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Risk vs Reward – Lessons from the Road

Chris Betcher - 16 July, 2017 - 19:02

I spent a few hours this afternoon driving the nearly 200km from Sydney to Bathurst for a day of work in a Bathurst school tomorrow. As I crossed the Blue Mountains and went past Lithgow, the roads open up a little and there are longer, straighter faster stretches of road. On one particularly long straight stretch of road I noticed that my steering wheel hung ever so slightly to the right even though I was driving in a straight line. It wasn’t enough to really bother me, but I started to wonder why it was like that and what it would take to fix it so the steering wheel was perfectly neutral while driving in a straight line. I’m sure the reason had something to do with the camber of the road, and I realised that I do in fact have some level of understanding of how a vehicle’s steering system works. How did I know this? As I pondered the question I remembered back to my very first car and how I had – on several occasions – pulled the steering wheel off and put it back on again.

You might be wondering what caused me to remove and replace the steering wheel on my car.  I mean, who does that? As I tried to remember the reason for why I would be disassembling parts of my car, it dawned on me that I used to take that old 1970 Volkswagen Type III apart and put it back to together again not because there was anything wrong with it, but simply because I could. Yes, I used to pull things apart on that car and put them back together again just for the fun of it and to try to understand how things worked.

There were many times where I pulled my VW apart and couldn’t figure out how to put it back together, and it was off the road for a few days until I could work it out. Back then, that didn’t seem like a big deal. And the value in learning how my car worked seemed a small price to pay for the inconvenience of having it off the road temporarily.  Since the VW I’ve had several other cars that I’ve been quite willing to pull apart and try to put back together, simply because I wanted to know how they worked. Engines, gearboxes, diffs… I’ve had all these things in pieces just because I was curious about what was inside and how things worked.

As I drove along in my current car, a 2015 Mitsubishi ASX, I pondered the prospect of pulling the steering wheel off and putting it back on again, adjusting it by one spline and wondering if that might fix my steering wheel’s droop to the right. As I thought about doing this, I realised that I honestly wouldn’t attempt it on the Mitsubishi, not only because it was probably way more complex than my old VW, but it was more likely to be an expensive repair if I messed it up.  Could I work out how to remove and replace the steering wheel on my current car? Sure. But would I? Nah, probably not.

And I got to thinking about why that is. I’m still a curious person and I still like to know how things work. But the idea of taking my 2015 ASX apart and putting it back together again – for fun – is just not something I’d consider, even though I’ve done it to several of the cars I’ve owned over the years.

What was different? As I thought about this, I wondered if it was the fact that the newer and more expensive the car, the less inclined I would be to tinker with it just for fun. My ASX cost about $26,000. My first VW cost $800.  There was a lot less to lose with the VW if I got it wrong.

This got me thinking about the learning process and about the balance between risk and reward. Unless you are prepared to take the risk of breaking something, you’re probably not going to reap the reward of learning. I don’t really know exactly how the steering wheel on my ASX works because I’ve not attempted to pull it apart, and so I will probably remain fairly ignorant of its inner workings. That’s just a risk vs reward situation I’m going to accept for now. This car is simply too expensive if I fuck it up.

As a teacher, over the years I’ve done a lot of great projects with kids. Some have been amazingly successful and have dramatically changed the way I think about the teaching and learning process. And some have been total disasters. But the value for me as a teacher – as a teacher who wants to continually be getting better at what I do – comes from being willing to take that risk that even if things don’t work out, the value of what I learn from trying makes it worthwhile anyway.

For several years I worked in a fancy high-falutin private school. I won’t say that I was being completely risk averse during my time there, but I also don’t think I took as many big gambles and tried as many radical things as I once would have, simply because the stakes were a little higher if I happened to mess it up. This school had a reputation to protect, demanding parents to keep happy, and there were more policy-driven hoops to jump through to really try outrageous ideas. By contrast, I’ve worked in several schools that had far less to lose, and in those schools it was always much easier to try new ideas because it didn’t matter so much whether they worked or not. Most of the best innovation seems to come from situations where failing is most definitely an option.

It’s nice to be well resourced and have great facilities. But you can do an awful lot of great stuff in a school with very limited resources. You don’t need a lot of money or resources or fancy facilities to be innovative and try new ideas. You just need to be willing to try stuff, and to not worry about whether it works or not.

The other things that struck me as I thought about this idea is that some of the cheapest, shittiest cars I’ve ever owned – the ones I had no issue pulling apart and tinkering with – are the ones that gave me the fondest memories and the deepest emotional attachment. The last few cars I’ve owned have been brand new, reasonably expensive, “nice” cars, but I have very little emotional attachment to them at all. They are just transport. Yes they are comfortable, reliable and pleasant to drive, but that’s about it. The cars I’ve loved owning the most over the years were mostly second-hand, cheap, with lots of quirky flaws yet I look back at the experiences they gave me with such great memories and the knowledge that they even shaped me as a person.  I see some parallels with the classroom there too.

Sometimes you can put that steering wheel back after you pull it apart, and sometimes you can’t. The point is not that everything you do needs to work. The real point is that everything you do should be an opportunity to be a better learner.

