SOF Summit – Seattle

November 27, 2008 at 8:33 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The 4th Annual School of the Future World Summit is being held in Seattle, Washington from 1-4 December, 2008. A group of educators from New Zealand has been invited to attend, and this blog is the place where their reflections, observations and new ideas will be recorded.


The New Way of Thinking

December 5, 2008 at 7:48 pm | Posted in Keynote | Leave a comment

Dr Ian Bremmer is president and founder of the Eurasia Group, a preeminent global risk consulting firm. His address, “The New Way of Thinking” was a brilliant keynote late on the second day. Dr Ian Bremmer argued that in order to understand educational policy making within individual countries they need to be seen in a much wider context. The insights he provided centred around the shifts or “teutonic “plates of world politics.

There are several forces which are currently shaping world politics: energy which is coming from unstable parts of the world; emerging markets which are also in unstable parts of the world; the enormous growth of technology which enables pirates to have access to GPS technology and finally that the United States does not have the capacity or the will to be a major world power.

In recent years there has been a growing emphasis on globalisation. This is changing as multinationals grow in power and several countries, particularly emerging ones place greater emphasis on nationalism, state capitalism, the competition for oil and the growth of state owned enterprises.

The next few years will see increased regionalisation, and the moving to the G7 and G20 as the new security councils and the demise of the Kyoto type agreements. He then provided a most insightful analysis of countries around the world and the current changes which will inevitably flow on to world politics.

In the final analysis he believes the next few years will be difficult but is optimistic about the long term future. Education will be affected by these shifts as governments change their priorities to respond to changes in world politics. I felt privileged to have heard this address. It is rare indeed to listen to one person speak for an hour, without any notes, so fluently and in such command of his material.

The Australian Digital Revolution

December 5, 2008 at 7:41 pm | Posted in Keynote, spotlight | Leave a comment

Evan Arthur who is the General Manager of the Digital Education Group in the Department of Education in Australia gave a presentation around the latest developments in ICT in Australia. The information he shared had only been confirmed last week.


He spoke about the problems that the Australian system faced:

  • Until recently the issue of the effective use of ICT in education has not been seen as a key national education policy issue
  • This has led to high levels of variation across Australia in computer penetration, access to affordable broadband and in provision of effective support structures
  • That there is no consistent approach to provision of content or access to educational tools across Australia
  • Many initiatives are local in scope and duplicate other initiatives, and
  • Teacher confidence to use ICT in their teaching practice varies significantly


Evan announced that in 2007 an $A1 billion four year election commitment was made in 2007 but this had now been upgraded to a five year $A2 billion program.


The funding has these five key elements to it:

  1. National Secondary School Computer Fund – $1.9 billion over 5 years to provide computers for all Year 9 to 12 students;
  2. $10 million over three years to develop support mechanisms for schools;
  3. Broadband Fibre Connections to Schools – $100 million for connections to all schools;
  4. $32.6million over 2 years for online curriculum tools, resources and supporting technical frameworks; and
  5. Professional Development for teachers on ICT.


In addition the Government will be investing $32.6 million over the next two years for

  • Access by teachers and students to digital content aligned with the national curriculum
  • ICT infrastructure integrated effectively in our schools
  • Building on current initiatives such as the Learning Federation (

Australia will be developing a National Curriculum for the first time. A National Curriculum and Assessment Board is being established to guide the process. The curriculum will be developed by 2010 for implementation in all jurisdictions from 2011 (


One area they are committed to work on are the issues of interoperability to ensure all systems are able to speak to each other. This is a worldwide issue and one that we in New Zealand are currently grappling with.


It was great to see the proposed expenditure in ICT for education but I couldn’t help wondering how they will deal with some of the issues that we have faced. Things like adequate outlets and plugs in classrooms, schools having adequate networks, and of course the electricity capacity to drive the hardware. This particularly so because they want the ratio of one computer to two students in years 9 to 12. And I can for see some real issues over storage and security. It will be interesting to watch how each state deals with the issues.


