The experience the Woolf Fisher Fellowship afforded my wife, (Dorothy), and I, is possibly the richest, most humbling education experience we’ve ever had.
To say we are grateful is a pathetic understatement. We both feel very challenged by the vision and generosity of Wool Fisher, the man, and this has become as much a part of the learning as the places we visited and the ideas we’ve synthesised from our learning journey.
We left NZ on April 22. Dorothy returned for the birth of our 2nd grandchild 10 days ahead of me on July 7, and I returned after attending Harvard on July 17.
Dorothy and I, and the Manaiakalani Group, have been blessed over years to have been able to learn from, and contribute to a global group of Education Innovators who have been of enormous help to us as we sought to raise learner achievement outcomes and provide equity of digital access for Decile 1 Maori and Pasifika Learners. This made it easy to settle on a general theme for the Fellowship experience. We decided that we would do something we’ve never had a chance to do; -visit the people we work with and who have helped us “at their place”.
Woolf Fisher Trust enabled this remarkable opportunity to see people and their work “in situ” and to organise holiday and reflection time in between. What a blessing this turned out to be!
A study of disparity and the attempt/s to regain identity. A study of magnificent successes in re-discovering culture and dealing with on-going colonisation. We visited 12 schools and some education institutions and saw some of the most vivid and “in your face” disparity we have seen anywhere in the world. We, by the way, have worked and taught in Papua New Guinea!
We have on-going connections via the roll-out and development of digital learning along with our association with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and the resurgent culture of the Navigators. We have ongoing development opportunities via Professor Michael Fullan, who’s global “New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning movement is being investigated by the Kamehameha Schools of Hawai’i. At a class by class level we look forward to using our Google connections and platform to connect NZ classrooms with Hawai’ian classrooms. We have every expectation of continuing to work with educators in Hawai’i as we continue to try and solve education problems for Polynesian people.
These visits were very much ‘system level’ occasions.
1. We met with François Bocquet, Chargé de la prospective au NumériLab at the French Ministry of Education. His role would translate to “Director of Innovative and Digital Technologies”.
Our connection here, is via Hapara an NZ Start-Up, (now global), that began in our school and is currently assisting with ChromeBook roll-outs in France. Dorothy has already been and assisted with this work and our visit was to gain a system level understanding of whether and how we might continue to be involved as France considers “Digitising” her Learning Delivery with some learners belonging to a population similar to ours. Our conversation left us grateful to be working in NZ education, as although our experience sometimes feels incoherent, at least we are to a greater extent, “masters of our own fate!”
2. At the OECD we met with David Istance, Senior Analyst, Project Leader, Directorate for Education and Skills, Innovative Teaching and Learning.
This visit had a similar theme to all of our visits; -what are the themes and emergent patterns and learnings when considering Innovative Pedagogies for Powerful Learning? In particular, we were looking forward to discussing the global tension between the ‘Knowledge Based Metrics’ which are driving the “League Table Effect” created by PISA Testing and analysis, and the idea of Creative and Innovative Pedagogies to produce C21 Graduate Attributes. David acknowledged that this was a real problem and that the OECD were realising they needed to adjust their focus somewhat. David put us in touch with the leaders of two “Equity and Access” projects in different parts of the world who we have already corresponded with and will be able to work with going forward.
Both Dorothy & I will be speaking at OECD hosted events in the coming months.
By this time, we really did need to stop and think and so were fortunate to travel to Bern, the home of Dorothy’s ancestors, by way of Annecy near the French-Swiss border.
As we travelled through the ‘Old World’ we were struck by the scope and length of vision held and passed on by our forebears. Vision that was huge, intergenerational and had spectacular unity of purpose. It put us in mind of Mr Woolf Fisher and challenged us when thinking about our own work and the imperative of improving the lot the of the “20% Long Brown Tail” of NZ.
In 1540 Dorothy’s forebears decided to build a cathedral. 250 years later they completed it. People died whilst building and there were accidents and hardship, but they refused to be put off and their monument to the glory of God and their own identity stands strong today. We became fascinated with this theme and as we travelled via River Boat from Amsterdam to Budapest, continued to marvel at intergenerational unity of purpose and the determination to honour God, culture and identity.
We travelled via Rome to Sicilia to a remote coastal location, (Ribera), to think, read and write. This we did, though neither of us wrote as much as we hoped, as unpacking and repacking what we’d already encountered was a bigger job than either of us anticipated. Some of what we wrote/video’d was used immediately back in NZ for Treasury, Auckland University and the Manaiakalani Outreach.
Although we’ve worked with Michael Fullan on a few a occasions, (beginning back in the NZ Schooling Improvement Days), it was an absolute privilege to see him at work in “his place”. Apart from spending 5 hours discussing “New Pedagogies for Deeper Learning” and the potential for working together in Hawai’i, we had the joy of being present when he ‘did his thing’ with the Clinton School District 2.5 hrs outside Toronto. The District had brought to together its Administrators and Senior Leaders for the day and Michael facilitated their learning for the morning. He generously gave us all his content to use for our own Manaiakalani planning and we had the buzz of being there while someone who’s the best in the world at what he does, led us to engage in strategic thinking about our clusters of schools or Communities of Learning.
