Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The good old days of creative teaching

Last week all the key figures involved in what came to be known as the Taranaki Environmental Approach were in town. It was too good a chance to let go by so a party we had. Also invited were others who became involved, or who were involved in creative learner centred education. May be there were similar groups elsewhere in New Zealand but ours was a special group whose influence is still to be seen, if not recognised, today.

In front Howard Wilson and next to him Bill Guild. At rear Robin Clegg, Bruce Hammonds and John Cunningham. The term environmental was used in the sense teachers created student centred learning environments and many of their studies utilised the natural, historical and man made local environment.

Such groups do not emerge without precursors.

After World War two there was a feeling that traditional schooling ought to become more democratic. Even earlier, the first Labour Government under the leadership of Education Minister Peter Fraser had began this change . An important figure at this time was Dr. Clarence Beeby the Director of Education. All sorts of other influences could be sited, non the least, educational philosopher John Dewey who wrote widely in the early 1900s about the need to transform education to be more learner centred. Just before WW2 there was a New Education Conference held in New Zealand where a number of respected world educational thinkers visited and toured New Zealand. One visitor was English Educator Susan Issacs, one of the first people to focus on how young children learn. Also included there were a number of highly respected art educators. According to an educational commentator Jack Shallcrass people lined up in their hundreds to hear these new ideas.

During the 60s new liberal curriculum's were introduced and Dr Beeby established specialist teachers in art , nature study and Physical Education to assist teachers develop new ideas. The art advisers in particular, led by the redoubtable National Art Adviser Gordon Tovey, were seminal in spreading ideas about creative education and in the process building teacher confidence.

In the photo above two members were involved in this first stage were Howard Wilson and Bill Guild. In the sixties the art advisers arranged course in integrated programmes that they both attended along with myself. I was then a nature study specialist ( later to be transformed into a science adviser). Both Howard and Bill agree that it was during this time that the most dramatic changes occurred in education as they pioneered integrated studies. Up until then the day was tightly timetabled and teacher directed. Children were age grouped into standards and many were held back if they were not able to reach the standard. In the UK, in earlier times, teachers pay was linked to the number of students achieving the standard ( 'payment by results').

Three ideas still seem relevant today.

The need for a national conversation/conference about the purpose of education for the new century -and that the democratic purpose of education needs to be freed from populist political ideology.

The need for a wide range of advisory teachers to be appointed to assist teachers ( as against the current governments move to only appoint literacy and numeracy advisers).

The need to value the expertise of creative teachers and schools and, along with this, the need to find ways to share their ideas ( the power of networks using the Internet seems obvious)

The real innovations of the group above were developed in the early 1970s.

Missing from the above photograph are two English teachers Chris and Marion Keeble. Both In the late 60s Taranaki teachers led by the science advisers ( Don Capon and myself) had introduced student centred science learning ideas from the Junior Nuffield Science Project. English Junior school were highly regarded as models of child centred learning and in 1969 I arranged to spend a year to learn more about the approaches being used.
Marion Griffin (Keeble) 69
recently visited New Zealand and Marion had taught in New Plymouth in 1970.

During this time I met and taught with both Chris and Marion. Both since became respected head teachers. Marion a gifted all round teacher and Chris with real expertise in mathematics. Their work transformed my thinking.

Marion Keeble 2011
It was the ideas of such teachers that I helped introduce when I returned to New Zealand in 1970. Ideas we 'imported' were: making greater use of student's interests and the immediate environment, introducing studies through displays, slowing the pace of work to achieve quality work ( and to allow time to come alongside students to help them as required), rotational group throughout the day, and placing an emphasis on creating stimulating room environments with well displayed students art, language,
mathematical investigations, and study work.

Bill Guild , Robin Clegg, John Cunningham and later Bruce Hinton became integral to the approach and many other teachers joined in to varying degrees. One other important member (also present at the party)was Wayne Morris who, along with myself, developed a range of publications to share the ideas leading to the establishment of our website leading-learning. We also shared books on creative teaching from the UK and the US. As an adviser I was able to act as a liaison person Another important individual was Bill Clarkson.