Categories: Planet

CSTA 2017–Some Thoughts

Normally I write several blog posts during a CSTA Annual Conference. Not this year. Why? Too much going on! The sessions I attended were very good and my time not at sessions was never boring. Lots of great conversations connecting with new friends and regular attendees. And the exhibits were worth the time as well.
Let me start with the exhibits. I know that there are people with several different opinions about exhibits at conferences but I love them. This year there were over 40 exhibits and they were all relevant to attendees. What were my highlights? Well there was Rolls Royce showing off virtual reality technology that they use in manufacturing and development. They are a technology company make no mistake about it. They need our students.
Making things was a big topic in the exhibit hall as well. Several people were showing off things to make/create in CS classes. 3D printing, robots, and programmable gadgets. I think physical computing is a coming thing. Microsoft was showing some really cool projects using the Micro:Bit and AdaFruit Circuit playground. Much of these were also at ISTE BTW. They have a web site called MakeCode.com that lets students program several devices and Minecraft it
There were several exhibits showing robots with Wonder Workshop (makers of Dot and Dash) having the largest exhibit. There was a session on the legal ramifications of using drones in education as well.
There were very few sessions on using robots and programmable small devices though. Maybe that will change in the future as there seems to be a lot of interest in all of these things especially in K-8 CS education.
Cyber Security was another big topic at CSTA this year. Lots of people are looking into how that fits into the curriculum. Closely related was a session on ethics which has spawned conversations continuing over the summer on Twitter with the #EthicalCS twitter chat (See Ethics and Computer Science Education )
Social media was a big topic with a lot of people tweeting at the conference and a Birds of a Feature that included a short mini Twitter chat. I did tweet a good bit myself. The conference hashtag was #CSTA2017 and you can look for people’s tweets to see what others were interested in.
Conversations for me were wide ranging. Talks about these cool new devices. Chats about the growth of CS for all and what that means. How we teach different things. What different things. I talked to a number of people about AP CS Principles. Most of us agree it can be a really good course that is rigorous and interesting for both students and teachers. So many ways to teach it though!
A few other observations. I didn’t see as much interest or discussion of mobile phone development. Yes, people are using App Inventor more (or so it appears to me) but they are not as focused on phones. I didn’t hear any iPhone talk. That I didn’t hear something doesn’t mean it wasn’t talked about of course but I do hear a lot.
There was more talk about AP CS Principles than AP CS A. Maybe all the APCS A people feel more established in that course but of a lot of us are still working our way though Principles.
Interest in CS is sure growing. That we had 650+ people suggests that alone. And industry is being supportive with something like 150 people getting funding help from Infosys Foundation, Google, and Rolls Royce to attend. That’s all good. It feels like there were more K-8 teachers this year as well. That is a fast growing area in CS education.
All in all I think I picked the Computer Science Education Things I’m Watching in 2017 back in January. Movement on all fronts. We’ll see what happens in September and the new school year but I think the CSTA Conference is still a leading edge professional development experience for CS educators.
Were you at CSTA? There was much to much for any one person to see it all. What were the things that moved or interested you there?
Categories: Planet

“Any path that leads to a happy and healthy life.”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 15 July, 2017 - 22:18

Just something I was thinking about the other day…excuse the ramble.

Years ago as a principal and assistant principal, I would go to the same McDonald’s for breakfast about once a week and over four years, and the same young lady was working the drive-thru. After maybe two visits, I swore she would literally recognize my voice through the intercom and would greet me with an awesome “hello!”  When I would pull up to the window, she would always have the biggest smile and would always go out of her way to talk to me in a way that would make my day.  Her demeanor always led me to having a better day at work and probably easier to be around that day.

When I asked her about her work at McDonald’s, she told me that she loved it because every single day she would get to interact with people and bring joy to their day.  She made a difference through what she did in her job, not necessarily in what her job did for the world.

Yet, I often hear people demean jobs like working at McDonald’s.  What I believe is that their notion of “success” is placed on to someone else, and we look down upon them.  I have met owners of companies who make a ton of money who are miserable and hate what they do, and then I have met people like that young lady who work at McDonald’s who feel they are making a difference in their work every single day.

When I think of her, I think of this quote from Macklemore:

Part of the reason I challenge the notion of what happens today in schools is that there is often a pretty narrow interpretation of what “success” means.  When I went to school, we were told over and over again that going to university meant your were a success, and if you didn’t go, it was looked down upon.  On a blog that focuses mostly on education, I can honestly say that my goal isn’t that every student goes to post-secondary. My hope is that we can help every student find meaning in what they do, and happiness.  I want them to have options and if post-secondary is something they need to do to get where they want to go, I want to make sure that I help open that door, but that they understand that there is not only one door to success.

This is not just for the sake of the students, but for the sake of our communities and how we look at “success” of others. Dean Shareski wrote recently about the importance of “maintainers” in our world today, and I greatly appreciated his thoughts:

I have great concerns about the educational fetish of entrepreneurship. As I’ve written before, the danger here is passion and vocation are synonymous. The idea that being your own boss, like driving your own learning is the ultimate goal. While providing these options for students is what we should be doing, I fear we have sent an unintended or worse, an intended message that innovation and entrepreneurship and branding should drive your work and learning life. Owning your learning is not the same as being an entrepreneur.

What this emphasis does is devalues people like your custodial staff who work behind the scenes maintaining the spaces where children learn. As the article states, the vast majority of human work is in the area of maintaining. Those privileged few who carry the label of innovator or entrepreneur, are beholden to men and women who do the daily work of maintenance. Even within education, there is a great deal of maintaining. Maintaining might be considered “status quo” which is almost always seen as a dirty word in education. But many aspects of status quo are useful and healthy. The mantra of change continues to suggest that everything schools have been doing is wrong or outdated. Reading good books, learning about the world, singing in a choir, developing healthy bodies are all part of the maintenance of our education system. Are there opportunities to innovate within those activities? Certainly. But there is an equal, perhaps greater amount that doesn’t need to change.

Your success is not my success, and vice-versa.  It is not our students’ success either.  They have their own path.

One of the reasons that I talk about “innovation” as a mindset, not a product, is that in any role, a mindset that looks at doing something with what they know is always applicable.  Whether it is what you do in work, parenting, or other aspects of life, the solutions we create to make our lives and the lives of others better, makes a huge difference.

One of my favourite stories of the past year was that exemplifies this idea, titled “Elementary School Janitor Leaves Cute Messages In the Carpet Overnight“, the custodian, who never actually see students face-to-face, would leave messages for students every night to brighten the rest of their day. From the article:

“His shift is when the kids are gone, so oftentimes they lack that connection between the night staff and the students here in the day,” said Mitchell. “It really drives home the point that there are so many people that come in here after you’re gone and they work so hard to make a safe, comfortable, and happy place for you to learn. He’s an employee of the school, but he’s a stranger to the kids so to take that extra time with these small gestures really drives home that personal connection.”

Little ideas that we bring to fruition, no matter what role, can make a positive impact on the lives of others, which only spreads to others.

After reading what I have written so far,  I just hope that every student we serve finds a place where they can make a positive difference in the lives of others in a way that is meaningful to them.  How they make that difference can be so unique and different, and in so many different roles in their lives, but do we help them find their own path, or do we try to predetermine one for them?

