ice­berg Find­lay Buchanan Fac­ing the

HOW CLAIRE AMOS IS RE DESIGNING THE CLASS­ROOM AND DIGITISING ED­U­CA­TION

Idealog - - CONTENTS -

looks at one ed­u­ca­tion fu­tur­ist’s ef forts to trans­form t h e sy st em

Ear­lier this year, a group of se­condary school prin­ci­pals de­clared that‘ re­view­ing NCEA is like shuf­fling the deckchairs on the Ti­tanic in­stead of avoid­ing the ice berg ’. Their con­cerns have long been held by the busi­ness com­mu­nity, with many ar­gu­ing our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is not pre­par­ing stu­dents for the real world. While AI, VR/AR, ro­bot­ics, and many more emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies are trans­form­ing a raft of in­dus­tries, dis­lo­cat­ing economies and cre­at­ing al­ter­na­tive busi­ness mod­els, many ar­gue our ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem is yet to see real re­form. And the re­sult of the dis­con­nect, as theMc Kin­sey Global In­sti­tute points out, is that young peo­ple can’t find jobs–and em­ploy­ers can’t find peo­ple with the right en­try-level skills. But where does the change start? Right in the class­room, it turns out. Fin Buchanan takes a look at one teacher and ed­u­ca­tion fu­tur­ist’ s ef­forts to trans­form the sys­tem.

It takes a bit of a vil­lage to raise the child, and I think we need to start think­ing about ed­u­ca­tion more i n that sense. It's not j ust the j ob of fam­ily or of the teacher, i t's ac­tu­ally how can we j oin the dots for them and con­nect them with the groups and the i ndi­vid­u­als that might sup­port them on their path­way.

There needs to be some sig­nif­i­cant changes made to the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem, at least if a swathe of sta­tis­tics by the McKin­sey Global In­sti­tute about the fu­ture of work is any­thing to by. It re­ported that there will be 38 to 40 mil­lion fewer work­ers who will gain ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tion (post­grad­u­ate or univer­sity de­grees) than em­ploy­ers will need, au­to­ma­tion will wipe at least 30 per­cent of the cur­rent jobs in a few decades and 60 per­cent of chil­dren at school will be in jobs that do not ex­ist yet.

How­ever, de­spite these daunt­ing pre­dic­tions, others ar­gue tech­nol­ogy will present new op­por­tu­ni­ties and po­ten­tial job growth in al­ter­na­tive in­dus­tries that could off­set the loss.

Pos­si­bly the most telling el­e­ment isn’t what is be­ing pre­dicted, but the sheer un­cer­tainty of what the fu­ture holds. Amara’s Law ar­gues that as a hu­man race we tend to over­es­ti­mate the ef­fect of a tech­nol­ogy in the short run and un­der­es­ti­mate the ef­fect in the long run.

So, how do we know what rel­e­vant skills will be needed for an un­pre­dictable fu­ture work­force?

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Jo Cribb, the author of Don’t Worry About

The Ro­bots, while we don’t know the ex­act mag­ni­tude of the quake tech­nol­ogy will cause yet, it’s vi­tal that we pre­pare for change. And for ed­u­ca­tion, this means mov­ing from a structure built on old-age de­pend­able ‘core sub­jects’ to an open- learn­ing environment where stu­dents are taught a clus­ter of rel­e­vant skills that can be trans­fer­able and adapted across in­dus­tries.

And while ed­u­ca­tion is fraught with is­sues, rang­ing from strained teacher salaries to an in­ter­nal bu­reau­cracy that’s been likened to pol­i­tics, there is in­no­va­tion wait­ing in the fringes.

One agent for change is ed­u­ca­tion fu­tur­ist Claire Amos, who has re­designed the class­room by tak­ing tech­nol­ogy through the school gates of Auck­land’s Hob­sonville Point High School, in­te­grat­ing it into New Zealand’s ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and then shar­ing these learn­ings fur­ther afield.

‘You can never be over­dressed or overe­d­u­cated’ is the Os­car Wilde quote Amos has in her email sig­na­ture. She's deputy prin­ci­pal at the school, is cov­ered in tat­toos and is fer­vent about shift­ing the ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem.

