you with any questions you might still have about the conference. You can post your questions comments on the blog, or email us at

Conference: November 2009 , , ,

Conference details – where to find them…

September 23rd, 2009

We’ve added a new page to the site where you can find everything you need to know about the November Shifting Thinking  conference.

You’ll find it under the “conference” tab on the menu bar across the top of the shifting thinking homepage (or click here to be taken directly to the page).

We’ll continue to post more news and information on this blogstream as well – so keep checking the blog, and keep checking the conference page!

Conference: November 2009 , ,

Conference Map

September 8th, 2009

Now that you know a little bit more about what will be happening at the conference (see the previous posting), we can show you where some of the action will be taking place, thanks to googlemaps.

What do you think, are you keen to spend two days with us in and around the Wellington waterfront? Registrations are now open.

View Shiftingthinking in a larger map

View Shiftingthinking in a larger map

Conference: November 2009 , , , ,

Shifting Thinking conference: Tell me more!

September 8th, 2009

Who is the conference for?

Many will be teachers and school leaders, but also people in the business, arts, creative and community sectors, researchers, and policy makers.  The conference will find a motivating balance between examining where current educational thinking comes from and tapping into inspirational alternatives already happening or being dreamed of.  The conference will move between the past, present, and future, and between the voices of invited speakers and participants.

What will happen on Day One?

On Day One conference participants will listen to four key note speakers and be guided through a series of discussions based on the ideas presented by each speaker, including Michael Young, Jane Gilbert, Cathy Wylie, and Keith Johnston.  The day will support participants to surface some of the assumptions that guided education over the previous century to consider which of these assumptions could still have a place in today’s times, and which are no longer relevant or useful in the 21st century.

What will happen on Day Two?

On Day Two conference participants will embark on a learning journey through a range of activities to pursue an individual and collective inquiry.  Learning coaches will support small groups of participants to clarify their intentions and plans to navigate the day and present back a synthesis of new thinking towards the end of the day.  There will be a range of concurrent activities to take part in, all of which provide an access point into themes that could begin to take centre stage in education over the next decade.  The day will model aspects of what we think schooling could look like.

Conference: November 2009 , ,