I will end with this quote from a student:

 

Categories: Planet

Ethics and Computer Science Education

Are ethics and the effects of computer science a reason to teach CS to everyone? Increasingly we are seeing all sort of impacts on daily life because of computing. Some are unintended but others are intended and often some of these impacts are not good. What is going on? Basically I think two things. One is that people are not going beyond asking if something can be done to should it be done. The other is just plain unethical behavior done for profit. Perhaps education in ethical thinking can help. It is at least something we should try.

Computing and its effects are still relatively new. We’re doing things today with computers that were the stuff of science fiction not very long ago. Smart phones, GPS navigation, self-driving cars (I heard about self driving boats – big ones – at CSTA this week) and much more. Schools are teaching students how to make these things possible but are we teaching enough about how to weigh the consequences? Not always. But we should.

Teaching good behavior on the Internet and in social media is becoming very common. In fact in some places it is required to be taught. That’s great as far as it goes but computing is so much more than that.

The CS 2013 curriculum for undergraduate includes ethics and professional behavior. But what are we doing in K12? Are ethics part of the discussion in K12 standards? It is in the CS K12 Framework. Still it seems to be on the backburner for many teachers. Why? Well full curriculum for starters. There is not much room for it in the APCS A curriculum. There is in the AP CS Principles curriculum and hopefully there will be some good educational discussions in those classes.

Really though it shouldn’t be a separate topic in my opinion. Ethical behavior is something that we should bake into the curriculum in various contexts. We need students to be thinking about ethics from the very start. I argue that students need to learn to think about if something should be done as they learn how to do it. Take big data for example. Data analysis is a powerful and wonderful tool. It can be used to solve all sorts of problems from medical research to how to get around the neighborhood. But it can also be used in negative ways. Can you imagine what the  Nazis could have done with modern databases? Think on that for a while and realize that there are bad actors in governments in the world today.

Computers can be used to make car engines cleaner and more efficient. They can also be used, as we saw with Volkswagen, to cheat on emissions tests. Did the engineers who wrote that cheat code think about the ethical implications? We’ll probably never know but our students should be taught to think about it.

Some may argue that ethics belongs in a separate course or that CS teachers should leave that teaching to others but I think the special context of CS and in fact the special power that CS knowledge gives requires we, CS teachers, include it in out curriculum. More than that I think that everyone, not just the people who will be CS professionals, needs to understand how to think about ethical computing. Can we really expect business or political leaders to think about ethical use of computers if they don’t have training in the mix? I don’t think so.

The ethics of using computers, how and why they are used and what they can do, is increasingly an important life skill. Ethical computing is another reason we should teach CS for all.

BTW The other day there was a twitter chat about ethics and computer science education (Check the #EthicalCS twitter tag). Saber Khan is organizing them on Wednesday's during the summer (8pm Eastern time) and this was the first. It was an interesting conversation and brought a lot of ideas to light for me. I recommend joining in over the summer.

Categories: Planet

Reflections: Occasional Papers #AI #education #21stcenturyskills #NSWDoE

Darcy Moore's Blog - 14 July, 2017 - 13:33

“As part of the Education for a Changing World project, the NSW Department of Education has established the Education: Future Frontiers Occasional Paper Series. The series will bring together essays commissioned by the department from distinguished Australian and international authors to stimulate debate and discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI), education and 21st century skill needs.”

The purpose of this blog post is to highlight common threads gleaned from these “occasional papers” commissioned by my employer to explore the never-resolved challenge of planning the future, not just for us “in education” – but as a society. It also feels necessary to make a few suggestions and point out what is not said by the authors and to wrap some context around it all from the point of view of a citizen of NSW, father (with children in primary and secondary school) and school-based educator.

These papers all suggest the following in some way:

  1. Traditional skills (updated for contemporary times) are essential for maintaining civil society. Citizens must be critically multi-literate with a strong sense of context and history. Enlightenment values are essential.
  2. Creativity, imagination, emotional intelligence, collaboration and communication skills will assume an importance not traditionally emphasised in edu-systems for three reasons: 1) to maintain employability; 2) to provide a citizenry with skills to shape the future; 3) to help with increased leisure-time (the ‘fruits of civilisation’?).
  3. The cognitive power needed for an individual to fully participate in society will require a quality education previously reserved for a small elite. Technological knowledge is essential but must be complemented by strong ethical decision-making abilities in a time of rapid social change and civic need.
  4. The purpose of education should be focused on creating a fair and just society.

After reading these sensible, intelligent and perceptive papers one cannot escape the thought that most of the changes mooted have been essential for some time now* and are not really made any more urgent by the coming (already here) AI or digital revolutions. They have been urgent for at least two decades and generally similar papers could have been written about the time we were connected to the World Wide Web in schools. It should noted that at this time we commenced implementing standardised testing and wrote managerial, outcomes-based syllabi rather than focusing on the genuine re-structuring of our schools where children, to paraphrase Sir Ken Robinson, are batch-processed by age. We have been shuffling digital paper, sorting out the lettering on the electronic filing cabinets and spending an inordinate amount of money getting ready for 1990 for some time now. As Yuval Noah Harari eloquently puts it, “the governmental tortoise cannot keep up with the technological hare”. It is also worth quoting Harari on school systems:

“After both factories and government ministries became accustomed to thinking in the language of numbers, schools followed suit. They started to gauge the worth of each student according to his or her average mark, whereas the worth of each teacher and principal was judged according to the school’s overall average. Once bureaucrats adopted this yardstick, reality was transformed. Originally, schools were supposed to focus on enlightening and educating students, and marks were merely a means of measuring success. But naturally enough schools soon began focusing on achieving high marks. As every child, teacher and inspector knows, the skills required to get high marks in an exam are not the same as a true understanding of literature, biology or mathematics. Every child, teacher and inspector also knows that when forced to choose between the two, most schools will go for the marks.”

All education systems are shackled to ideology. It can be no other way but there does need to be a rational approach to ensuring that more than lip-service is given to stated values. Neo-liberal policies are increasingly acknowledged as making it challenging for democracies to truly reflect values that are in favour of a “fair and just society”. This is demonstrably true in our country, the UK and USA where the already privileged have benefited from a transfer of public resources into private hands. This has been an economic process but it has also been philosophic as the traditional jobs and resources of government are outsourced. It is also relevant to mention that those “Enlightenment values” have a challenge in a society where a much larger percentage of politicians have religious affiliations than do their constituents. This is relevant when the public record so clearly shows the history of funding education in a secular state like Australia.

