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.


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

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.

Marg’s View of the Opening Keynote

December 3, 2008 at 6:21 am | Posted in Keynote | Leave a comment

Michael Horn is one of the co- authors of the book “Disrupting Class” by Clayton Christensen.

Michael was the first keynote address at the Schools of the Future Summit here in Seattle. His address drew specifically on the book, outlining what research tells us about innovation in business and suggested parallels that might be drawn in education.

“The very principles of good management for an organization on the way up are actually the undoing of good organizations”

Disruptive innovation means creating a new trajectory for a product or service and often that product or service isn’t, at first, as good as the existing one in the market place.  However, it creates asymmetric competition, fulfills a new demand and develops to surpass the existing product or service.  One example Michael gave was of the transistor radio, which eventually surpassed anything that vacuum tube radio could be in terms of quality and led to the development of portable TV.

The educational argument runs that computers have failed to make a difference in schools because we have simply crammed them into traditional classrooms. We haven’t moved to a new trajectory.

Michael argues that we have to deploy computers differently:  in online learning and in areas of non consumption: viz credit recovery if students have failed traditional courses, second and third chance education, for students who need advanced classes or have scheduling conflicts,  for homeschooled and home bound students,  for small rural and urban schools,  and for tutoring and  preschool education.

Predictive S curve research would suggest that by 2019, 50% of all courses will be taught online.

Michael presented a global perspective on non consumption of education, citing developing countries, budgetary pressures, barriers such as distance, safety issues and poor  infrastructure.
These are opportunities to present disruptive forms of education with the use of IT.

I found the parallel with business models interesting and thought provoking.
I certainly see a place for IT in all of the areas Michael suggests. But the very fact that ICTs are: pervasive in our lives; that they create new and different environments in which we live and interact; means mainstream schooling cant ignore them.

We simply have to learn to do school differently.
Someone else said in one of the discussions I was in today that “education is based on tradition and the past and therefore it is difficult to change”
As a lover of history and the humanities, I would say learning from the past gives us the tools to reshape our futures. We don’t necessarily need business  lessons to do that!!! But no one would admit that changing patterns of human behaviour is an easy task!

Keynote – Michael Horn

December 3, 2008 at 5:55 am | Posted in Keynote | 3 Comments

Day One – First Keynote – Michael Horn, co-founder and executive director of Innosight Institute.

Michael referred to the book Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns which he co-authored with Clayton Christensen and  Curtis W. Johnson.

He began by explaining that the authors had begun by asking “why do successful organistations fail?” and coming to the conclusion that the very principles of good management that were useful to organisations on their way up ultimately lead to their demise.

Horn ilustrated what he meant with examples from a variety of business contexts where organisations that were once at the top of the pack ended up, 2-3 generations later, down at the middle, bottom or even failed altogether.

He then explained the development of Christensen’s work on Theories of Disruptive Innovation, ending up by explaining what lessons lie in all of this for education.

The key thing for me from this presentation (in terms of education) is the evidence that disruptive innovation is entirely dependent on the response of the consumers/customers. If the customers are already well served by an existing service, then the disruptive innovation will be in direct competition, and the likelihood is high that the existing service will win out.

If the disruptive innovation is introduced to a different sector of the market, then they are more likely to appreciate and adapt the innovation – because it’s better than what they had before (nothing). An example of this is the uptake of solar power generation in the Indian sub-continent instead of mainland USA where it goes competes directly with the established electricity grid.

In education there are a number of areas of non-consumption that Horn pointed to that may be ripe for the picking in terms of providing alternative forms of education provision, eg:

  • credit recovery (for students who have failed particular credits or standards)
  • exclusions and school drop-outs
  • scheduling conflicts within existing schools
  • home-schooled  and home-bound students
  • smaller, rural schools
  • tutoring opportunities
  • early childhood

Horn pointed out that the opportunity created for some sort of online learning provision to address the needs above is enormous. He pointed out that the adoption of online learning in the US alone is booming, with numbers of school-level students enrolled in online courses rising from 45,000 in 2000 to 1,000,000 in 2007. He suggests that, based on this tragectory, 50% of all courses will be available online by 2015.

Lots for me to think about in the NZ context in this regard – this is the enormous opportunity that we realised back in 2001/2 at the NZ Correspondence School, but the opportunity passed. The opportunity exists now with the Virtual Learning Network, but will require considerable vision and leadership to take it into this new era.

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