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Posts Tagged ‘future focus’

“Going forward” – with our backs to the future?

June 6th, 2013

If you listen to the news on radio or television today I can almost guarantee you’ll hear someone talk about  going forward.

What some see as a “superfluous, meaningless, ubiquitous” phrase  has crept firmly into our language, but  this post isn’t just another rant about silly and useless sayings .

On the contrary, I want to use going forward as the starting point for a brief  and serious journey into the psychology of futures- thinking. (Don’t be fooled by the bunny pictures – I really am serious, and I’ll even leave you with some questions to ponder …going forward, if you will….).

Enough talk, let’s meet Mr Purple Bunnyman.

Going forward? Artwork (c) Rachel Bolstad.

Mr P. Bunnyman, naturally, is going forward into the future.  Well, it doesn’t make sense any other way, right?  It’s illogical to think about going forward into the past, yes?

Those who talk about going forward tend to do so in conversations about planning, strategies, “where-to-from-here”, “what-next”, “how-are-we-going-to-fix-this” kind of scenarios. All of this signals that we think about the future as something we are heading towards - it’s metaphorically in front of us. The past, by contrast, all the stuff that’s been, it’s metaphorically behind us. We  ”look forward” towards the future, we “look back” to see the past.

This is all so obvious that I see why people get irritated by the introduction of meaningless and redundant jargon like “going forward”. Perhaps it’s just another pleonasm, like ”true facts” and “free gifts”  or “where you at?” that we must learn to live with.[1]

Or maybe there is something more serious to think about, going forward?

For example, what happens if we turn Mr P. Bunnyman around?

Backs to the future? Artwork (c) Rachel Bolstad

Backs to the future? Artwork (c) Rachel Bolstad

Although he’s now facing the other direction, Mr Bunnyman is no time traveller – he’s still diligently following time’s arrow, moving inexorably in one direction (since this isn’t a science fiction blog, we’ll stick with the conventional arrangement of  past->present->future, thanks very much). Metaphorically,  the past is now laid out before his eyes, while the future is behind him where he can’t  see it –  at least not until he gets there and it  becomes his present and later, his past.

If you stop to think about it, the second picture actually maybe makes a little bit more sense. We know we can’t “see” the future – except in our imaginations – whereas we can see, touch, feel, smell, taste, the present, and we have access to memories, artefacts, and records of the past.

We don’t often think or talk about the future this way, do we? If we did, perhaps we might spend a bit more time thinking about clever ways to engineer our way out of  our natural handicap of being unable to see where we’re going. We might  think a bit harder about what unexpected surprises we might back ourselves into. Or we might look for ways to predict the likelihood that we’ll be OK on the current path. We might actually use that information to think about changing our path or orienting ourselves in a different direction.

I’ve been thinking about this problem a lot – this problem of how we think, or maybe don’t think, about the future. I’m less concerned about this at the individual/personal level (how we think about our own personal futures), as much as how we do it collectively – how our social systems and structures orient us in relation to “the future”, and why it appears as though we humans  have a bit of a laissez-faire, don’t-worry-we-have-it-sorted kind of attitude on things to do with the future.

After several years of reading everything I can get my hands on about futures thinking – from science fiction, to neuroscience, to futures-studies and the academic discpline of strategic foresight – I’ve started to form some views on this which I’ve been sharing in different ways – on this blog, in presentations and workshops, in some of my research writing, pretty much any time I get the chance in fact.

The problem with thinking about the future, in my view, is that we overestimate our natural capability to do it. Yes, we know the future is unwritten. Yes, we know it holds a degree of uncertainty, and we know that our decisions and actions in the present are part of what actually create whatever future we  are going to encounter.

We know all of these things, and yet we sort of behave like we don’t. We persist with this mental imagery of the future being in front of us, with all the confidence and certainty of a weekend tramper off for a lovely roam around the hills. Maybe we don’t know exactly what’s coming, but we feel pretty confident we’ll see it coming,  and we kind of assume we’ll know what to do with it when we get there.