Citizens in a democracy could possibly think and vote their way out of any Gordian Knot if educated well in the rights and responsibilities of the individual in a civil society. All of the authors emphasise the importance of the citizenry having the cognitive skills to shape their individual and collective destinies. Of course, everything has changed since the widespread adoption of television in the 1960s and then devices connected to the Internet, more specifically the World Wide Web. Schooling has only superficially changed in this time. The critical thinking skills needed to navigate the mass media environment have never been so desperately needed in an era when propaganda is called “fake news”. This leads me back to what the occasional papers espouse. For those who are yet to read them here are some selected quotes with the occasional comment:

On Education in the 21st Century by Richard Watson (link)

“UK futurist Richard Watson is the author of Digital vs Human and Future Files. This broad ranging essay reflects on the purpose and value of education in a rapidly changing world where young people are facing accelerating technological change.”

Watson writes personably and sensibly about education more than about our education system. I found myself nodding mostly but there is lots of feel good stuff that many will consider wishful thinking. The big plus is that it is not written in management-speak and there were none of those “weasel-words” that Don Watson railed against. To paraphrase George Orwell, Richard Watson writes like a human being.

Watson says, “Never confuse movement with progress…” and these are probably the five most important words in the document. Our system has been paddling like mad but not keeping-up as the salmon whizz-by, heading upstream. Largely managerial solutions are unlikely to produce what is needed for a genuinely improved education system. In fact, many will just result in people who may be able to assist choosing alternate careers. I would agree strongly with his assertion that “Individuality and innovation are strongly linked. But innovation only truly flourishes in societies that are diverse and tolerant of other individuals, especially those with seemingly strange or non-conformist ideas.“ Schools are difficult places for most non-conformists.

“Think about how you’d do things differently if you were building the education system from scratch – a new system with no legacies or liabilities whatsoever. One in which resources, the media, the unions, politicians, parents and the business environment weren’t a factor at all. What would you do? More importantly, perhaps, what would you stop doing? Spend about a year thinking about this.”

One does wonder why a multi-skilled team is not formed and given the year Watson recommends with the brief: what would a contemporary education be like for Year 7 students entering an ‘average comprehensive school’ (ICSEA 950-1050) over six years? Create a vision that can be trialled with a Year 7 cohort in an already existing high school. This team would have to be practically innovative. Their vision needs to be doable. They may be better to write a narrative that shows parents, students, teachers, educates and politicians what it would look and feel like – as well as the challenges – rather than a paper.

“I’m a fan of Slow Education, which, like Slow Food, teaches us to take our time. Both Slow Food and Slow Education are people-centric, reflective and aim to ensure that individuals appreciate where the things they consume come from. Both emphasise the importance of local difference, craft and quality over standardised production and cheap ingredients.“

Hallelujah! Watson also sounds a warning note about PISA noting the apparently impressive results of some countries are not reflected by other measures, including high youth suicide rates, stagnant economies with a lack of creativity and imagination required to do something about this state of affairs.

“Wouldn’t it be lovely if the internet got switched off on Sundays so that we could recharge ourselves? This isn’t go to happen, but how about banning mobile phones on school premises until the age of sixteen? OMG. This won’t go down well with students, but would remove distraction and could dilute peer-pressure and online abuse. The idea would apply to teachers and parents on school premises too.”

Banning phones always gets a rousing response from teachers and parents (and some students) but the reality is having systems to manage ownership/use is much more sensible. A bad law is one that cannot be policed. Much better to address wellbeing and etiquette issues.

“Teaching needs to become one of the most desirable professions. I might be wrong, but it strikes me that paying teachers a lot more could dramatically increase the quantity and quality of teachers. If paying more directly won’t work, how about making teaching a tax-free profession? Or how about building schools with heavily subsidised or free accommodation on site for teachers?”

What odds would you give of this happening?

The AI Revolution by Toby Walsh (link)

“Toby Walsh is a leading researcher and Scientia Professor of Artificial Intelligence at Data61, University of New South Wales, and was named as one of the Knowledge Nation 100 “rock stars” of Australia’s digital revolution in 2015. This paper outlines the rapid advances in AI and robotics, the societal and political challenges that arise from them and the historical lessons to be understood. It includes reflections on how education can be a powerful tool to enable us to adapt to the changes just over the horizon.”

Walsh is very readable and paints a picture that allows one to clearly see how Australia is positioned technologically and economically. We have some advantages but must be agile to avoid serious degradation of our quality of life and strains to the social structure. He emphasises that we need to get cracking.

“Australia is one of the countries close to the front of this revolution. Australia punches above its weight in AI research. In August 2017, Australia hosts both the leading Machine Learning conference (ICML 2017) and the leading Artificial Intelligence conference (IJCAI 2017). A reflection of Australia’s standing internationally is that Australia is the first country outside North America to have hosted the IJCAI conference for a second time. In addition, there is a healthy startup community…”

“Australia has a necessity to be at the front of this revolution. We have a high wage economy, and many low wage neighbours. We can only hope to compete with the efficiencies brought about by greater automation. With commodity prices falling, automation has kept our mines competitive. Australia is also cursed by distances, both within the country and to other countries. Around 10 percent of our GDP goes into transportation costs. Autonomous vehicles could drastically reduce these transportation costs, and provide a means of reducing CO2 emissions3.”

“The impact that AI will have on society will therefore likely be felt early on in Australia compared to many other developed countries. We will not have the luxury of observing what happens  in the US or elsewhere. We will need to lead the way in adapting to the changes.”

Walsh’s analysis is wide-ranging for such a brief paper and he articulates concisely what most of us have been thinking about from our reading and ‘feeds’ (or even if only reading the newspapers and watching a news bulletin every once and a while). He also emphasises ethics as an important field to strengthen. Walsh is cognisant of gender issues and also cites creativity as a fundamental driver for future wellbeing.

“It is a little surprising that there has not been greater concern within society about the impact of technology on our privacy. The Snowden revelations should have been a wake-up call to society about the potential abuses. Few technologists were surprised that our emails were being read. Email is one of the easiest forms of communication that can be monitored. Unlike other forms of communication like the telephone or post, email is already in a form that is machine readable.”