Amos has some 20 years ed­u­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing the past three years spent in­cu­bat­ing in­no­va­tion at Hob­sonville Point High School (HPHS). In 2009, Amos was a Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion e-fel­low and un­der­took a study of how ICT can be used to sup­port lit­er­acy in and be­yond the English class­room.

“I knew I wanted to be an ed­u­ca­tor from sixth form when I had an art his­tory teacher that I adored, and I could see how in­cred­i­ble an ed­u­ca­tor could be,” Amos says. “Although I am a ca­reer ed­u­ca­tor, I have al­ways had a much broader set of in­ter­ests. I love hav­ing one foot in ed­u­ca­tion and one foot in busi­ness, I'm re­ally in­ter­ested in gov­er­nance and be­ing on boards, as well as look­ing at how I can get more in­volved in pol­i­tics.”

While she is a teacher and ed­u­ca­tor, she also works reg­u­larly with agen­cies such as the Ed­u­ca­tion Coun­cil of Aotearoa NZ, New Zealand Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Au­thor­ity (NZQA), Net­work for Learn­ing, NetSafe and the 21st Cen­tury Learn­ing Ref­er­ence Group with a fo­cus on en­abling fu­ture-fo­cused change and sup­port­ing teach­ers and stu­dents in blended learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments.

Her class­room at Hob­sonville Point Se­condary School, dubbed The Hatch­ery, is the fruits of her labour, and a fu­sion of her ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion, tech­nol­ogy, and busi­ness. The model sees se­nior stu­dents em­bark on year-long projects solv­ing real world is­sues us­ing new tech­nolo­gies, with one stu­dent self-learn­ing how to use a 3D printer, as well as work­ing along­side in­dus­try men­tors and pitch­ing to ex­ter­nal clients. Amos refers to these as ‘Im­pact Projects’ and lets stu­dents spend two thirds of ev­ery Wed­nes­day en­gaged in these com­mu­nity ori­ented projects, while re­ceiv­ing their NCEA cre­den­tials along the way.

“This is a great way to au­then­ti­cally in­tro­duce ‘ser­vice learn­ing’ and has been a great way for stu­dents to ex­plore and ad­dress is­sues around sus­tain­abil­ity within a very real com­mu­nity con­text,” Amos says.

Some of the projects

in­clude an oil clean-up de­vice, cre­ated by two fif­teen-year-old stu­dents Anna Barrow and Holly Red­mond, which aims to re­duce the amount of oil pol­lu­tion in lo­cal marine ar­eas.

Barrow says that they are set to pitch their de­vice as a pos­si­ble fix to the wide­spread is­sue of oil residue. An­other is a self-ex­e­cut­ing trap­ping de­vice by a stu­dent which con­nects lo­cal traps to its owner, and sig­ni­fies when and where the traps are trig­gered – with an aim to as­sist lo­cal trap­pers and help them man­age their trap lines.

Fur­ther­more, Amos plans to put the stu­dent in touch with rel­e­vant con­ser­va­tion groups, users, and busi­nesses to help with the tech­ni­cal as­pects of the project.

In­ter­est­ingly, Amos says her big­gest crit­i­cism is not the New Zealand Cur­ricu­lum it­self. She de­scribes it as a flex­i­ble qual­i­fi­ca­tion frame­work or “an in­cred­i­ble doc­u­ment, that has the abil­ity to be used, picked out, plucked freely”. In­stead, she says the prob­lem is the cul­ture and mind­set within schools of those who are fear­ful of mov­ing for­ward and us­ing tech­nol­ogy and creative think­ing to bet­ter serve stu­dents.

“It frus­trates me that young peo­ple are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ver­sions of high school that's no dif­fer­ent than you ex­pe­ri­enced and prob­a­bly even our par­ents ex­pe­ri­enced,” she says.

Amos says in­stead of us­ing a tra­di­tional timetable where English and Maths are taught in iso­la­tion, the ap­proach al­lows stu­dents to ex­pe­ri­ence learn­ing through a re-con­tex­tu­alised model, which com­bines var­i­ous sub­jects into one class­room.