The other inspirational influence to us all was the book 'In the Early Wold' written by pioneer teacher Elwyn Richardson based on his work in the 1950s. Our group made contact with Elwyn. We believe 'our' approach combined the powerful but individual art and environmental approach of Elwyns with the more craft, focused observational and school wide approach I had seen in England.

The ideas still live on today but they have had to accommodate, in recent years, imposed curriculum,assessment regimes and formulaic 'best practices' approaches to teaching which has resulted in less individual creativity for both students and teachers. A real advance has been a more whole school approach although this has also resulted in limiting the creativity of individual teachers. In the UK creative teaching ( which was patchy in many respects) was replaced by a National Curriculum with defined learning areas arranged in levels, learning objectives and national testing. This technocratic approach was imitated with a similar National Curriculum in New Zealand but without the testing regimes -so far.

In 2007 the 'revised' New Zealand Curriculum provided the inspiration for a new creative era with its vision of 'life long learners' and for students to become 'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge'. Unfortunately this has now been subverted by the demands of the new conservative government who have looked back to the idea of standards in a narrow range of learning areas. Most schools, as mentioned, seem to have been captured by formulaic teaching and a narrowing of their curricula. Many schools seem oblivious to the dangers of this audit and surveillance ideology unaware there are creative alternatives past and present.

It is again time now for some new creative leadership this time by principals. Creative principals need create the conditions to release the creativity of their teachers and to network with other schools to share their more creative teachers' expertise.

I wait in anticipation.

Thankfully there are signs of networks of creative principals and teachers emerging.

We have all had our turn; but the creative cycle continues. As someone said we need to do the 60s again but this time properly!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Towards a creative school.

It is sad to see schools happily 'driving into the future using their rear vision mirrors'. Just as our students are entering a world beyond our comprehension we are busy ensuring they will be able to cope with a past age. There is more than a whiff of Victorian three Rs around our schools as teachers focus on testing children in what are considered the two areas of concern literacy and numeracy. All this conformist formulaic 'one size fits all' teaching is leading us back to the standardisation of Henry Ford who one said, 'you can any colour you like as long as it is black'.

It was great to be asked to talk to teachers and parent of a local school about the purpose of education for the next decades.

There is no doubt that things have taken a turn for the worse since the introduction of the idea of National Standards. Not that I thought that things were that great anyway as, since the 1990s, the agenda for education has been in the hands of centralist technocrats. The introduction of the 2007 'revised' National Curriculum with it's enlightened vision of students as 'seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge' was but a brief burst of fresh air soon to be overwhelmed by populist surveillance political agendas of a new government.

And most principals seem happy to 'go along to get a long' - or worse still can't see any real problem with National Standards. And few principals have been known for creative educational leadership. As it was once said, 'schools are over managed and under led'.

Andy Hargreaves has written that , 'principals are to busy complying with time greedy tasks that exhaust and demoralise them leaving no time for creativity and imagination'.Not that creativity and imagination were ever attributes of most principals I have known and they are not on the criteria for successful principals today. Hargreaves continues, 'teachers are suffering from eroded autonomy, lost creativity, and a constrained ability to exert professional judgement.'

Teachers who really believe in creativity understand that their job is to help students learn for themselves - to keep alive their innate desire to make sense of their experiences and the need to express what they find out in a variety of ways. Creative principals need to create the conditions to allow teacher creativity and to network with other like minded principals.

Creative principals and teachers understand, as the 2007 National Curriculum system says, that 'intellectual curiosity is at the heart of knowing'.

The creative educators role is to be a subtle learning coach .Jerome Bruner says the the true educators task is 'the canny art of intellectual temptation'. Schools seem to have forgotten that nothing is more powerful than the learners' desire to demonstrate their talents and hear their own unique voices in what they do.

By institutionalising learning we have taken something precious from our learners. Their natural curiosity has been replaced by our curriculums. Schools are about teaching but not necessarily about intrinsic learning.

