Saturday, October 15, 2011

21st Century Learning Leadership Forum - JUST DO IT

The 21st Century Learning Leadership Forum was held in Banff Alberta Canada from Oct. 12 to Oct. 14th.  

There was a common theme throughout the forum, and if Nike hadn't already trademarked the saying, the forum could have been called JUST DO IT.

Sir Ken Robinson started the forum with a keynote calling for educators to create the Learning Revolution.  As he has done in his other presentations, he challenged educators to recognize the strengths of those who are skilled in disciplines other than Science, Technology and Math.

Some of his key points included:
By narrowing the curriculum with a strict focus on standardized testing we are leaching creativity out of the education system, the very skill that employers want
  • The importance of math is not to be minimized, but we need to look beyond subjects that were designed in a different time
  • It is time to live your life based on your passions
  • He made reference to the IBM Study:  Capitalizing on Complexity, indicating that the globalization complexity of running a company (organization) includes the complexity of technology, and generating creative ideas and solutions to complex problems
  • In a Global economy we need to ensure that our students have cultural proficiency
  • The role of policy makers is to create a climate of innovation and then get out of the way to allow for personalized learning based on individual passions
Ron Canuel, the CEO of the Canadian Education Association gave a passionate talk about education reform being impressive but not convincing.  He highlighted the need for immediate action by citing the poor results from a study showing how disengaged Canadian students are when it comes to education (What did you do in school today study).  Some of his key points included:
  • We are not teaching the correct curriculum and this needs to be responded to - now!
  • Students are doing school, they are not challenged, they need to be engaged
  • We have tried tweaking education - it hasn't had system impacts - now is the time to act
  • If buying technology to replicate old practices, it is a waste of money
  • We need great leadership with a moral purpose - now
  • He challenged the educators to make a difference, and referenced the "convinced matrix" to use evidence of brain based research, beliefs and values to make a difference
The next keynote speaker was Jennifer James, urban cultural anthropologist.  She began by indicating an interest in belief systems and wondering why common sense was not so common.  She is looking at adaptive strategies and why some leaders such as Steve Jobs and Nelson Mandella were able to see the future while others seem to be stuck in the past.
Some key points from her presentation:
  • recommended reading, Paul Tough's article in the NY Times on Sept. 18, 2011, "What if the Secret to Success is Failure?"
  • In a globalized world, people can verify if your views and facts are true and this is forcing us to validate historical accounts
  • Even those in far removed regions living in mud huts can have access to the Internet from Smart Phones of visitors - true globalization
  • The pace of change is witnessing a learning curve that is straight up
  • Cultural revolutions are occurring as people learn 

We are in an increasingly complex world where people are looking for simplicity, and there is free flowing anxiety because of speed of change

The next speaker was Dr. Thomas Homer-Dixon.  Bestselling author of The Upside of Down and the The Ingenuity Gap, his presentation focused on  how societies adapt to complex economic, ecological and technological change.  Some key messages from his presentation:
  • the world of tomorrow will be different and what we did in the past may not be enough
  • we are now living in a world of constant surprise, ie. temperature fluctuations
  • the world needs to be viewed of consisting of complex systems
  • our economies are becoming more complex - people and technologies have advanced and the result is our networks have more nodes, denser links, faster movement between the links
  • complexity causes uncertainty, system flips and extreme events, we are ignorant of our ignorance, exhibit cascading failures
  • in systems that are complex, small changes can cause big effects, because of feedback and synergies, changes are more than the sum of their parts, they have emergent properties
  • In education we need to cultivate a prospective mind (see complex systems presentation given in Ottawa)

Charles Fadel, co-author of "21st Century Skills - Learning for Life in our Times" spoke about the need for relevance in our education system and the need to re-design the curriculum.  Key points included: 
  • VUCA - volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous - a sign of the times
  • need to see the multiple benefits of learning: social, economic, and lifelong personal prosperity 
  • the current curriculum reflects late 1800s not today's or tomorrow's needs
  • we are using a memorization based curriculum that is now obsolete
  • today's students beg for relevance of what is being taught
  • there is a need for deeper learning, and a focus on character (adaptability, resilience, persistence, ethics), skills (4Cs)
  • it is now a time to ACT as we are in a race between technology and education, with a lag between the two resulting in a digital revolution
  • students need to learn skills, build character, and focus on personalized learning
  • we need a system that focuses on head, hand, heart

Other speakers focused on the new realities of careers, with Kris Magnusson (Dean at Simon Fraser university) and Dave Redekopp (President of Life RoleDevelopment Group) defining career as life roles, something everyone has, including students.  Life-long learning and the need to be flexible and a continuous learner were key areas mentioned.  David Istance from France, a director at the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) outlined the importance of statistics and a trend described as a thirst for comparisons because of globalization and a competitive view of how education systems are doing around the world.  He indicated that we need to build on the foundation of learning ie. age of 13, but also look at re-schooling and de-schooling, shorter but more flexible learning careers as more learning will happen along one's career. 

The final day featured panels including: Mark Prefontaine (Alberta education), Stewart Adam (Cenovus), Blaine Favel (One earth resources), Patrick Rouble (Labour market minister Yukon), Brian Castle (Ivanhoe Cambridge, Shanghai), Nancy Knowlton (Ceo of Smart Technology), Pete Ceverini (Cisco), and Norm Leech (first nations technology council BC).

Key points from the panels:
  • moral purpose to help prepare students to be the best they can be, and a duty to society 
  • time for change is now, so just go do it
  • can't wait for the perfect vision of education before we do it
  • system designed for past and has been tinkered over the years but now need to create fluid and adaptive systems
  • new competencies based system is needed with a focus on ethical citizenship, entrepreneurship, collaboration, digital and technical fluencies, creativity and innovation, communication and life-long learning
  • If these are the competencies that our students need, what do our teachers and educational leaders need?
  •  Get big vision of how tech can change learning, need to see the change in pedagogy around the availability and application
  • there is still a digital divide for some communities, don't forget about them 
Overall, a very thought provoking couple of days with a call to action for educational reform.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent summary Tom. I felt like I was there by following the twitter feed. I'd love to feature you as a guest blogger with this article in our November MindShare Learning ok with this?