“In the Industrial Revolution, we still had a cognitive advantage over machines. It is less clear what advantages we will maintain over the machines this time.”

“At the time of the Industrial Revolution, the world took several large shocks which helped society to adapt to the change. Two World Wars and the intervening Great Depression set the stage for what economists are now starting to recognise as an unusual reversal in inequality. The introduction of the welfare state, of labour laws and unions, and of universal education began a period of immense social change. We started to educate more of the workforce, giving them jobs rather than allowing machines simply to make them unemployed. At the same time, we provided a safety net for many, giving them economic security rather than the workhouse when machines made them unemployed.”

“In fifty years time, we may look back at the next decades as a golden age for ethics. In handing over many of our decisions to machines, we will need to make explicit in computer code many of our society’s ethical choices. This will require us to have much greater clarity and consensus about what these ethical choices are.”

“A creative population will be able to keep itself employed and ahead of the machines. Even if machines can be creative, they cannot speak to the human experience: about love, death, and all the things that make us unique. A creative population will also be able to take advantage of the free time that automation may give us. It follows that creativity can and should be taught more actively. If machines take over the sweat, this could leave us with the time to create the next Renaissance.”

“The under-representation of women in AI and robotics is undesirable for many reasons. Women will, for instance, be disadvantaged in an increasingly technically focused job market. It may also result in the construction of AI systems that fail to address issues relevant to half the population, and even to systems that perpetuate sexism. More initiatives are therefore needed to get young girls interested in STEM in general, and AI and robotics in particular.”

“Data in government should be opened up so that outside parties can innovate. Education should be at the centre of this open data revolution.”

“It will take some political courage to put education data at the centre of an open government as this will, for instance, expose where the system is failing students. But there will be many benefits.”

“Education can become more evidence based. Parents and students can be more informed in their choices. Teachers can share best practice. Heads can identify areas in their schools needing improvement. Universities can target disadvantaged students who might not otherwise benefit from higher education. And high tech companies like Google and IBM, as well as startups, can produce software optimised to actual learning experiences.”

The issue of school/student data is a hot one. Walsh can see that innovation is desirable and that this data will fuel improved teaching and learning or funding being allocated where needed. Many would suggest it is more likely the data collected from students will be used in controversial or inappropriate ways, like NAPLAN data mined from the MySchool website for the benefit of real estate agencies. A key question: which private companies are trusted, ethical ones that have the common weal firmly in mind and balanced with share prices and profitability? The question also arises, how will data collected on those under 18 years of age be kept private rather that potentially being used illegally? Health, discipline issues, counsellor reports, teacher commentary on welfare trackers and reports are just some of the data collected along with learning information. The ‘choice’ that Walsh mentions is hotly (and fairly) contested. Those without economic and cultural capital tend to have little choice in the marketplace.

Where Walsh is clearly correct is when he says:

“A successful society will be one that embraces the opportunity that these technologies promise, but at the same time prepares and helps its citizens through this time of immense change.”

Educating for a Digital Future – The Challenge by Marc Tucker (link)

Marc Tucker is President of the US-based National Centre on Education and the Economy and Visiting Distinguished Fellow at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.The Challenge describes how AI, automation, robotics, natural language processing and related disciplines are evolving and the significant consequences for work, jobs and the distribution of income.

Marc Tucker writes with authority, especially if you come to his work fresh. He has been ‘around’ for longer than I have been teaching. His name is connected with the implementation of market philosophies in education, including the implementation of standards-based education throughout the USA. More recently, he has championed the common core reforms. Few of us would believe that American educational solutions are where we should be looking for answers but that is unfair, when considering this paper, which is excellent. Let’s get to the nub with a few quotes:

“The American economy is splitting in two pieces. One piece—highly educated and skilled— is benefitting hugely from the new technologies I have been describing—at least so far—and the other, undereducated and less skilled, is being put out of work by them.”

Politically, this has become obvious over the last year or so with Brexit, the growth in political extremism and the election of a reality television star and casino operator to the presidency of the most powerful nation in the world. Unless economic decisions are made that support less-educated citizens to be able to live decent lives the divide will grow, making it difficult to govern. The data about what percentage of the wealth (not just) American billionaires possess complared to other citizens is stark and very publicly available. Educating the populace to make rational decisions, when (they feel) they are being ‘screwed’ is fast-becoming the challenge as funds are directed away from public-infrastructure, including schools, and anti-Enlightenment politicians and policies are becoming a disturbing new norm. It is also clear that many citizens are not particularly interested in upgrading their skills and view education negatively. This is ultimately the greatest of challenges for a democracy which needs an educated populace to thrive.

“…led me to two conclusions. One is that the first stage of the evolution of these technologies is well advanced in its implementation and is now driving the economic divide I just mentioned. That stage has been characterised by what is becoming a vast extinction in the advanced industrial countries of the kind of jobs requiring basic literacy that the industrial model of public education was designed to prepare most graduates for. If that were the end of the story, the solution would be to redesign our education systems to prepare all of our graduates for the kind of work that our elites have been doing—professional work requiring complex thinking skills, deep knowledge in multiple domains, strong communication skills and social skills, strong values and strong character. That is an enormous task, but one that a growing number of countries are learning how to do.”

“If the human community continues on its current course, Harari’s vision of the future seems all too probable to me, a future in which a small number of humans manage to become literally immortal and to live on forever a life of immense power and wealth, a larger number may live quite well—though not forever—in the style of Renaissance artists, thinkers and craftspeople serving the ultra wealthy and the vast mass of the people thought of as surplus labor are paid out with a universal basic income. It is all too possible that will be a world, again like Renaissance Italy, in which the wealthy clans are constantly duking it out with the other clans, only this time with weapons of unimaginable destructive power. That is not a world I want for my grandchildren—that is, after all, whom we are talking about here—even if they are able to become members of one of the first two classes.”

I would highly recommend exploring Marc Tucker’s reading list at the end of his first paper. Start with Yuval Noah Harari who I quoted earlier in this piece. Tucker could have pushed much harder to emphasise one of Harari’s points about the potential impact of coming technological change for individuals:

“…in an upgraded world you will feel like a Neanderthal hunter in Wall Street. You won’t belong.”

