Posts Tagged ‘participating and contributing’

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 , ,

Why “participating and contributing”?

March 23rd, 2012

The 2012 Shifting Thinking Workshop is based around the overarching theme of “participating and contributing”.


Those of you from the school sector will recognise “participating and contributing” as one of the key competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum. Here’s what the NZC (p. 13) has to say:

Participating and contributing

This competency is about being actively involved in communities. Communities include family, whānau, and school and those based, for example, on a common interest or culture. They may be drawn together for purposes such as learning, work, celebration, or recreation. They may be local, national, or global. This competency includes a capacity to contribute appropriately as a group member, to make connections with others, and to create opportunities for others in the group.

Students who participate and contribute in communities have a sense of belonging and the confidence to participate within new contexts. They understand the importance of balancing rights, roles, and responsibilities and of contributing to the quality and sustainability of social, cultural, physical, and economic environments.

At the Shifting Thinking Workshop we want to unpack and explore the notion of “participating and contributing”, not only as it applies to students, but also for adults, and for New Zealand as a society. What does it mean to participate and contribute in a 21st century world? To what, with whom, and why? How can we all learn to become better and participating and contributing, and why does it matter? How do we support learners to develop the knowledge, skills, experiences, and inclinations they need to participate and contribute to their worlds right now, and throughout their lives? What are the barriers that we, as a society, have created which limit peoples’ opportunities to fully participate and contribute? How can those change?

There are so many questions we can ask.

There are so many ways to think about participating and contributing!

This is why we (the organising team) have identified five Entry Points to help get us started  (I discuss where those came from in this video). Our entry points certainly aren’t the only ways into thinking about participating and contributing, but we hope that you will find at least some of these entry points hit on areas that you want to think more about.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about participating and contributing in the weeks leading up to the Workshop, so feel free to drop us some comments!

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Participating and contributing: a new thinking object

June 19th, 2009

I’ve just uploaded a new thinking object. It’s a “scenario card” from NZCER’s newest KickStart on Key Competencies resource series. (The full resource is available on the NZCER website )

The KickStart resource is designed to stimulate conversations and discussions in staffrooms and classrooms about the meaning of “participating and contributing” – one of five key competencies in the New Zealand Curriculum. Among other things, the resource pack includes a set of 14 “Scenario Cards”. Each contains a small story designed to elicit  discussion.

The stories are fictional, but many are based on things we have seen and experienced ourselves in schools we have worked or researched in. There are stories from both primary and secondary school contexts. Many of the stories contain some kind of dilemma or “twist”. The idea is that by discussing these stories, people will start to see both the complexity and opportunity inherent in a key competency like participating and contributing, as well as how it could fit into school life in different ways and times.

Guess what! We’ve chosen one of the 14 scenario cards to give you, lucky readers, as a freebie!

This particular scenario card tells the story of a teacher who asked two year 10 students  how they think they participate and contribute in their school.  The students begin by talking about various things they do at school, like helping to clean up rubbish, but end up having an interesting little debate about whether or not the subjects they learn have anything to do with participating and contributing.

At the end of the story, we’ve put some questions to discuss.

Would you like to discuss this thinking object with us? Yes? Great!

You can view the scenario card here.  Please post your comments below. (And if you’ve already used the full Kickstart on Participating and Contributing resource in your school, we’d love to hear how you used it and what happened!)

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