With Nancy White in Seattle

December 5, 2008 at 7:38 pm | Posted in Sights of Seattle | 1 Comment

Nancy and I on the beach

My last morning in Seattle before we fly out in the afternoon and I managed to connect with Nancy White who had visited New Zealand earlier this year for the DEANZ conference in Wellington. Nancy was gracious enough to swing by the hotel this morning and pick up Marg and I and take us for a tour of the North West part of the city, ending up at a wonderful organic cafe for breakfast together.

It was great to catch up with Nancy and share stories of our work in eLearning, in particular, to hear of her work in some of the European countries and in the West Bank area where she has been working recently for the United Nations on a health-related project.

Linking with Nancy was another practical illustration of how online communications are making the world a more connected place, as we’ve previously gotten to “know” each other through our blogs, skype and twitter – so the face to face became simply another dimension to this relationship building.

Ah well – off now to check out and face the 17 or so hours of travel home, including three connecting flights 🙂

Home of the future

December 5, 2008 at 7:36 pm | Posted in Sights of Seattle | Leave a comment

future home kitchen
Todaywe had the privilege of visiting the Microsoft HQ at Redwood where were were taken on a tour of the Microsoft Home of the Future. The Microsoft Home is housed within Microsoft’s Executive Briefing Center. Although it’s not a stand-alone house, the Microsoft Home simulates a domestic environment including a front door, entry/foyer, kitchen, family room, dining room, entertainment room and bedroom.

Everything in the home of the future runs on a central network, with devices such as cellphones, refrigerator, lights and the mailbox all connected as nodes on that network.

Identity and personalisation play a big part in how the home operates – with family members recognised by their mobile devices, and RFID (radio-frequency-identification) technology embedded in virtually everything in the home. So, if family members are working in the kitchen, for instance, and pull out particular appliances and ingredients, the “smart kitchen” will know what they are looking to make, and the countertop will display the recipe.

The home is set up not to illustrate how things will be, but how they could be – and is deliberatley established to provoke discussion around things such as privacy, and participation in the way in which things might develop. It was a useful reminder that the technology exisits to allow us to do pretty much everything we can imagine, but there needs to be another layer of thought and engagement around the social, ethical and ‘human’ dimensions of what will be affected before we’ll see widespread adoption of what we saw today.

It was fascinating to be on the tour with a group of educators, where the focus of the discussion was turned often to how many of the features we observed might be incorporated into a school environment – monitoring student location, setting mood through lighting and temperature controls, and creating interactive wall space in learning areas for instance.

Certainly lots of food for thought, and a great end to my stay in Seattle. Off to pack now for the trip home tomorrow 🙂

E Portfolios for Teachers – The Irish Experience

December 5, 2008 at 2:36 am | Posted in spotlight | Leave a comment

E Portfolios for Teachers

Dr Victor McNair works in Teacher education and Training at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.
He gave an enlightening presentation on what Northern Ireland is doing to develop e Portfolios for Teachers in Training and  through their career.  Northern Ireland is currently running a pilot with 200  teachers. The plan is to have a full scale procurement of E Portfolios by 2010 and to implement with voluntary participation  by 2012.
The presentation was excellent in terms of grappling with the philosophical and practical  issues involved in implementing such practice.
Northern Ireland is  developing a body of knowledge, to  underpin strategic decisions and pathways and have  identified challenges and issues.
NZ is at a very early stage in the development  of E portfolios for teachers. There are pockets of experimentation.  For example, Jo Kahl at Wellington Girls’ College is setting up E portfolios for  provisionally registered teachers at the college, with a view to possibly running  a shared  programme across the Wellington Loop Schools. It is a good time for us to learn  from the Northern Ireland experience.