Educating for a Digital Future – Notes on the Curriculum by Marc Tucker (link)

This second paper from Marc Tucker follows The Challenge with an exploration of the implications for what young people will need to know and be able to do to cope with this world, and the challenges that this presents to education systems worldwide.

“As I envision this system, it will be crucially important for students to understand and embrace the core values of the Enlightenment, upon which all the progress humanity has made since has been based, especially reasoning from evidence. This applies to physics and history, mathematics and the electronics lab. It is not so because you saw it on the internet or it is here in your textbook. How do you know this is true? Where is the evidence? How can we judge the merits of two policy proposals? Two views of the same historical event? Two proposed treatments for the symptoms this patient is showing? Two interpretations of this novel?”

“The kind of history I have in mind is history that enables the students to understand how power has been acquired over the years and how it has been used; why, through most of history, government has been run by autocrats to benefit the few, not the many; how the march of science and evidence-based inquiry that has provided the incredible improvements in the human condition that have marked the last few hundred years of history have gone hand in hand with democracy and freely-elected government and what could happen if that light were extinguished.”

There is a great deal of evidence that American education systems are failing dismally to prevent the kind of world that Tucker fears. ABC Political Editor Chris Uhlmann’s recent analysis of the G 20 summit in Hamburg posited that:

“Donald Trump has pressed ‘fast forward’ on the decline of the United States as a global leader. He managed to isolate his nation, to confuse and alienate his allies and to diminish America.”

The failure of American schools to educate the citizenry in civics and citizenship must bear some of the responsibility for the election of such a leader so ill-versed in democratic traditions and values. There’s much more that can (and has) been said about Trump’s career trajectory and how it represents the twin-demons of demagogic politics and manufactured celebrity using the mass media.

Not just schools

“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela, 1995

These occasional papers are not just relevant to those thinking about schools and education in NSW. A few thoughts:

  • Government-wide, inter-departmental planning is essential as “education” is not a solution in itself. There needs to be much more co-operation on Big Picture directions, ethics and the values that inform cohesive decision-making. The environment, employment, housing, health and wellbeing are key areas for collaboration. There’s lots to be re-thought and it won’t happen without increased and de-politicised collaboration.
  • Invest in 0-7 year olds as the 2003 Australian of the Year, Professor Fiona Stanley has implored us to do for most of her career. We need to think longer term as a society. It makes complete sense to focus on our youngest Australians to prepare them for life, work and citizenship in what will soon be the 22nd century. Another 5000 words could be written on this but I restrict myself to saying this focus would do more to improve lives and our society than any other.
  • Euthanasia. Yes, that’s right, it is currently being debated in the NSW parliament. Unless we look ethically at how money and resources are invested we cannot possibly fund education for our youngest citizens appropriately. It is well-documented that costs in the last month of a person’s life are very expensive. Often these people wish to choose the time of their death but our current law prohibits this from happening legally. Back in March I attended the Brain Science Roundtable at the office of the The Advocate for Children and Young People* and listened to a range of eminent thinkers clearly advocating for governments to shift focus and act on what is needed to improve societal outcomes by focusing on the beginning of life rather than the last days. We need to resource the first years of life and it makes economic and ethical sense to look at how this can be done.

In closing, it seems pertinent to mention that last week the ICT in schools for teaching and learning audit assessed how well New South Wales public schools are using ICT to improve teaching and learning. It focussed on planning and teacher and student use of ICT. It examined whether:

  • the Department identifies key strategic opportunities to enhance the use of ICT platforms and technologies in schools
  • teachers are integrating ICT into classroom practice
  • the Department monitors the impact of ICT on student learning.

The key findings ask by July 2018, the Department of Education:

1. Review the Technology for Learning program and school ICT support resourcing to determine whether resourcing is adequate for modern school requirements.
2. Develop a program to improve wireless networks in all NSW schools, for instance by expanding the Connecting Country Schools Program to all NSW schools.
3. Implement an assessment of school ‘ICT maturity’, and use this to target assistance to those schools requiring support with forward planning for ICT.
4. Improve the use of evidence to inform plans and strategies, including:

  • more detailed monitoring of teacher and student access to and use of ICT
  • evaluating the impact of teacher professional learning on student outcomes
  • further examining the links between ICT and student outcomes.

Technology and how we employ technology needs much more focus in schools. This has been the case for some time now.

 

* Some thinking from the 1990s is particularly prescient:

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.”

Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark (1995)

  • The primary political and philosophical issue of the next century will be the definition of who we are.
  • Once a computer achieves human intelligence it will necessarily roar past it.
  • It is in the nature of exponential growth that events develop extremely slowly for extremely long periods of time, but as one glides through the knee of the curve, events erupt at an increasingly furious pace. And that is what we will experience as we enter the twenty-first century.
  • The speed and density of computation have been doubling every three years (at the beginning of the twentieth century) to one year (at the end of the twentieth century), regardless of the type of hardware used. …Despite many decades of progress since the first calculating equipment was used in the 1890 census, it was not until the mid-1960s that this phenomenon was even noticed (although Alan Turing had an inkling of it in 1950).
  • The Law of Accelerating Returns: As order exponentially increases, time exponentially speeds up (that is, the time interval between salient events grows shorter as time passes). The Law… applies specifically to evolutionary processes.
  • Order… is information that fits a purpose.
  • Sometimes, a deeper order—a better fit to a purpose—is achieved through simplification rather than further increases in complexity.
  • A primary reason that evolution—of life-forms or technology—speeds up is that it builds on its own increasing order.

Ray KurzweilThe Age of Spiritual Machines (1999) and for the above here is my source.

Featured image: Screenshot from Education: Future Frontiers Occasional Paper Series

The post Reflections: Occasional Papers #AI #education #21stcenturyskills #NSWDoE appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

Looking Beyond the Score

The Principal of Change George Couros - 14 July, 2017 - 08:36

From the article, “5 Unusual Facts About Google’s Odd (and Wildly Successful) Management Practices“(read the whole thing):

5. When hiring, high GPAs and test scores don’t matter

Relying heavily on data crunching, Bock told The New York Times a few years back that GPAs and test scores are worthless as a criteria for hiring, unless you’re an entry-level grad. Google found that they don’t predict anything.

As Bock tells the Times, “After two or three years, your ability to perform at Google is completely unrelated to how you performed when you were in school, because the skills you required in college are very different. You’re also fundamentally a different person. You learn and grow; you think about things differently.”