To bring home just how unusual it is to take Mr Purple Bunnyman’s contrary backwards-facing perspective on the  future, take note of this  2006 study of South America’s indigenous Aymara people which found that:

Contrary to what had been thought a cognitive universal among humans – a spatial metaphor for chronology, based partly on our bodies’ orientation and locomotion, that places the future ahead of oneself and the past behind – the Amerindian group locates this imaginary abstraction the other way around: with the past ahead and the future behind….

Analysis of the gestural data proved telling: The Aymara, especially the elderly who didn’t command a grammatically correct Spanish, indicated space behind themselves when speaking of the future – by thumbing or waving over their shoulders – and indicated space in front of themselves when speaking of the past – by sweeping forward with their hands and arms, close to their bodies for now or the near past and farther out, to the full extent of the arm, for ancient times. In other words, they used gestures identical to the familiar ones – only exactly in reverse

Read more at: http://phys.org/news69338070.html#jCp

This study is now about 7 years old, and I don’t know whether there has been more work done in this area, but reading the article you’ll see  that the linguistic experts certainly thought it was a pretty big deal to find a human culture – possible the only one – with a reverse orientation to the past and future embedded so deeply in thought and language.

Where I’m going with this is to encourage you to take a moment to think about those things we do all our thinking with – our minds. I think we need to understand better how our minds work if we are to become better future-thinkers. The Aymara reverse-view of time provides one opportunity to think about the consequences of certain ways of thinking, and I find it a particularly interesting one. Note that at least one researcher speculates that this different way of thinking had profound consequences

This cultural, cognitive-linguistic difference could have contributed, Nunez said, to the conquistadors’ disdain of the Aymara as shiftless – uninterested in progress or going “forward.”

Read more at: http://phys.org/news69338070.html#jCp

Going back to going forward, I also invite you to think further with me about what all this “going forward” language and thinking tells us about our strengths and weaknesses as futures-thinking beasties. I can assure you that the invitation to think together is real – I certainly haven’t got it all figured out yet, but I want to keep picking away at these ideas and see where they lead.

In the next posting I’ll pick up where I’ve left off with some more interesting research I’ve been reading.

Not quite so sure any more. Artwork (c) Rachel Bolstad

[1] For the record, I do use, and will continue to use “where you at?” or maybe “wher u@?” when I’m in a hurry.

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Researching the future of education and community engagement: “hard fun”?

August 31st, 2012

For many years some of us at NZCER have been chipping away at  the gnarly question of what it might take to achieve deep levels of community and public engagement with education – not just for the purposes of  engaging the community in debates around the perceived educational issues of today, but to start to collectively reimagine public education to ensure that it is relevant for the future. We call this “future-oriented community engagement with education”.

I’m very aware of the ease with which a term like “future-oriented” can be used to mean everything and nothing. For example, I’m fairly certain that almost everyone involved with education (including teachers, students, families, and communities) believes that what they are doing now is preparing learners “for the future”; this idea is so ingrained that it’s almost tautological.

But as I have discussed in a previous blogposting and in a lot of my writing, in my opinion most of us actually have a very poor set of  ”futures thinking” skills and tools. This isn’t necessarily a failing of our intellects, but rather of our own educational experiences and the fact that the human environment has changed (and continues to change) so rapidly that our basic default settings for thinking about and planning for the future simply can’t cut it anymore. To my mind we may as well just come  to terms with this, and with due humility,  just start getting  on with the work of assisting ourselves and each other to become better futures thinkers and futures-builders.  This is good work and important work, and really, really challenging work.  However, as an educational researcher I have seen how the inherent rewards of this kind of work are energy-building, “buzzy”, and above all, deeply meaningful for the people who are engaged with it. (Years ago at NZCER we  adopted the phrase “hard fun” to describe this kind of work, and it still crops up in our conversations from time to time).

That brings me to another question I’ve been worrying away at for the last few years: What is – or should be – the role of research in informing, supporting, critiquing, or evaluating the kind of future-oriented work that we are arguing needs to happen?  If education needs to change, what about educational research? Where are we positioned in all of this? Should we be trailing behind the changes  to document and make sense of them?  Should we be informing and directing the changes, or leaving it to others to pick up our work so that their work is “research-informed” and “evidence-based”? Is it our role to sit on the sidelines or to get in amongst it?