1. What is an E Portfolio?
“A collection of authentic and diverse evidence of teaching competence that has been the subject of reflection, synthesis and selection, for presentation to a professional audience for a specific purpose”

2. E Portfolios should enhance a drive for greater quality

Teacher Career Progression
Initial Teacher Ed
Early Prof Development
Performance Review
& Staff Development
Accredited Course
Teacher Leadership
3. Teacher E Portfolios should support such career progression

Development Principles

These were presented as a cycle which started with organisational freedom and ended with ownership of content

4. The Spectrum of Applications

This is available in Dr McNair’s presentation

5. Partners
The project is being done in full partnership with the equivalent of the Ministry of Ed,  Teacher registration Board, schools etc and involves the whole of the profession.
1.    Consensus on principles, purpose and roles
2.    Assessment of community needs and tool integration
3.    Software design and development
4.    Development of the change model and scalability
5.    Policy
6.    Organising constructive professional learning

6. It is based on the principle of building Reflective practice

1.    Professional knowledge and understanding (child development, learning and pedagogy, knowledge of a particular discipline, classroom/class/people management)
2.    Application of knowledge and understanding
3.    Informed professional activity – Reflection in Action
4.    Reflection on analysis, dialogue, evaluation
5.    Growth of deeper knowledge and understanding

7. The Process
1.    Identify teacher needs and student needs ( with HOD, Mentor, PRT Supervisor)
2.    Research the teaching principles
3.    Review with mentor
4.    Develop appropriate resources and prepare
5.    Teach
6.    Review
8. Teaching and Learning Issues
1.    Support issues
2.    Refinement of processes
3.    Longitudinal research/evaluation
4.    Greater testing and sharing the innovation

Dr McNair’s presentation can be found online at:

Innovation, Innovation, Innovation!

December 4, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in spotlight | Leave a comment

Don Richardson is Director of Innovation Management Strategy for the Business Architecture, Platforms and Solutions Group at Microsoft.
He presented  a picture of industry trends and insights about innovation systems. There are many analogies that we can  make in the schooling system.

Innovation  is a CEO’s #1 priority.
•    In the current age companies cant compete on costs alone.
•    Research suggests innovation comes from a number of places but that 46% in any company is internally generated. In order from:
1.    Employees
2.    Business partners
3.    Customers
4.    Consultants
5.    Competitors
•    Big question for leaders is are we managing employees well enough to allow innovation to flourish?

I immediately thought of the culture that leadership engenders in our schools? Are leaders aware enough to build open and transparent cultures where  experimentation and innovation are fostered amongst staff and students?

Paradoxically perhaps, innovation needs a process or framework shared across an organization so it can flourish. This sometimes seems antithetical to creativity. Creativity V Structure
However process and transparency provide an execution vehicle for creativity. They balance creative freedom with quantifiable structure and ensure objective and timely decisions.

Open Innovation is the notion that the presence of smart people outside your own company pose an opportunity. Internal efforts can be multiplied many times through the embrace of other’s ideas and inspiration.

The innovation process is sometimes seen as a funnel. At the widest end, in strategizing, it allows as many as possible to participate.  As innovation is delivered, it may involve fewer people.
The mantra  is Engage,  Evolve,  Evaluate, Execute.
The best ideas may often come from an individual, but  they are grown by team collaboration.
Many companies use a simple proforma to capture ideas. The process can be digitized and an individual has anonymity until they are ready to have their idea published. Such ideas can then be tracked through a life cycle, and can be released to be worked on individually or by a whole team.
There are a raft of other considerations: incentives, workspace, score systems, business case development, idea definition, portfolio analytics and innovation management.
It was fascinating to learn of this coherence in delivering innovation.

An example of open innovation possible with the internet is – T shirt design, where people compete to come up with the best captions for shirts.