Back to my local school which has as part of its vision for their students to, 'become confident learners with the courage to seek a better world and to aspire to heights beyond the horizon'. Of course it is this desire they were born with!

The school wants to be known for 'its spirit of creativity, adventure and exploration' but they recognise they still have long way to go to achieve this.

They want their teachers to develop a 'curriculum that builds on their ( the students) innate curiosity , and the interests and talents students bring with them'. Now there is a challenge.

And they want their students to 'express their personal voice and to achieve personal excellence'.'Students who are able to reflect on their own learning, who have learnt " how to learn' to aim high, to express their creativity and to have the courage to aspire to heights beyond the horizon'.

Great stuff but first the teachers need to exemplify such vision themselves - and this is not easy in the current conformist environment.

I look forward to assisting the school in its journey towards creativity for both teachers and students.

They have made a start.

There is a lot of unlearning to do!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Ideas for lessons on Japanese Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Crisis.

A New York Times blogger offers great resources for teachers to use with classes. I just thought it might be useful for schools.


Another excellent site for resources on the Japanese Earthquake is to be found on this Utopia site ( a site sponsored by George Lucas of Star Wars fame). The Utopia site is all about experiential learning - making use of information technology.

An excellent student centred inquiry study process is also included on this site.

"The devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan is on the minds of all of us, including our students. The event and aftermath is tragic and the continuing nuclear emergency is a reminder of how fragile society can be.

As educators, we can help our students make sense of these events and give them the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of their world.

In their book, Comprehension and Collaboration, Daniels and Harvey provide a comprehensive vision of what inquiry can look like in the classroom.

They describe the following components that can easily be used to bring the Japanese earthquake into your classroom.

Immerse: Invite Curiosity and Wonder

Introduce the topic by asking your students what they already know about the disaster. Follow this by brainstorming a list of “wonderings” that students have. You may want to set the context for the discussion by reading a small excerpt from a news article or by showing a video.

Investigate: Develop Questions, Search for Information, and Discover Answers

Individuals or small groups select and refine a broad question that they find interesting. You should help students with their question so that it provides an opportunity for them to delve into a topic and consider multiple sources of information. Students can use the web, library resources, and other media to search for information.

Coalesce: Synthesize Information and Build Knowledge

Students should identify a small number of “knowledge claims” that they have learned from their research. These claims should be supported by evidence from multiple media sources.

Go Public: Demonstrate Understanding and Share Learning

Students can share their learning in a variety of ways. For example, they can create newspaper articles, videos, audio podcasts, posters, or infographics. The resources below provide a variety of perspectives on the Japanese earthquake. Some of the resources may not be suitable for all children."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Creative Leadership: A Challenge of our Times

If schools are to break out the crushing conformity that has resulted since technocrats and politicians captured the education agenda creative leaders will have to emerge. Creative leadership is the challenge of our times. This was the title of an article written by Loise Stoll and Julie Temperley based on their research in schools in the United Kingdom. I thank my good friend Paul Tegg for sending me their paper which I have used as the basis of my blog. So far there is little sign of such leadership emerging but there are a few points of growth that provide some hope.

'Learning is the core purpose of schools', Stoll and Timperley begin their paper, 'Creative Leadership: a Challenge of our Times', and continue with a quote from a book by Stoll and Dean Fink, 'It's About Learning and it's About Time': 'these days if you can't learn, unlearn and relearn , you're lost because sustainable and continuous learning is a given of the twenty-first century. And from the Delours UNESCO book they add , 'learning to learn is the key skill of the century'.

To achieve this, they believe, will demand significant changes in how teachers teach and that this 'new kind of learning fundamentally depends on creativity'.

By contrast teachers current development has lead to 'dependency and a lack of creativity ' -leading to a 'just show me what to do' attitude. The 'status quo is a very compelling state'.
Schools by their nature are conservative organisations.

The question they ask is what will it take to help schools promote creativity?