I think many people assume that research is about finding answers, but in my experience it’s  all about reaching the meaningful questions. If my theme question for 2010-2011 was, “what does it mean to take a future focus in education” then my theme question for 2011-2012 has been “what does it mean to take a future-focussed approach to research?”. This question has filtered through several of my recent projects; you’ll see it addressed it in section 1 of the Future-oriented learning and teaching report NZCER recently prepared for the Ministry of Education, and it’s picked it up and addressed it again in a new working paper called: What role might research play in supporting future-oriented community engagement with education?

The working paper builds on several pieces of our previous work, and in particular this piece by Ally Bull.

As you can see, my own thinking on these matters is still forming and changing and growing, and I’d be interested to hear any thoughts from educators, researchers, or anyone else who is interested in discussing this!

 

Community engagement, Future focussed issues, Shifting schooling , , ,

Supporting future-oriented learning: A new report

June 12th, 2012

The Ministry of Education has just released a report we prepared for them entitled Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective.

It’s great to have this work out in the public sphere, and given its focus I think it may be of particular interest to you in our Shifting Thinking community.

The report draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education. It discusses some emerging principles for future learning, how these are currently expressed in New Zealand educational thinking and practice,  and what they could look like in future practice.

We hope that this piece of work can be a platform for continued thinking about the future of learning and teaching in New Zealand and I would be interested to hear from any of you who have a chance to engage with the report (or those of you who might have contributed to the research!)

Future focussed issues, Shifting schooling , ,

Taking a “future focus” in education

April 2nd, 2012

Last month I twice  gave a presentation called “Taking a future focus in education: What does it mean?”. The first time was for a CORE Education Breakfast Seminar in Wellington (their breakfast seminars are excellent, by the way, and well worth the early morning start), and the second was a repeat session for NZCER’s in-house “Thinking Tuesday” seminar series. I’ve just sat down at my computer to look at those presentations again to try and  re-cut parts of them for the “Local and global participation” entry point session at the upcoming Shifting Thinking Workshop 2012. (May 3-4, are you registered yet?).

This isn’t just about lazy recycling of work: I’m revisiting some of my prior papers and presentations because I’m convinced that we need to sharpen up our thinking about the future in order to start making better decisions about what we are doing in education today, including how we think about supporting young people to participate and contribute at the local and global levels. Keeping a strong “future focus” angle for the local and global participation session is important to me – as you will find out if you come to the session!

However, the more I think about what it means to take a “future focus” in education, the more I realise just exactly how hard this really is.  At first I thought maybe it was just me – but research is telling me that it’s not just a failure of my own individual imagination. Thinking about the future is actually really hard, and none of us should feel bad about our intellectual capacities if we find this to be the case! (Conversely, if you find thinking about the future is really easy, then…. well I hate to say this but I think you probably aren’t thinking about it as deeply as you could). Oh – and if I’ve convinced you that think that thinking about the future is hard? Here’s the worse news: Thinking about the future in order to change what we’re doing today is – you guessed it – even harder.

So why is it so hard? The neuroscience articles I’ve been reading recently are making me see that it’s partly to do with how our minds work, how they have evolved. And the educational literature suggests it’s also partly to do with how our educational and social systems shape our ways of thinking. I’ll be saying more about this at the Shifting Thinking workshop, so I hope that you are tempted to come and be part of that!

Hopefully I haven’t lost you at this point with all this talk of hardness. Hopefully you, like me, remember that hard things present us with the most exciting opportunities for learning, and that learning is fun.  One thing that has been helpful for my own thinking, and for people I have presented to, has been to map a few different ways about thinking about education and the future on a continuum from “most obvious” to “least obvious”. At the left end of the continuum we have the very “obvious” and “familiar” idea that education is about preparing learners for their future lives. So far, so good. Even if we might not be all that good at really imagining what their future lives might be like (apart from thinking they will probably be somewhat similar to our own lives today), we are at least pretty good at realising that today’s education is part of what ought to set people up to do well in their lives in the future.