Learn­ing is sup­ported by ev­ery­one us­ing de­vices on a shared net­work. This con­trasts with com­mon school ini­tia­tives such as BYOD (bring your own de­vice) or hav­ing des­ig­nated com­puter rooms for spe­cial oc­ca­sions. In The Hatch­ery, ev­ery stu­dent is armed with a lap­top and con­nected to the cen­tralised data­base of Google Class­room to record and up­date their work. More soft­ware used to man­age broad learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties by track­ing progress and sub­mis­sion is Ha­para, which al­lows Amos to see what’s on the browser at any given time, and over­see when files have been up­dated as well as mon­i­tor the progress of stu­dents at any given time.

A fur­ther fea­ture in the school’s re­designed class­rooms is what Amos calls con­nected in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary learn­ing, which sees a mix­ture of year nine and year 10 stu­dents be­ing co-taught dif­fer­ent sub­jects in one mo­d­ule.

“For ex­am­ple, I have taught an English and Science mo­d­ule with Danielle My­burgh called Game Over that looked at the gam­i­fi­ca­tion of war through the novel En­ders Game, ex­plored the na­ture of science through a science fic­tion lens and re­searched the science of gam­ing. So rather than some­one think­ing of English in iso­la­tion and science in iso­la­tion, we're look­ing at how things can pro­vide con­text for one an­other,” she says.

It’s an al­ter­na­tive to the fac­tory style of class­room in­tro­duced in the mid 19th cen­tury by Ho­race Mann, which has since stuck as the dom­i­nant archetype of ed­u­ca­tion. The model houses 28 or so stu­dents in a 50-square-me­tre class­room who are taught by one teacher in blocks of one-hour pe­ri­ods. The sys­tem was de­signed to pre­pare youth for a 20th cen­tury in­dus­tri­alised econ­omy, but while it was an ef­fi­cient way to scale pro­duc­tion and foster civilised cit­i­zens back then, its lack of per­son­al­i­sa­tion, creativ­ity and abil­ity to be moulded is ar­guably neg­li­gi­ble now.

Amos points to her ‘foun­da­tion pro­gramme’ as an ex­am­ple of an al­ter­na­tive way of designing a class­room, where she teams up with an­other teacher and oc­cu­pies a large open plan class­room of up to 50 stu­dents at a time.

“There is no ques­tion, learn­ing is deeper if it is con­nected and con­tex­tu­alised,” she says.

“Time and time again, I have seen stu­dents ex­pe­ri­enc­ing en­hanced learn­ing in each learn­ing area by the ad­di­tion of a sec­ond one. Maths is given an au­then­tic con­text by ap­ply­ing it to tech­nol­ogy, rep­re­sen­ta­tion of ideas in English lit­er­a­ture are taken to the next level when ex­plored through the arts. Com­bin­ing two learn­ing ar­eas has been made pos­si­ble by our phys­i­cal learn­ing environment at HPSS, with two teach­ers be­ing able to teach 40+ stu­dents in a large learn­ing com­mon room – and we are work­ing from the same stu­dent teach­ing ra­tio as any other school in New Zealand. This, of course, is nigh on im­pos­si­ble in the tra­di­tional sin­gle-cell class­room environment.”

So in a fully digi­tised class­room, how do teach­ers mon­i­tor stu­dents’ ac­cess to the un­bounded ac­ces­si­bil­ity of the in­ter­net? Amos says in terms of reg­u­la­tion and cen­sor­ship, she is a big be­liever in dig­i­tal ci­ti­zen­ship and giv­ing stu­dents space to learn how to man­age them­selves, while also tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity as a teacher to be mov­ing around and stay­ing ac­tively en­gaged in the class­room to mod­er­ate on­line ac­tiv­ity.

“I'm an ad­vo­cate for very low lev­els of fil­ter­ing, so we block out sort of gam­bling and porn and that's about it. How­ever, so­cial me­dia for the most part is avail­able to them be­cause they're tools that they need to use any­way,” she says.