I readily thought of examples closer to home in NZ. Last Thursday on the Wellington Loop Innovation Tour, Brian Colhoun of Silverstripe, gave every Principal and teacher on the tour a CD  which contained everything required to build a Silverstripe website. In giving away this intellectual property he said: “Give this to your most innovative and creative ICT literate students.  Tell them to make use of it and then get them to come and tell us what they have done! We will find work for them!”

“Even the giants can learn to think small”
All individuals can drive innovation.

Our schools are full of potential innovators. It is our responsibility to be innovators ourselves but more importantly to  enable the younger innovators  in our schools to flourish.

Keynote: Anthony Solcito

December 4, 2008 at 7:33 am | Posted in Keynote | Leave a comment

Anthony Solcito – What Technology Makes Possible pt.2

Anthony is the General Manager for the US Education Division of Microsoft.

Anthony followed Martin Bean, presenting some fo the ideas underpinning future developments in the ICT field. He identified 3 core elements that will take technology into the future:

  1. visualisation
  2. search
  3. natural computing

For each he provided examples and demonstrations of applications that are in development or in beta form.


Using the Hard Rock Cafe Memorabilia site he demonstrated the power of visualisation by taking us on a tour of some Beatles memorabilia, illustrating the power of the tool to browse and zoom smoothly around the artefacts.

Anthony then demonstrated Photosynth to illustrate new ways of interacting with images in a highly visual environment.

His third visualisation example was Turning The Pages, an application that allows you to visually interact with a book by turning the pages, zooming in and out and writing notes etc.


Anthony’s example of search was the Tafiti visual search engine that requires Silverlight to be installed.

Natural Computing

To illustrate what he meant by natural computing Anthony provided a demonstration of one of Microsoft’s tables and surface computing, showing off the two-touch interaction with the applications and objects appearing on it.

To finish he also demonstrated a little of the WorldWideTelescope released earlier this year from Microsoft,

Keynote: Martin Bean

December 4, 2008 at 7:11 am | Posted in Keynote | Leave a comment

Martin Bean – What Technology Makes Possible pt.1

Martin is the General Manager of the Education Production Group within Microsoft.

Martin set the scene with a convincing talk about the context for change in our schools, focusing particularly on the attributes of learners. Key quotes from his presentation include:

“We’re out of time, the incremental movement simply won’t get us where to need to be!”

“Technology is a great enabler, but on its own it won’t change anything – it’s all about people, processes and envrionments”

“To be really successful it’s important we identify who our students are today and who they will be in the future.”

” Most of our students today have never known a world without texting, internet, cell phones, digital music and video on demand.”

“Being at school is like being on an aeroplane – you sit in seats facing the front, putting your trust in the guys up the front to take you where you want to go, and then they make you turn off your electronics!” (grade 11 student to his teacher)

“If we want to be successful in education we need to figure out a way to harness the energy and enthusiasm of students for Web2.0/social networking applications into our classrooms.”

Martin identified five key opportunity areas for technology within education:

  1. extending reach
  2. enabling relevant, personalised, and engaged learning
  3. giving educators greater insight and more time
  4. supporting an agile, efficient and connecting education system
  5. nurturing powerful communities of learning

He shared his vision of the new platform, noting that it’s no longer about servers and PCs anymore, rather, it’s about:

  • PCs
  • Mobile devices
  • Cloud Services

Views from the Space Needle

December 4, 2008 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sights of Seattle | Leave a comment
Views from the Space Needle

Views from the Space Needle

Day 1 – The SoF Summit

December 3, 2008 at 7:43 pm | Posted in Keynote | Leave a comment

The keynote delivered by Michael Horn, “disrupting class” was very interesting. I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn new theories that Michael has taken from the business world and applied to education. The parallels are very interesting. There is certainly a lot we can learn here about understanding how we look at education in a different way and how these theories could be applied. I would certainly encourage and recommend taking a closer look at this material. Michael and his colleagues are obviously very clever and well informed. This was certainly a different take on what is a global challenge. Some very innovative and creative thinking supported by some interesting science.

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