Our engagements in Maine were facilitated by Jeff Mao the first Director of the Maine Learning Initiative, which was the first whole state laptop roll-out in the world. These people helped us enormously when we did the first NZ Cluster Roll-Out in 2010-2011.
We had 3 meetings in Maine with groups of people, numbering 12 in all, who were either lead educators, administrators, or high level tech supporters/suppliers.
These people and these kinds of meetings are very important to us as we supply solutions via the Manaiakalani Education Trust, to areas of NZ that have typically been difficult to supply/support and where there have been real issues of equity and access. The conversations on these occasions tend to be two way “Q & A” where we are helping each other to problem solve or describe roll-out or maintenance/sustainability challenges that are actually problems for the digitising of education anywhere in the world. What was particularly delightful about the opportunity afforded by Woolf Fisher, was being able to do this “at their place” rather than in a sterile “neutral environment”. The best of these was a BBQ overlooking one of the sounds, with a collection of absolutely enthusiastic and committed educators talking about their practice.
Myrtle Beach Sth Carolina
SCASA is the annual conference of the District Administrators, Principals and Deputy Principals for the State of Sth Carolina. We do not have any equivalent of this in NZ. Our connection there is Donna Teuber from Richland District 2, who was embarking on District wide ChromeBook Roll-Outs at the time we began to roll-out ChromeBooks here in NZ. Since that time we have been “day/night” supporters for each other in efforts to support children in Digital Education.
The conference was SUPERB! It had the finest collection of “on-point” practical, problem solving presenters I have ever heard. Sth Carolina is forward thinking in its approach to Innovative Pedagogies and one could see this driven all the way down through the State Legislature, through the Secretariat, District Superintendents down to the Principal and Deputy Principal levels. This high degree of coherence and unity of purpose is definitely something New Zealand could learn from as innovation is far more ad hoc here. We learned things we can use in our own Manaiakalani Cluster development and planning from seeing this layered coherence and meaning making.
ISTE Conference, Denver, Colorado
At ISTE, the largest conference of its kind globally, we met up with our NZ colleagues as this is a learning event Manaiakalani Principals try to get to every 2 years.
ISTE has the largest collection of ‘education solutions’ to be seen anywhere in the world along with the largest collection of education presentations and speakers. It is attended each year by 15 - 20,000 people. Part of the buzz for us, is being there with our colleagues and arguing and debating the respective merits of what we see and learn. The Manaiakalani Excursion to ISTE is a formal, facilitated event, with a collaborative approach to note taking, reflecting and structured discussion. At ISTE we uncover solutions and ideas, that as a result of extended discussion and trial, ultimately end up being researched by the Woolf Fisher Research Centre as we investigate their efficacy for improving learner achievement outcomes. Examples of this would be our current ChromeBook and Community Wireless solutions.
Our investigations this year, with a new Digital Curriculum requirement in NZ, were into the areas of Coding, Robotics & Digital Curriculum delivery. As always, we found some really productive leads to follow up on and people connections to work with as we go forward.
July 4 with Family
We were privileged to be immersed in the culture of the great American Nation, at a family and community level for the celebration of the National Holiday. Community fireworks at the local High School was a ton of fun as was the rest of the ‘razzamataz’ going on in the community. Sadly, the nation was the most divided we’ve ever seen it. Divided over guns, Black Lives Matter, Clinton v Trump and the ideals of the Great American Dream. Most educators and people in communities are just ‘trying to get on with it’ while Fox News and other media play their polarizing roles in society. Once again this was an opportunity to read, listen, reflect and write with particular reference to the developing incoherence in America and reflection on how we might grow better coherence in NZ.
This was a collection of the most credentialled and capable presenters and facilitators one would ever be likely to find in one place together with an audience that is bright, eager and has a sense of being privileged to be present. The subject of ‘Evolving Leadership in Education’ is timely and necessary as globally, education receives increasing pressure to deliver success across domains that previously included family, church and sports clubs.
Both the presenters and the material were excellent and I’ve used (with permission) some of it in presentations around NZ already.
The Harvard Graduate School of Education is working hard to be genuinely ‘international’ and is succeeding, though presents itself unwittingly ‘American-Centric’ in some of its approaches to global challenges. What the course is particularly good at is getting its members to examine themselves and their practice in the light of current good practices and make decisions about how to continue to improve.
Benefit to School, Community & NZ Education
The Woolf Fisher Fellowship is far and away the best opportunity I’ve ever had to visit, listen, talk, think, read reflect and write about how to improve the lot of learners living in subsistence communities inside this and other developed economies and how to partner with them in the move from subsistence to interdependent capital building citizenship.
I am still synthesising this information and thinking and will be doing so for some time.
I am using the substance arrived at thus far to:
- Rewrite the Pt England School Charter
- Rewrite the Manaiakalani Strategic Plan and Memorandum of Understanding
- Design the developing Manaiakalani Outreach and its programme into the Decile 1 Regions of NZ
- Advise NZ Treasury
- Advise Auckland ATEED
- Advise NZ Ministry of Education
My hope and expectation is that this work will indeed be of benefit!