The next idea up the continuum is about the future of education itself, and what might need to change to ensure education is fit for our future needs. Over the past couple of decades there’s been a huge amount of international and NZ thinking in this area and I’d be pretty surprised if you haven’t encountered a lot of this already. You may know about UNESCO’s Taskforce on Education for the 21st Century, or the OECD’s “Schooling for Tomorrow” programme, or New Zealand’s Secondary Futures initiative. I hope you will have read or seen videos from educational writers, theorists, and philosophers like Charles Leadbeater or Gunther Kress or Kieran Egan, or Sir Ken Robinson, or my colleague Jane Gilbert, or any number of other TEDtalks that do the rounds talking about the need to transform our educational systems.

Charles Leadbeater who is a pretty well-known British commentator on innovation says there is a growing consensus about the kinds of transformative changes that our education systems need. This consensus is built on a massive amount of research evidence about the current state of education, as well as a lot of research about learning and about the changes that are taking place in our world across social, political, economic, and technological domains. And if you line up what all of these different people are saying, what you see is there is a pretty clear consensus that what we have now isn’t going to cut it in terms of meeting our current and future needs. I could go into a lot more detail about all of this but I’m going to move forward on the assumption that you do know about these ideas, and if you don’t, come and talk to me at the Shifting Thinking Workshop and I can recommend some good readings or TED talks.

Where I’m hoping to take us, though, in our Shifting Thinking Workshop Entry Point session, is right up to the top end of my continuum.This is where we have to think really deeply about the kind of world we might have in the future, the kinds of issues and challenges that people will be facing, and what kinds of learning will be  useful and relevant for those people.

It’s going to be hard. But I think it’s also going to be fun :)

Meanwhile, if you’re interested you can read a little more about futures thinking on this theory page or download my2011 working paper where I was first beginning to pull some of these ideas together.

Future focussed issues, Global and local participation, Workshop 2012 , ,

Contribute to research on “21st century teaching and learning for New Zealand students”

September 15th, 2011

It’s been a while since my last shifting thinking posting, but rest assured I have been quite busy. You may be pleased to hear that planning is underway for the 2012 Shifting Thinking workshop, and we hope to confirm dates within the next month or two  - stay tuned.

In other news, I am leading a new project called Supporting 21st century teaching and learning for New Zealand students. The project aims to develop a vision for what future learning might look like for New Zealand students and to contribute to educational futures thinking and policy development. Further details about the project can be found on NZCER’s website.

If you are involved in education in New Zealand you may be able to contribute to this research.
We would like to hear from New Zealand principals, teachers, and others who work with school-aged learners (approx 5-18 years old) about their innovative educational practices and ideas for teaching and learning for the 21st century.

From mid-September 2011 we are inviting New Zealand schools that teach in English-medium, and others who support these young people’s learning, to contribute their stories of innovative practices and future-focussed thinking  through an online submission form , where you can also read more about the kinds of practices we are most interested in hearing about.

I also hope to contribute further blogpostings about the research as it evolves!

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ReGeneration: What’s in a name?

April 20th, 2010

This posting is the second in a series that discusses ideas and themes from the recent NZCER report, Organising for Emergence (see the first posting here), an output from NZCER’s Future Focussed Issues project.  Organising for Emergence discusses a case study of the New Zealand-based, youth-led sustainability network called ReGeneration. Our interest in case studying the ReGeneration network stemmed from our goal of exploring the ways knowledge is constructed, shared, and used in what we’ve been calling: “self-generating networks for knowledge building, learning, and change in relation to future-focussed issues” *.