And this, they say, requires a fundamental challenge for school leadership. There is a need for leaders to consider what inhibits creative learning and what conditions are required to encourage it. This is more than problem solving and 'involves problem finding..actively scanning the environment for challenges...to engage in more radical change as they strive to prepare their students for the future'. It requires the ability to 'think and act beyond boundaries that limit our effectiveness'. It requires of principals to 'being outward looking and more adventurous looking and thinking outside the box'.

This means principals being brave enough to take sensible risks so as to help teachers open up possibilities for thinking about things in different ways. This represents a new form of leadership, one that 'isn't top down: leading a team in such a way that it's not dictating and yet still scaffolding and supporting'. 'The initial modeling of of creative thinking needs to come from the top.'

It seems vital that principalsand their teachers connect with other schools to extend their thinking and to see alternative approaches.Teachers need to feel that they are trusted to try new ideas out - to take risks.

Stoll and Timperley identified nine conditions in the research in schools to allow learning focused innovation and creativity to thrive. Their set of conditions acts as a recipe which, in combination, produces the desired effect.

1 Model creativity and risk taking. Staff members are unlikely to take risks with new ideas if they constantly see their leaders being cautious. Leaders lead by example.

2 Stimulate a sense of urgency. 'Learning' they write,' occurs as a result of dissonance; when new ideas or situations don't fit with current beliefs or ways of working'. This dissonance becomes uncomfortable and creates a sense that something needs to be done - 'that the way we do things needs to be changed'; when things aren't working people become creative. 'Often it takes a crisis to promote action where there is inertia'. Creativity 'does not go with playing safe'.

3 Expose colleagues to new thinking and experiences. Creativity is stimulated in an environment of full of new ideas and experiences...bringing in new ideas is essential life blood in schools.. often teachers get stuck in routine monotony and don't feel they are encouraged to break out'. This means 'taking them out of their comfort zones; forcing them them to push boundaries of their thinking of what's possible.It may also mean swimming against the tide.'

4 Self consciously relinquish control. 'Schools, they write,'can feel like places of control where staff think they are being watched, both by senior teachers and external bodies'. High decile schools feel the weight of parent expectations and underachieving schools want their data to look better. Creativity is inhibited when people feel they are being continually checked on. There is a fear of letting colleagues, pupils, and parents down if they don't do what is expected and this suppresses natural creativity. This all relates to issues of trust and requires teachers 'being comfortable with each other to be able to speak their minds without being shot down in flames'. People need leeway to try things out but afterwards teachers need time to reflect and to share with others how it went.

5 People need time and space. Creative thinking is facilitated by time and the mental space for ideas to evolve and be fleshed out. They also found that some pressure of time seemed to be important to create that sense of urgency. It is a matter of balance. Setting targets is not a way to promote staff creativity. Targets seem to promote linear thinking. Teachers need space and time to use their imaginations to envision new possibilities. School environments that are vibrant and inspiring enhance creativity.

6 Promote individual and collaborative creative thinking and design. Stimulation of other people, is important to bounce ideas off and to share ideas. Other people are also valuable to challenge ideas . Private time is so valuable to work things out.

7 Set high expectations about the degree of creativity. 'Promoting and valuing innovation are critical to unlocking creative practices', the authors write. They found that often starting to think creatively bred a desire for greater creativity. This mind shift often came from the top of the school where a passionate interest in how learning and teaching could be different help spawn a culture that expected people to think differently. challenges of child centred and personalised learning stimulated creativity. Creative schools developed that feeling of breaking free from constraints. 'Confidence was seen by many as a prerequisite and gaining "permission" from senior leaders was seen as important.' Support when things weren't working out was also vital - that it is OK to make mistakes. 'Teachers like an environment where it is more than acceptable to do unusual and exiting things'. Leaders need to set the bar high and push people to be imaginative and to think originally.

