ICOT 2013 opened in Wellington yesterday with a challenge from Uncle Sam of local iwi Te Ati Awa to think deeply, and take action to make a difference.
Steve Maharey of Massey University then opened the speeches with a talk on perspectives and the importance of education for the future – helping students to be creative, innovative and flexible. A lot of this referenced Ken Robinson – in particular his book “Out of Our Minds”. He spoke about the tension in education between status quo and non status quo people and how we must keep pushing for effective change. To me this had a real link to the challenge set earlier in the powhiri. He felt that the New Zealand Curriculum provided the impetus for this creative future but hinted at recent changes to the education system that undermine these efforts. One book that he referenced that I hadn’t heard of and will now look up is Goran Therborn, The World: a beginners guide. He finished by emphasising what is important now is not what you know but what you can do with it and left us with a take home thought – “Another world is – possible.”
Next up was the Ignite session which was a great quickfire way to start the conference.
Brendan Spillane spoke about not getting stuck on the worry-go-round. He used an image of 2 concentric circles which he named the circle of influence and the circle of concern. He emphasised the need to think about fewer things more meaningfully.
Stephen Lines was up next on the future of thinking. He started by looking at the 130 yr old technology of light bulbs we continue to use whilst energy use booms. Led bulbs have now become available which required a different way of thinking. He emphasised the need to ask a different question in the future. Multilevel, multiaspect thinking will increase in our “problem solving futures”. Bendable displays, 4mm thin televisions and other new technologies were the start of these new questions being asked.
Mark Osborne then spoke on how to build great schools. He believes this will be about working collaboratively as the future for students is teams and collaboration. His main phrase came through as “Education should be a smorgasboard”. The 3 critical aspects to this were: Leadership and culture, collaborative practice and continual innovation. Flexible spaces and teaching modes need to be based upon student needs. You can do this in old blocks – cut holes in walls! His finishing note was the future is here, just not evenly distributed.
Kirpal Singh finished this with a talk about words: do they frame us or do we frame them? He gave examples of pairs of words demonstrating different perspectives: want/desire art/craft knowledge/understanding character/image authority/power risk/chance acquire/possess patriotic/nationalistic. He finished by encouraging us to Ignite rather than burn.
A great start to the conference and I am really looking forward to the next few days.
I like lots of the stuff Mark Osbourne is doing. But I reckon there has been far to much focus on creating amazing buildings to house amazing pedagogies before those pedagogies have sometimes developed. Having taught in terrible prefabs I know how importnat a good learning space is – but we need to make sure we get our priorities right.