In this posting, I’d like to reflect on the name “ReGeneration” (and other language associated with this network) and some of the challenges that it presented for us as researchers who are used to describing teaching and learning within institutional contexts (i.e. within schools, early childhood centres, tertiary institutions, workplaces, etc).  For example, when we write about school-based research, we are able to draw on a large set of conceptual categories and labels that are familiar to most readers as “ideas and things that are part of schools”. These include labels to describe people’s roles (e.g., teacher, student, principal), physical objects and spaces (school, classrooms, staffrooms) and organising concepts associated with the daily practices of schooling (curriculum, teaching, learning, subject, assessment, lesson), and so on. Each of these conceptual categories implies a space with edges and boundaries that readers can easily fill based their own prior knowledge and experiences of these categories. Even though the edges and boundaries of these concepts may be more fluid in real life than they appear on the written page, they are at least simple to write about.

The final chapter of Organising for Emergence as a wordle: http://www.wordle.net/

As a “self-generating network for learning and social change” (our phrase), ReGeneration did not come with the same set of descriptive labels and categories. The roles that people play in the network, the things that happen within the network and the spaces in which these things occur all required description; but the language to describe these things is much less self-evident and more fluid—even when used by the participants in our research. For example, the name “ReGeneration” was carefully chosen by the organisers for its many layers of meaning and significance. We (the researchers) were first introduced to the word by one of the organisers, who gave us a full copy of this article . This (along with ongoing conversations with the organisers) gave us some sense of the idea of “regeneration” as a concept that seeks to move beyond “sustainability” thinking (i.e. trying to maintain things in the state they are currently in, or to keep doing what we are doing indefinitely, without degenerating the environment, or without depleting resources), towards the concept of actually designing systems, processes, and ways of being that have a positive impact, that is, making things better than they were before, generating new resources through our activities, and so on.

However, a significant aspect of the ReGeneration network (as we observed in our case study) was that word “ReGeneration” was not defined in any singular way, or presented as though there was one correct or best meaning. Rather, multiple, intertwined, and parallel meanings were constructed individually and collectively by participants. For participants, the word “regeneration” sparked metaphors of intergenerational connections, cycles of death and regrowth, nourishing the energies of themselves and other people, connections to people, places and communities. Overarching all of these ideas was a message of positivity and hope. (For example, many saw regeneration/ReGeneration as sitting in direct contrast to “old-school” approaches towards sustainability which, in their experience, could often lead to anger, frustration and despair).

We believe that what we observed in ReGeneration was an approach of emergence, in which both ReGeneration as a group of people, a process and a network, and “regeneration” as a meaningful concept, emerged as a living co-construction. (Likewise, Organising for Emergence pp. 20 – 22 describes the collaborative construction of meaning for other “touchstone concepts” within the network, such as: “organising”).

As researchers, this emergent approach presented us with considerable challenges. Research is a deliberative process of deciding what questions to ask, what kinds of data to collect to answer those questions and, finally, how to synthesise, interpret and represent those data, and an important dimension of this process relates to the kinds of words and language that are used to convey data and analyses.

In the report we adopted some of the language used by the participants in ReGeneration (or language drawn from relevant literature), while in other cases we chose words that we thought would help to simplify matters for readers. The report braids together multiple voices: our own, participants’ and other authors’. We purposefully developed it as a bricolage, presenting a range of data in their raw form, rather than attempting to present a single grand or linear narrative. In many chapters we used the technique of inset boxes to include participant quotes, or quotes from researchers and theorists alongside the main narrative thread. In other cases we include participant quotes in the main body of the text. Our choices were purposeful, but we also invite readers to bring their own interpretations to these layerings of text.

As my previous posting stated: We see Organising for Emergence as an entry-point or a stepping stone into many of the ideas that we would like to continue to develop in the Future Focussed Issues project. The report is not an endpoint, but a beginning point for further thinking, research, and conversation. We would be overjoyed if you chose to respond to or engage with these ideas on this blogthread so we can continue to develop them together!

* Four future focussed issues specifically mentioned in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) are: Sustainability, Citizenship, Globalisation, and Enterprise.