Consequently, it’s not uncommon to find 14 percent of some Google teams are people who’ve never attended college.

High test scores in school do not equal success in that area.  There are so many other factors that need to be considered.  I have met many leaders in education who know all the theory but can’t connect with people.  If you know all the best leadership strategies but you do not have the emotional intelligence to connect with people, does it matter what you know in leadership?

I have said this over and over again if we focus on improving scores in schools from our students, we are trying to fit students into a box they might not want to be put in.  If you focus on finding the strengths and talents of your students, you can do that tomorrow.  Don’t get this mixed up with the idea that I do not believe we shouldn’t teach students content or have some type of standardized assessments. I am saying that school should be much more than that, and how we see “success” is an extremely personal venture.  There is more to life than “test scores”, and school should be no different.

Categories: Planet

10 Ways to Tackle Back to School Like a Pro

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 14 July, 2017 - 06:55

Engage and Organize from Day 1

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

Follow @coolcatteacher on Twitter

Great teaching starts on the first day. Right now, a little information on trends and classroom organization will help you improve your school year. So here, you’ll learn about some hot back to school trends and get some tips on using them in your classroom. Let’s get ready!

This blog post is sponsored by Staples. All content and opinions are my own. 1 – Emoji is Hot!

Emojis are everywhere. Walking through my local Staples, these cute faces are on pencil bags, boxes, backpacks and even charging cables.

Pro Classroom Tips

Writing. Some teachers are using emojis in their writing prompts. Students draw or are given an emoji. They write about a situation where that emoji would be appropriate.

Emojis are images that express emotion. They are very cool for back to school. Use them in classroom activities.

Math. Some algebra teachers are using the emoji insert feature in Google Docs to replace the x or y in Algebra with an emoji. It helps kids understand the purpose of a variable.

Mood. Some teachers have kids draw or select their emoji as they come into class. This gives a quick attitude check with the students.

Figure out ways to bring trends “in” to your classroom. (See fidget spinner ideas below.) 

Staples has great limited time deals going on now. Plus, their 110% price match guarantee means if you find it less somewhere else within fourteen days, you can come back to Staples and they’ll refund you the difference, plus take 10% off the price.

2 – Shop Early While Staples guarantees everyday low prices and has products in-stock all season long, shopping early means you get what you want. With all of the colors and choices, the “popular” colors can go first. (Or emojis as in the case of item 2 below!) 3 – Personalized Ways to Write and Create

Unique ways to color and draw mean that every child can pick something that suits their hand size and writing style.

When many of us were kids, Crayons came in one style. Now, there are twist crayons and a wide variety. As a Mom of two children who struggle to write, I’m thankful for the new choices.

Pro Back to School Tips

Parents. To better understand your child’s needs, take him or her shopping with you. Let them pick out their supplies. They’ll usually take better care of them.

Teachers. As a teacher, pick out a variety of writing tools. Make them available so you can see what your students like. Some hands are better for larger sized writing tools. Others prefer smaller ones.

Teaching Venn Diagrams. Have students create Venn diagrams or graphic organizers to compare various writing tools. This helps them become familiar with the tools you have and comparing and contrasting things.

Learning is personal so creating should be too. Have an assortment of tools to spark creativity.  4 – Customize Your Planning System

Customize your planning system. The Staples Arc Customizable planning system is a great start to making your own planner. (I’ve been using it for the last several years and it is featured in my Do What Matters productivity book.) 

This year, Staples has these cool stickers and colored project forms!

Customize your planning system using Post-it® Brand and Arc by Staples

Pro Organizing Tips

Invest in a paper punch. Whatever type of planner you use, make sure you have a “punch” and some of the same sized paper so that you can easily add to the planner. The Staples Arc Punch works for me with standard sized paper.

Use sticky notes. Put your top three things to do at school each day on one colored note. Put your top three home items on another colored note. Then, when you transition between home and school, just change the order of the notes. You can even move important things from day to day.

5 – Motivate with Quotes

Use journals, notepads, and supplies with motivational quotes.

Send positive messages. Choose notepads, planners, and supplies with a positive message.

Pro Teacher or Parent Tip

Make your own quotes. Purchase sticker paper. Make your own quotes. Stick them on commonly used items for quick encouragement at a glance.

Choose wisely. We become what we think about most of the time. Choose positive messages that fit with your values.

6 – Get the Perfect Stylus for your Tablet

Sketchnoting and drawing on tablets are becoming very popular. Get a great stylus. (Staples has a Youth Stylus for students, available in-store only.)

Whether you need an Apple pen or want to use one of the student styluses, Staples can get you ready to draw and sketch on your iPad, Surface, or another tablet device.

Pro Tip

Stylus ends are everywhere.  Some pens and pencils are now coming with a stylus on the end. If you want to always have a stylus handy, you might want to invest in one of these types of pens or pencils.

Check the box. Check to see the recommended tablet device for a stylus before you buy it.

Stock your maker space with a variety of tapes, coloring books, and art supplies.

7 – Stock Your Maker Space

Colored tape, paints, coloring books  and more. Stock your Maker Space with a variety of craft and artistic items.

MakerSpace Pro Tip

Tape. Duct or craft tape with patterns are so useful in a maker space. Not only can they be used to decorate things, but if you’re making robots, they can decorate and reinforce them. Buy five or six rolls of several types of patterns. Select complimentary colors so that students can mix and match.

Coloring books and mindfulness. Adults are enjoying the coloring pages as a relaxation technique. Students can do this as well. Staples has a wide variety of the Mancala color pages. Stock them for an activity students can do or even help them calm.

8 – Make Sure Your Home Computer Backup Is Working

Can you afford to replace your computer? How about all of the data on your computer? Fall is a great time to make sure your backup is working. If you need a backup, the options are easier to use than ever. Purchase a backup device for your home computer and take time to set it up.

Fall is a great time to buy a backup hard drive for your home computer. If you have one, now is the time to check to make sure it is working.

 Home Backup Pro Tip

You need two hard disks for your home computer backup system.

Full backup. You should have a backup drive. This type of backup will make it so you can restore your computer with the click of a button. If you don’t want to have to take the time to re-set up your computer if it has issues, you’ll want to have a backup.