8 Use failure as a learning opportunity. Teachers, the authors observed,worry a great deal about the risks associated with experimenting with new ideas. By valuing the things that go wrong there is an opportunity to limit such worries- 'if it doesn't work we can learn from it'. It needs an environment 'where you can fail..the freedom to explore, to take risks to make mistakes and to learn from them'. 'Teachers need to feel they can have a go ..it is OK if you don't get it right the first time'.

9 Keep referring to core values. While creative thinking is exciting staying close to core values appears to provide the bedrock for success. The authors write that, 'being clear and explicit about values and holding them in a steady state offers a context and stable point of reference for people. 'Knowing that everyone is moving towards the same goals and vision keep you going'.

Some Question and issuers to be resolved.

A recurrent theme in the project was the teachers attitudes towards risk. Teachers live in a high stakes environment with children's learning being the chips which teachers feel they are gambling with.

The impact of creative leadership is bound up with the principals notions and values of creativity and how it might be measured. Is it that teachers creativity is enhance, or it its contribution to students' learning. What measures could be used? Each school in the project was asked to develop its own measures.

What are social conditions conducive for school leaders to be creative? What is needed is a mix time and space mixed with the ebb and flow of conversation in groups with others starting out to be creative?

What exactly is seen as creative? Is it new solutions or adapting others ideas, or both?

There are different levels of creativity ranging from incremental to radical and transformational; minor tweaking or a complete overall.

What are the next steps?
Bringing about deep and meaningful change to learning practices is one of school leadership's greatest challenges. Leading for change is rooted in current reality and at the same time as dealing with the future'.

Tensions also exist between the conceptions politicians, the media and the wider community have about the purpose of education and how schools can best improve.

Leaders also have tensions to cope with between what they believe is important to prepare students for the future and what external agents expect them to do ,and frequently judge them by.

It seems it all depend on the belief's of the school leaders.
Developing creative leadership is certainly, as the authors title suggest, a challenge for our times.

Creativity in the past relied on creative teachers working with other like minds in other schools; today this challenge has been passed on to principals.

Will enough principals be creative and courageous enough to contribute creative students to solve problem beyond current thinking?

Networking with other principals to gain mutual strength is the only way forward.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Leadership for a Learning Organisation - Tony Gurr

To read this article in full on Tony's site. I have slightly edited Tony's article. It is relevant to leadership issues ( or lack of leadership) in our schools.

'My way or the highway' or 'walk the talk' leader? Which one are you?

Tony writes:

In my 25 years in the world of teaching and learning, I have come across many managers / supervisors that have graduated from the “my-way-or-the-highway” school of thought. Many of you will also know I frequently discuss ideas from the “walk-your-talk” school of leadership.

Now, I know we are warned (by Obi-Wan) that “Only the Sith deal in absolutes” – but I thought it might be useful to compare these two perspectives and look at which form of “educational leadership” might be best suited for a 21st Century Learning Organisation.

Besides, even a Jedi has to look to the dark side now and again.

In the brave, new world of 21st Century education, success now depends not only on an institution’s ability to adapt, but also being able to adapt quickly. If our schools, colleges and universities are to make headway and evolve to meet the new challenges we are facing, they must make learning a central element of their cultural capital.

“Tony, that’s just silly”! I hear a few of you mumble.

“Surely, our schools, colleges and universities are all about learning…aren’t they”?

Sadly, this is not the case.

Many of our schools are “teaching schools” (not learning schools).

The majority of higher educational institutions remain institutions of “instruction and research”.

They have all evolved in a culture that prides itself on being “learned” and many simply fail to acknowledge that “houses of learning” need to be built on a stronger foundation – a culture of learning.

Schein defines culture as the sum of solutions to yesterday’s problems and views an organisation’s culture as the collective behaviours, intentions, and values that people develop over time to make sense of the world.

He is right – who am I to disagree with the Jedi Master of organisational leadership?

But, the purpose of culture is to “teach” people how to “see” the world (Bodnarczuk). As our world is changing so fast, we need to look at the type of culture that is required.