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Organising for Emergence (a new NZCER report)

April 15th, 2010

Quite some time ago I blogged about the beginnings of NZCER’s “future-focussed issues” research project, explaining that one of our initial aims was:

…to look for examples of what we’re loosely labelling “self-generating networks for knowledge building, learning, and change”. We are interested in how such networks form around … future focussed issues in both formal and non-formal education, with particular emphasis on how new knowledge is generated in these networks, and in connection with learning beyond school (i.e. with business, communities, youth groups, web-based social networks, etc).

We’ve recently uploaded a research report on the NZCER website called Organising for Emergence. This exploratory study describes ReGeneration ’09, a four-day gathering held in February 2009 which brought together young adults and secondary-school-aged youth with an interest and involvement in sustainability and environmental issues within their schools, workplaces and communities. A long-term goal was to help inspire and build youth-initiated and youth-supported regenerative action in communities across New Zealand. We were approached by the organisers of ReGeneration to form a research partnership around the initiation of this network, and Organising for Emergence is the resulting report.  It aims to represent some of the important ideas, processes, points of view and outcomes that we noticed as researcher-participants in ReGeneration ’09. By reflecting back these ideas and outcomes to the people involved, we hoped to add to the ongoing learning and development that is occurring within the ReGeneration network. Naturally, we also hope that Organising for Emergence will be of interest to a wider audience interested in sustainability, youth learning and leadership, and social and educational change.

We see Organising for Emergence as an entry-point or a stepping stone into many of the ideas that we would like to continue to develop in the Future Focussed Issues project. The report is not an endpoint, but a beginning point for further thinking, research, and conversations. Over the next couple of weeks I hope to blog about some of the themes and concepts discussed in Organising for Emergence and I invite you to discuss these with me. You are, of course, welcome to download the full report, or simply follow the blogpostings and contribute your views as each new posting is added.

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Wondering what’s next

March 8th, 2010

Ally and I have finished up our current round of data collection on the Teachers’ Work project, and are just trying to decide what might be next for us. We thought maybe we’d bring some of our questions and our thinking to this group to see if anyone else wanted to think alongside us.

When this project began, we were interested in how teachers made sense of their work, especially how teachers who were interested in 21C ideas made sense of it. We wanted to know how real teachers were thinking about what 21C education might be, how they were teaching in their schools, how they made sense of having ideas in the first place. We’ve done some of that, decided other bits were too big, and been confused and enlightened along the way. Now we’re trying to figure out what might be next for us.

We’re interested in the way that individual teachers make sense of their context and their aspirations for the future, and we’re interested in how that sensemaking actually shapes the context and what is possible for the future. We’re interested in how leaders shape their school contexts—and are shaped by them. We’re interested in where the power lies in the system—where the shifting thinking could be most useful, most likely to make a big change in the way kids experience teaching and learning.

The question for us now is: what’s the question for us now? We know that we have not found answers to this big question about leverage points, and we know that very many other things are already known about teachers and how they think and work and schools and why they are so hard to change. But given all that we know, what would be useful for us to explore together? What’s the key missing question?

Now, Ally and I enjoy theory enormously. But this is a practical undertaking we’re discussing here. We want a practical way to understand how schools can change, not a theoretical model of how change might possibly happen. Usually if you’re a researcher and you want to understand something practical, you need to go out and look at something. We’re not aware of schools that have really made it in this regard, schools that everyone knows have transformed teaching and learning so that younger people and older people (inside and outside the local school) experience a different kind of education. You readers might know about those schools, and might be able to say, School X has totally transformed. We’d like to hear from you about School X.

What we’re more familiar with, and we’re guessing you’re more familiar with, are schools that are trying to change. We could name dozens of schools with fantastic older and young people, who are trying to reshape the way teaching and learning and schooling happens. We know of communities where this is contentious, communities where this is invisible, communities where this is deeply supported. But all the ones we know would say that they’re on a journey, that 10% or 40% or 60% of the students/teachers/community members are on board. But we don’t know anyone who has arrived, and we don’t know anyone who isn’t fighting madly along the way.

So, if there are no models to say “this is where we’re going,” we can’t research those.  Indeed, what Ally and I think might be true is that we’re on a journey for which there is no “arrival,” no 100% on board.  We’re moving into an unknown future, trying to take a whole bunch of people who care a lot about schools along with us, and we don’t really know where we’re going. This makes for a tricky research question.