External file storage. Purchase a second hard drive to archive old files. If you make movies or take a lot of photos, organize them on an external hard drive if you’re not using them. At the beginning of the school year, try to have 20-35% of your hard drive space free so you won’t have to stop working to free up space.

9 – Fidget Spinners

Like emojis, fidget spinners are another hot item.

Fidget spinners are another hot trend in the classroom and with students. Check your school policies before buying them for your child to take them to school. Smart teachers will figure out how to use them in class.

Pro Teacher Tip.

Math. For timed math tests, have students time themselves by spinning their fidget spinner. Let them try to finish before it stops spinning.

Science. Ask students to figure out why the fidget spinner spins.

10 – Label and Color Code Your Classroom

Print neat labels to be able to see items from a distance.

Printed labels and color codes for your classes and subjects will help workflow more easily in your classroom.

Think about the colors you use and make life easier by grouping tasks, subjects, or activities by color.

Organizing Pro Tips

Color Your Classes. Each class or subject should have a color. The time savings when I did this was amazing. I use the same color dry erase marker, folders, sticky notes – everything for one class is one color. Student notebooks even match the color code for the class.

Labeling. Think about the size of the surface before you print labels. Create and print one or two before typing all of the names of your students before you find they don’t fit. Get a child or student volunteer to help you label once you’ve decided how you’ll do it.

Visit www.staples.com/back-to-school  for more information and great deals!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) 

The post 10 Ways to Tackle Back to School Like a Pro appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Categories: Planet

The Science Behind Stories and Anecdotes

The Principal of Change George Couros - 12 July, 2017 - 08:17

When I first started putting this blog/portfolio together in 2010, I wanted to think of a name for it. To some, the title of their blog is something that has actually held them back from starting it in the first place. They have great ideas but they can’t find that “perfect” title.  It is kind of a big deal!

Throwing around ideas with some friends on the title of the blog, I shared my focus on helping people embrace “meaningful change”, and hence since I was a principal at the time, “The Principal of Change” was born.  To this day, I am still told that it should be “The Principle of Change”, and instead of saying that the title is a play on words, I just say I am Canadian and that we spell differently.

#alwaysplaytheCanadiancard

But what about the subtitle?

That decision was actually easier.  I love both hearing and telling stories, and since the focus was on learning and leading, “Stories of Learning and Leading” seemed to make the most sense.  Personally, things resonate with me on a different level when there is a story connected. I can feel it on an emotional level, not only with writing but when watching speakers as well.  I am not against “lecture” at all in today’s education world.  The class that I enjoyed the most and seemingly learned the most during my university days was on 20th Century European History.  The professor lectured every single class, but he didn’t just share facts, he shared and weaved into every “lecture” both personal and applicable anecdotes that resonated with me in an extremely deep manner.  I could honestly say that I remember more from his class than others I took because he didn’t lecture; he told stories.  I would rush to his class, where others I would often show up late.  Lecture, done as an art, is extremely powerful.  It is not the only thing we should do as teachers, but I am not against the “sage on the stage”; you just need to know when to stand up in front of learners and share your wisdom, and when to get out of the way. This is part of the art of teaching.

Yet, is this just a personal preference or is there something more here?

According to the article, “Your Brain on Fiction” (I encourage you to read the entire article), stories can “stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life.” 

Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University in Canada, performed an analysis of 86 FMRI studies, published last year in the Annual Review of Psychology, and concluded that there was substantial overlap in the brain networks used to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals — in particular, interactions in which we’re trying to figure out the thoughts and feelings of others. Scientists call this capacity of the brain to construct a map of other people’s intentions “theory of mind.” Narratives offer a unique opportunity to engage this capacity, as we identify with characters’ longings and frustrations, guess at their hidden motives and track their encounters with friends and enemies, neighbors and lovers.

When we see ourselves in a story and make our own connections, ideas resonate and stick.

In the article, “The Science of Storytelling: What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains“, they go on to share why this is happening:

Now all this is interesting. We know that we can activate our brains better if we listen to stories. The still unanswered question is: Why is that? Why does the format of a story, where events unfold one after the other have such a profound impact on our learning?

The simple answer is this: We are wired that way. A story, if broken down into the simplest form is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think.

We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up (short) stories in our heads for every action and conversation. In fact, Jeremy Hsu found:

“Personal stories and gossip make up 65% of our conversations.”

Now, whenever we hear a story, we want to relate it to one of our existing experiences. That’s why metaphors work so well with us. Whilst we are busy searching for a similar experience in our brains, we activate a part called insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, disgust or else.

Part of the idea of sharing stories and helping people make their own connections is my own belief on “changing others”. As stated in my book, “The Innovator’s Mindset“;

The question I am most frequently asked in my talks and workshops is, “How do we get others to change?” In reality, you can’t make anyone change; people can only change themselves. What you can do is create the conditions where change is more likely to happen.

In “Made to Stick”, by Chip and Dan Heath, they talk about the importance of shifting the onus of learning onto the listener from the storyteller:

To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from “What information do I need to convey?” to “What questions do I want my audience to ask?”

My hope is that through story, I compel readers to want to know more and find their own conclusions. But it is also in hopes that they see themselves in the story.  I often share stories about my family, my daughter, growing up, my parents as immigrants to Canada, some of the frustrations and complexity of being an educator, amongst other things, so people can find similarities to one another and not focus on what makes us different.  Often, people will come up to me after a talk and say, “I totally was thinking of my own family the entire time you were sharing your story.”  They see themselves in the story and see that it is applicable to them as well.  Again, as the Heath brothers share;

The most basic way to make people care is to form an association between something they don’t yet care about and something they do care about.

Personally, I like sharing stories and anecdotes in my own writing.  It helps the ideas stick in my own mind, and creates a long-term connection to my thinking.  Selfishly, this is my space to learn and my space to share my thinking.  If “stories” or “anecdotes” do not work for you, that is something I totally understand.  If every person was wired exactly the same, teaching would be a pretty easy profession.

That being said, I do believe our stories are what connect us and make us human.  The stories of our students are the same.  Have you ever had a student tell you a story of their life and it totally changed the way you taught them because it connected you in an emotional level that might not have had been there before?  You understood them on a different level, which compelled you to do something different, even better.

Stories are what makes us human, and I believe they help share our past to help us move towards a better future.

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