Ad­di­tion­ally, Hob­sonville Point Se­condary School pulls in ex­ter­nal part­ners such as the Univer­sity of Auck­land as well as var­i­ous start-up busi­nesses, who as­sist the stu­dents with their projects. Two of the star­tups are Pre­vi­ously Un­avail­able, an in­no­va­tion con­sul­tancy that spe­cialises in new prod­uct in­no­va­tion, which has launched a chil­dren’s book, The Boy and the Lemon, and tooth­brush sub­scrip­tion de­liv­ery ser­vice Toothcrush last year. An­other on site is Thought-Wired, which is us­ing tech­nol­ogy to al­low peo­ple with severe dis­abil­i­ties

to not only com­mu­ni­cate and con­nect with fam­ily, friends and others, but to in­ter­act with the environment – and even ma­nip­u­late ob­jects just like able-bod­ied peo­ple. In re­turn, the school opens up its fa­cil­i­ties to the Thought-Wired, which uses the school as a co-work­ing space.

“So I don't have the ex­per­tise that James Hur­man has at Pre­vi­ously Un­avail­able, or the ex­per­tise that Dmitry Selit­skiy has at ThoughtWired, but I know them so I can con­nect my stu­dents with them,” Amos says.

“That's al­ways been my ap­proach to tech­nol­ogy, I've al­ways been in e-learn­ing and I'm con­sid­ered an e-learn­ing and tech­nol­ogy leader, yet I'm not techy. I know what I want tech­nol­ogy to be able to do and sup­port, and I know the right peo­ple to work with to get the re­sults I want, but that doesn't mean that I need to be across un­der­stand­ing the soft­ware side of AI.”

Amos says ed­u­ca­tors need to be more proac­tive in ven­tur­ing out­side of school gates, at­tend cross sec­tor events and ac­tively connecting with a range of peo­ple to learn the skill set needed to de­velop stu­dents.

She says part of the prob­lem is an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion where the av­er­age age for a teacher is 57. Mean­while, she says the young teach­ers are leav­ing be­cause they are see­ing a whole lot of work and very lit­tle pay.

“We can be stuck in a bit of a time cap­sule – you've of­ten got teach­ers that have been in the class­room for 10, 20, 30 years – and you can end up liv­ing in a bit of a bub­ble where you just do what you've al­ways done.

“So I would sug­gest ed­u­ca­tors need a bit of provo­ca­tion and they need a bit of nudg­ing. But they also need to recog­nise that it's not out­side of their skillset ei­ther, that ac­tu­ally those spa­ces aren't scary, and that they ab­so­lutely be­long in them be­cause they're the ones pre­par­ing the young peo­ple that are go­ing to go into those spa­ces.”

Amos is care­ful not to let teach­ers shoul­der the blame, and ad­mits that teacher salaries are poor. She points to so­lu­tions over­seas such as Sin­ga­pore and Fin­land, which have far fewer teach­ing hours, as well as invit­ing a col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach be­tween com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions, busi­nesses, and ed­u­ca­tors, to work to­gether.

“It takes a bit of a vil­lage to raise the child, and I think we need to start think­ing about ed­u­ca­tion more in that sense. It's not just the job of fam­ily or of the teacher, it's ac­tu­ally how can we join the dots for them and con­nect them with the groups and the in­di­vid­u­als that might sup­port them on their path­way.”

Ad­di­tion­ally, Amos recog­nises the great work hap­pen­ing in re­gional lower decile schools who do not have the same ac­cess to the re­sources seen in ur­ban schools such as HPSS. One no­table ex­am­ple of a ru­ral school ap­ply­ing the same method­ol­ogy and re­ceiv­ing suc­cess is Patea Area School, which RNZ re­ports was pre­vi­ously un­der statu­tory man­age­ment and was pegged as one of the poor­est per­form­ing schools in the coun­try. How­ever, since ditch­ing the sub­servient

Ed­u­ca­tors need a bit of provo­ca­tion and they need a bit of nudg­ing. But they also need to recog­nise that i t's not out­side of their skillset ei­ther, that ac­tu­ally those spa­ces aren't scary, and that they ab­so­lutely be­long i n them be­cause they're the ones pre­par­ing the young peo­ple that are go­ing to go i nto those spa­ces.

tra­di­tional school model and adopt­ing ap­proaches sim­i­lar to HPSS, such as work with ex­ter­nal com­mu­nity part­ners and serv­ing up a retro­fit­ted cur­ricu­lum, it has since dou­bled to 160 stu­dents and achieved 100 per­cent pass rates for NCEA Lev­els 1 and 2.