A new vision of “next practice” in organisational culture has been emerging over the past few years. This vision is radically different to the type of culture many of us “grew up” in – it is radically different to the views of many educational managers and supervisors who “learned” us (and are still “learning” us today):

Many of the notions and concepts upon which this new vision is based are more “human” and more “organic” than the more mechanistic views of the Taylorist bureaucrats of our world.

The centrality of “learning” in this new paradigm of cultural capital cannot be overstated.

In the face of ever-changing conditions and uncertainty, more and more educators are beginning to see that real change will not come from curriculum renewal or professional development programmes alone (they would be great, too) – it needs to begin at the level of culture and learning is the key.

The “my-way-or-the-highway” educational manager often just does not “get” this – (s)he lives in the past, (s)he has a specific world view that conditions the decisions (s)he takes and the ways in which (s)he interacts with those around (or “under”) him or her.

Don’t get me wrong…I am not saying these people are “evil Sith Lords” (but see Peter’s quote below). Many of them work hard, many of them have the interests of students close to their hearts, many of them care deeply about moving from “good” to “great”.

The issue is that their worldviews have developed in an “unconscious manner” and they also believe that they are “walking-their-talk” – indeed, most of them are. The challenge is that these worldviews, like the cultures that created them, are the sum of solutions to yesterday’s problems.

And, we need to talk more about “tomorrow”!

Most “walk-your-talk” educational leaders “hear” this message. Many have listened to the great advice of Stephen Covey and other organisational thinkers – a large number of them are great listeners themselves, great motivators and great “care-givers”.

But, are they all effective?

Walking-your-talk implies that you know your talk, you are conscious of it – and, more importantly that you “live” it.

We all know that it is not cool for a teacher to walk around advocating constructivist ideas and humanistic approaches to learning – but rely on “serial drilling” and screams for “order, discipline and respect” behind closed classroom doors.

For educational leaders, it’s no good saying “I believe in collaborative decision-making” and then repeatedly go against the conventional wisdom of your “followers” (I do not like this word but needed to use it here – you get it, right?)…

There is a very thin line between “walk-your-talk” educational leaders and “my-way-or-the-highway” educational leaders.

We often forget this. Now, you know why I love Star Wars so much…

The biggest problem in looking at these two perspectives in absolute terms is that both the “walk-the-talk” and the “my-way-or-the-highway” school of thought believes their own talk and that their way is “right”.

However, just because we believe we are “right” – does not “right” make. Human beings are social animals – we live, breathe and grow together. However, the rate at which we grow differs – and this means even ideas that appear “right” cannot (and should not) be “forced” on others.

Furthermore, even if you are a graduate of the “walk-your-talk” school of leadership, you also have to be prepared to learn, change your talk and walk a different walk – from time to time.

The question remains, however, if we are racing into the 21st Century and if this century requires a new paradigm of cultural capital and a new breed of educational leaderwhich school of thought is better equipped to deliver?

I’m going to put my money on “Jedi Master Schein” when he tells us we all need to “activate the learning gene in the DNA of organisational culture”.

So, if you are an educational leader or aspire to be one:

REMEMBER leaders are responsible for their organisations, their teams and the culture these teams live and breathe each day. Leaders cannot blame others, cannot blame the past – they have to assume responsibility to create a “new future”.And,

KNOW THYSELF and how far your “shadow” reaches
The best advice is to:

TREAD softly and bear in mind that stomping on the dreams of educators is the best way to harm student learning – and your learning results.

REFLECT and look in the “mirror” every day before you go work.

LEARN and re-create yourself every day

My thanks to my “muse”, the best “natural counsellor” I have ever had the pleasure to be married to. I am also deeply indebted to Peter Koestenbaum – a man who gave a “stranger” 2 hours on his 80th birthday just to “chat” on Skype – showed that stranger that he was walking the “right path” and led me to one of his quotes:

“To destroy the dignity of a human being is evil. To be indifferent to the feelings of others is evil. Not to support people’s sense of self-respect is evil”.