We wonder if you might help. We have an unresearchable question like: “How do you support yourself and others to move into an unknown future?” Now we wonder what questions you have about this whole topic that we might be able to engage with in order to figure out how we’re thinking about things and what we might do next. This is a question that needs a lot of heads thinking together for us to ask just the right question. Will you lend us your head, your questions?

Future focussed issues, Shifting research, Shifting schooling, Teachers' work , , , , , , , , ,

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:
Sustainability
Citizenship
Enterprise
Globalisation
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:
Fashion
Commerce
Infrastructure
Governance
Culture
Nature
Billy tells us that the top two are so much more easily accessed than the others.

Also of scale:
Universal
Global
National
Regional
Local
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 , , ,

Communities learning together

September 23rd, 2009

Our school is participating in the Families’ and Communities’ Engagement in education research project. In this blog I describe the “lever” we are using to generate opportunities for community engagement.  Our school’s research has been around investigating further what our student researchers meant when they said “ learning happens if you feel confident”.  Our intention has been to work with three different student groups in the school to firstly define confidence, to identify ways it is already built in school and to investigate how it might be developed further. The students will then report their findings back to their parents and others in the wider learning community. The purpose of this forum is to create a focus for discussion about the learning capabilities parents would like their daughters to develop –in particular around confidence and resilience. We are hoping parents will have ideas about the strategies they use to help develop confidence and how we might work together to build and maintain confidence. We are also hoping that by discussing a specific capability that the parents ( in earlier research)  have also identified as being important we will be able to more readily engage them in discussions around the changing needs of learners of the 21st century.

In our Wellington discussion workshop Jane Gilbert spoke of the importance of collective decision making given that the ‘knowledge experts’ may no longer exist. The intention of our ‘confidence forum’ is a first step in modelling communities learning together.  

During this research project we have also read widely around concepts of confidence, why it is important and how it might be demonstrated both in and outside the classroom. Of course the best information has come from the students themselves. 

 We also decided to use three different research methods to collect the information. With the Year 13 students we presented them with the Year 9 findings from the year before and asked them to develop a series of survey questions that could be given to two tutor groups (approximately 45 students). They trialled their first survey on their own tutor class. This highlighted the need to ask less questions and to eliminate redundant questions. At this point we asked Josie and Rachel (NZCER researchers) to advise us. The second survey was then given out. During the analysis sessions that followed they quickly realised that their survey still needed further refining. The initial data from these surveys was not as reflective/deep as we had expected from Year 13 students but it did indicate clear trends, some of them unexpected. The discussions about the data with the research group was much more useful.

With the Year 10 group (student researchers of 2008) we interviewed them as a group using similar questions that the Year 13 group had designed. The information gathered from this was more as we had expected – deeper and more reflective – probably because there was opportunity to ask further questions. There was certainly some obvious similarities about the responses but also some interesting differences highlighted between the experiences of the two age groups.

The third group of Year 12 students (student researchers of 2007) we simply presented  with the summarised findings of the other two groups and asked for comment. Their responses were more far reaching, less structured and therefore probably more genuine than the other two groups because they were not constrained by giving expected answers to given questions.   

So in summary: Research Process Evaluation

  • Writing survey questions is more difficult than it seems! It is often not until you see the results that you begin to understand what questions really needed to be asked. These questions need to be constantly refined.
  • Data gathered from surveys is often interesting because it highlights possible trends and may provide some unexpected issues but only really becomes enlightening after opportunities to discuss and reflect on results is given.
  • Sometimes the unexpected data highlights a group of students whose experience is different to the majority and this could lead to the need for further research to explore what made their experiences different to others.
  • Gathering data through focused discussion and interview provides deeper analysis. 
  • The most genuine response came from presenting the group with summary findings and asking for comments, rather than responding to set questions. This seemed to be because the questions weren’t already leading the responses. There were no expected answers.
     

Community engagement , , , , ,

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