De­spite her con­tri­bu­tion to HPSS, Amos has never been chained to a class­room. And her un­bri­dled con­tri­bu­tion to boards, blogs, schools, and busi­nesses re­sulted in the at­tempted char­ter school, City Se­nior School, last year. As part of a part­ner­ship with Brett O’Ri­ley, pre­vi­ous head of the Auck­land Tourism, Events and Eco­nomic Devel­op­ment Agency (ATEED), the school was set to be built on Auck­land’s Vic­to­ria Park us­ing a shared space to house 300 stu­dents.

The pro­posed char­ter school aimed to con­nect new busi­ness start-ups with stu­dents on joint projects, and se­cured part­ner­ships with Mi­crosoft, Dat­a­com, and the Auck­land Theatre Com­pany.

“It came about with a cof­fee with Brett O’Ri­ley, we both shared con­cerns with the seem­ingly glacial pace of change hap­pen­ing in ed­u­ca­tion,” Amos says. “Then he turned around and said, ‘Have you thought about open­ing a char­ter school?’”

Amos met the propo­si­tion with am­biva­lence and is not typ­i­cally a sup­porter of the char­ter school model. She says what she doesn’t agree with is that it al­lows peo­ple to not have to em­ploy reg­is­tered teach­ers and it doesn’t en­sure peo­ple teach the New Zealand cur­ricu­lum or the NCEA frame­work, which she be­lieves are para­mount to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion. How­ever, while she be­lieves our state sys­tem is flex­i­ble enough to be ma­nip­u­lated cre­atively, it doesn’t mean peo­ple do it.

“I changed my think­ing from view­ing the school as a ‘char­ter school’ but as an op­por­tu­nity to pro­to­type a school idea that I could get be­hind. We need to have ini­tia­tive and pol­icy that sup­ports ed­u­ca­tors who are coura­geous and creative enough to im­ple­ment new ideas to get some fund­ing and sup­port to ex­ist.”

Fur­ther­more, the char­ter school was sup­ported at

govern­ment level and was granted $727,696 by the pre­vi­ous Na­tional govern­ment. The school was de­scribed as the first of its kind, with a fo­cus on science, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing, arts and maths (STEAM) based sub­jects, which are trend­ing heav­ily over­seas. How­ever, with the ax­ing of the in­cum­bent govern­ment, and the in­tro­duc­tion of a new one, the char­ter school idea has since fallen away.

Amos says there was al­ways an el­e­ment of gam­ble with the idea be­cause of the pos­si­bil­ity of a new govern­ment.

“And that is what hap­pened. That is fine, part of me knew that as an un­opened school we would be a sac­ri­fi­cial lamb and they had promised peo­ple that they would close char­ter schools, so it was pretty clear that when Labour got in, they would can­cel the con­tract. The irony is I’m a com­plete Labour and Greens girl my­self,” she says.

Amos says they are in the process of re­turn­ing the ex­penses to the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion, but has ne­go­ti­ated a sum with Labour to set up a foun­da­tion for an ed­u­ca­tional trust.

This means in­stead of con­cen­trat­ing an in­no­va­tive ap­proach to ed­u­ca­tion in just one school, the fund­ing and ideas for the pro­posed char­ter school will be spread across many schools, hope­fully spurring more into ac­tion to over­haul their cur­ricu­lum – or at least make some changes.

“In a way, it’s a re­ally nice out­come in the sense that we are now in a po­si­tion to sup­port schools and ed­u­ca­tors in the state sys­tem,” Amos says.

Whether she man­ages to set up a char­ter school one day, put her po­lit­i­cal hat into the ring of ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ters, or be the first to teach along­side a ro­bot, her rig­or­ous ef­fort to face up to the fu­ture and brush the cob­webs out of the ed­u­ca­tion space de­serves at­ten­tion.

And as for what is next in the pipe­line, while Amos re­mains af­fil­i­ated to Hob­sonville Point Se­condary School, she is look­ing for­ward to a new role as prin­ci­pal of Albany Se­nior High School.

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