And, who can forget George Lucas – who taught me all about “good and evil”!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Dysfunctional Schools

Kirsten Olsen author of the book 'Wounded by School-recapturing the Joy in Learning and Standing up to the Old School Culture'. Kirsten's book brings to light the devastating consequences of an educational approach that values conformity over creativity, flattens student's' interests,and dampens down differences among learners. Olsen's book shows that current schooling does not favour all students and tends to shame, disable and bore many learners. Powerful stuff.

I don't think teachers like to face up to the fact that schooling actually harms many of their students but it is clear , reading Kirsten's Olsen book, it does. Obviously this harming is not done intentionally but it is all too easy to blame failure on dysfunctional students.

Certainly too few students leave school with their joy of learning alive and their unique gifts and talents strengthened - not even the so called successful students.

Futurist Alvin Toffler wrote in 1970, 'Mass education was the ingenious machine constructed by industrialism to produce the kind of adults it needed....the regimentation, lack of individualism, the rigid systems of seating, grouping, grading and marking,the authoritarian style of the teacher'.

For many students the dream of mass education has morphed into a nightmare. As Olsen quotes, 'If Rip Van Winkle were to come back today after a hundred years, the only institutions he would recognise would be prisons and schools'.

Schools are fundamentally old fashioned institutions developed for a different era. As one educational architect writes 'Today's 21st schools model 1950 architecture, use 1990s technology,and delver 1960s curriculum'.

Unfortunately many parents and politicians still see educational conformity as appropriate with students divided into age groups who then 'progress' through classes, in fixed ability grouping, with prescribed subject matter, until they leave. Students graded into degrees of finished products through endless testing. Students in this model are seen as raw material to be processed.

Unfortunately what students need to thrive in the future are self confidence, persistence , creativity, the capacity to change and adapt to new circumstances ,with the ability to make decisions with out full information, and the capacity to work with others. This is the premise behind the revised New Zealand Curriculum now sidelined by politicians who want to return to the standardisation and testing of the industrial era. The imagination , creativity and courage of both teachers and students are being neglected.

And all this while we have undergone a revolution in our understanding of how students learn. Personally I am in the same position as 60s educational reformer John Holt ( one of my all time favourites) who finally gave up on schools ever changing into organisations able to develop the love of learning and talents of all students. They seem more equipped, as Olsen writes, to 'wound' children; more about conformity and obedience. And I agree.

The whole system needs a fundamental revaluation. Their are alternative purposes to consider. Other visions do exist. Students need a more customised or personalised education based on recognising and developing their talents,abilities and passions based around relevant learning projects. Projects that call on the appropriate learning disciplines to solve.

And such a philosophy is not new.It is just that schools have been impervious to such ideas. It is ironic that schools are not 'learning organisations' themselves.

Rather than failing students it is failing traditional schools we need to worry about. Too many students, Olsen writes, leave feeling disconnected, uncared for, stressed, confused and angry - for such students school is irrelevant. They are seen as problems and, as they remain un-helped, they lash out and end up in even more trouble. It is a cycle seen in too many schools. The blame, however, is always placed on the learner. There are hundreds of such unengaged, under performing students in any city.

Such students are like canaries in a coal mine -when the canaries die no one should be in the mines.

If schools were to focus on ensuring all students were to be engaged then all students would benefit. To achieve such a vision would mean re-imaging schools as we currently know them. The future needs the diverse intelligence of all students.To achieve such a vision schools need to celebrate diversity rather than current conformity and standardisation.

Toffler recommended 'shutting down the whole education system' and suggested we should be 'thinking from the ground up'. This was Ivan Illich's ( of the de-schooling movement) and John Holt's position in the late 70s and one I have come to myself.

No change can occur until we first imagine it.
We need to consider how schools need to be changed based on new conceptions of learning and ability assisted by the potential of new technology. Schools ought to models of learning organisations not monuments to past thinking.

"Listen" said the the White Spirit. 'Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was was for.There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers,and were glad when you had found them. Become that child again; even now".

C.S.Lewis. the Great Divorce 1945