Wednesday, 1 March 2017


So, I've signed up for (and started) my first MOOC! Having read The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros and signed up for his regular thought provoking emails, when I saw the opportunity to join in some deeper thinking about using innovation in education I decided to push myself and sign up.

This is the first blog as part of my MOOCing and based on week 1 of the IMMOOC. I haven't blogged for ages and it's a bit rambling but here goes...

The fact that George was joined by John Spencer and AJ Juliani was an added bonus as I'm a big fan of their work also. Sorry Katie Martin, it's nothing personal but I haven't come across you yet!

Listening to the conversation between these four was easy. I agreed with almost everything but maybe this isn't a good thing. Given I've read books by George and AJ and John I need to make sure I'm challenging myself and not sat in some self-righteous echo chamber. The other problem I found was that the points were discussed so thoroughly that anything I thought of to add in a blog post was covered!

During the discussion the quote below was mentioned:


This resonates strongly with me. The playing of 'the game of school' was also discussed and watching children conform, stop asking questions and display dependency on the adult spouting at the front is depressing. (This is the reason that I am a big fan of Ian Gilbert's 'Thunks' and the Philosophy 4 Children program, which research shows positively impacts on academic performance as well as encouraging children to identify, ask and answer deep questions.)

But does simply ensuring children continue to be curious mean we haven't failed them?

Surely children need more than this. There's the obvious academic 'stuff' that's needed (if only to achieve grades which, whether we agree with them or not, unlock future possibilities) and then beyond that...what? Just curiosity? Is being curious enough if you don't know what to do about it? An example mentioned in the discussion of astrophysicists never stop being curious even as their own understanding increases indicates the importance of remaining curious but it surely can't just be curiosity that improved their understanding. The ability to frame appropriate questions, to follow a logical and structured path of 'research' to begin to answer the questions as well as the ability to synthesize, analyse, compare and contrast and relate to, and recall, previous understanding etc. are key skills that support and in term fuel curiosity. 

So what are the implications of this?

It strikes me that if we allow children to be spat out at the end of an education system just being able to recite facts then we have indeed failed them. There's a lot of talk about future jobs and employers wanting skills over knowledge so, if this is accurate, education needs to ensure we aren't failing our learners by using them to meet performance targets and tick boxes. Allowing children to remain curious, and providing them with skills to use alongside their curiosity, seems essential to me but in this day and age of increasing scrutiny, accountability and public shaming of 'underperforming' schools it takes a brave leader to resist playing the game of school results.

So where does 'innovation' sit in this over scrutinised world?

As the guys said in the session, our educators have to make education work for 2017 - take Netflix and Blockbuster Video as an example. It's not about doing 'new' stuff, it's about doing what works well better and more relevantly for our modern learners. This is innovation - adapting our techniques, structures, policies and curriculum content to best suit the learners we have in front of us day after day. If we get this right then I've always believed that the outcomes, held so precious by outsiders but only a small measure of the complete child, look after themselves. Curiosity, innovation and it's only week 1!

1 comment:

  1. A rambling response…

    Liked the question, ‘But does simply ensuring children continue to be curious mean we haven’t failed them?’.

    You’re right, this isn’t enough; it’s a good start, but it isn’t enough. The thing is, children generally arrive into our care as curious little finder-outers. As adults in this profession, most of us feel, I think, that what can happen over the next few years is tragic. They learn not to be curious. Some of us do our upmost to ‘pacify’ the curiosity (I’m thinking iPads in highchairs for a start...), or we feel that there just isn’t the time, or we’re afraid to ‘let them go and explore’ (or we’re afraid to explore ourselves - in other words, we’re desperately trying to rediscover our own sense of wonder and curiosity after decades of comformity).

    How else does this happen? Well, I’m guessing that it is, in part, because we are a naturally adaptive species. If we don’t adapt - we don’t survive. Generally, we conform - and the ‘we’ here, is them and us...we all generally conform to whatever the expectations are, whether that’s meeting academic targets or underlining a date on a page…

    So...dedicating curriculum time to P4C (and incorporating this approach into most or all learning opportunities), is a way forward. But you’re right; what do we do with the curiosity? What do we do with all this critical thinking? It can sometimes seem all rather pointless and somewhat frustrating. My next P4C question…

    ‘We’re all getting really good at asking what?’

    I think it’s the ‘so what?’ question we need to ask more. The idea of a LAUNCH sequence helps accommodate curious learning and provide structure. Certainly, if it’s positive change we’re after, there needs to be an element of ‘disciplined process’ - an outcome that, at the very least, demonstrates learning. If it’s not change we’re after, well - that’s OK maybe - ensuring that children can ‘be’ curious is wonderful in itself. Perhaps curiosity loses some of its magic if it’s constantly unpicked and hurled in the direction of a LAUNCH sequence. Maybe some experiences mean more if they’re just... left alone. Why do we have to have answers to everything?

    Anyway, because we are adaptable (and it sounds so obvious) we can adapt. Simple. Well, the idea seems simple enough...harder to do if you’re a traditionalist or if your LAUNCH sequences / innovative enquiry-based units only kick in half-way through primary school or P4C-style sessions are infrequent or half-hearted, or you’re just not supported or given the space to try. Nevertheless, if the expectation does change, and becomes consistent, so will the practice...wait, where have we heard that before?