Friday, 25 November 2011

Students using Construction to Learn

As I work with a number of schools developing their new buildings, a few are really heeding my suggestion and using every opportunity to learn from each stage of their building programme - it'll only happen once!

One such school is St Saviour's and St Olave's School in Southwark, London. A complete staff panel is developing resources to enhance the curriculum, and student groups are developing their own learning by working closely with the construction project manager and sharing it with not only the school community, but also online for everyone to follow. Although still in it's early days, the promise is exciting.
One of the students is recording photographically every activity on their construction site. Year 13 student April Gurney, who is studying photography, has take some amazing photographs, including the one above - possibly the best photograph of demolition I have seen for a long time.
Excitingly, so inspiring is this photograph that it has inspired the English Department to create a whole project on science fiction writing. To develop this further collaboration with the Art Department has allowed students to use 'Photoshop' to manipulate the image to create their ideas.
It's all about learning being flexible and taking opportunities. This is no lightweight stuff, mathematics, engineering, languages, arts, modern languages, environmental sciences, geography, citizenship are all involved - it could be fab with students using their learning in context! Pythagoras, forces, calculation are all becoming real, rather than just a paper exercise - it could be really fantastic!
I will be writing much more about this project soon - but the start has been very promising indeed.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Bloodhound Project

I was very pleased recently to spend some time alone talking with Richard Noble, former land speed record holder during WISE2012 in Doha. He was enthusing about the fantastically ambitious and exciting new 'Bloodhound' land speed record project.

It is ambitious, and as it aims for speeds over one thousand miles an hour frankly, it sounds a bit scary to a lay person like me.

The 1,000 mph Bloodhound car is now into build and the Bloodhound website is now being followed in 211 countries. Bloodhound will be running in 2013 and 2014 in South Africa (thousands of tons of stones are currently being moved from the desert right now).
The REAL beauty is the real emphasis given to education throughout the project. The UK school operation is being run through 4,729 schools. The Bloodhound website already shows how some schools are interacting with this project.
What is really exciting and a real live learning opportunity for schools everywhere is that ALL the operational data from the car will streamed live to the web so that they can follow the programme. The Project Team are also developing an on line educational academy which will provide sufficient education for the web followers to interpret and understand the data. All this goes on the website www.bloodhoundssc.com
This is a really exciting opportunity for schools - it is a cutting edge 'real' project in every way - I just hope that as many as possible get involved.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Learners Voice AT WISE 2011 - The girls from Haiti

With over twelve hundred delegates at the World Education Summit for Education (WISE) in Doha, a crucial component of the conference is the focus on young people and 'Learners Voice. This year, thirty students from all over the world underwent a rigorous selection process to attend and represent their peers. Not only are they attending, they are also running sessions, running workshops, interviewing delegates and reporting on the conference. a tall order for a group that had never met before. To prepare for this they had a two day pre-conference of their own, it was obvious to see how well they have 'gelled' as a team. The workshop I attended was the best of the day - delegates had not had to work and contribute so much before - brilliant!! (It was also good to see evidence of Gavin Dykes (Education Impact, UK) and his guiding hand behind the scenes to help it have maximum impact).

Despite all this activity and the focus on young people, there will be many delegates that will really miss out by not actually speaking to them. How can this be right in an education conference? This is a real pity, the students I spoke to and who ran the sessions are scarily bright, ambitious and articulate. (Maybe this aspiration is scares off some delegates). Some of the young learners I spoke to have amazing stories to tell.
I was fortunate to talk to Augustin (studying Electrical Engineering) and Daphnee (studying Agro-economics), both of whom had come from Haiti. For one it was their first ever trip out of Haiti - and to come all the way to Doha via Miami and New York was a real, daunting, experience! What a first trip!
They spoke enthusiastically abut Haiti and with real honesty about the significant issues of all forms post earthquake: poverty, high unemployment (50%), incredibly low take up of higher education especially by students who lived out of Port-au Prince. (Only one from Augustin's former school this year went to higher education). They talked about low aspiration and young people's resignation about having to live by scraping together a living by selling water etc. It was truly humbling to hear them talk about it.
Both girls had only managed to secure university places with the assistance of an organisation called HELP. This great organisation offers scholarships for students to go to university in Haiti and is now helping over one hundred students to attend university. Without this assistance they were not sure what they would be doing. It was a depressing thought that these two girls may have been a vastly resource if they had not had the chances given to them. It made me wonder just how many more potential resources were being wasted. The significant social issues are not helped however as both girls mentioned that those who graduated with degrees nearly always then emigrated - an effective brain drain of bright young citizens. The real challenge is to try and retain them and allow them to contribute to their society. They both mentioned that whilst lots of people and organisations are helping in Haiti, so much more help was needed for their education system.
What had the conference done for them? Well they both admitted to being even more aspirational than they had previously been and also determined to contribute back to their society. This is a great outcome for them from WISE 2011.
Augustin, when asked about her impression of the conference in it's stunning surroundings and it's amazing delegates, talked not about these but instead focused on the amazing technology available. There is no doubt that a fabulous infrastructure in Haiti would be a significant factor is raising the education opportunities and aspirations.
It was a real privilege to talk to Augustin and Daphnee. I probably won't ever see or talk to them again, but ladies, it was a humbling experience and I wish you all the best for the future!! To those delegates that don't speak to these young delegates - you really don't know what you missed!!

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

WISE 2011

I am delighted to have been invited to the World Innovation Summit for Education (WISE) for the second year running. Launched in 2009 by the Qatar Foundation, under the inspirational leadership of Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser WISE is now in it's third year.

WISE is an international multi sector forum for creative thinking debate and purposeful action. It seeks to mobilise decision makers and practitioners to seek innovative solutions to todays educational challenges and to share best practice. With 1,200 delegates from 120 countries, it truly is the leading international education conference in the world. It is unique and the underlying premis is built on the belief that building on and implementing best practices in education is the best way to secure a prosperous future for individuals and societies in all parts of the world.
The conference consists of a series of plenary sessions, seminars, panel discussions and interviews as well as numerous networking opportunities. With over 120 speakers from all around the world the range of experiences here is just phenomenal. The conference days are long, finishing at past six o'clock, but with this many people in the same place everyone has to make the most of this amazing conference.
One development I am really pleased to see is the greater participation of students. Thirty students, carefully selected from numerous countries have already had a two day mini conference and are spending the days interviewing delegates, reporting on sessions and running their own presentation. This is a great response to comments last year - and I am sure their participation will continue to grow, along with the conference.
Several more posts will follow about this years WISE Conference over the next few days, but thank you for allowing me to be here again.
Her Highness Sheikha Moza Nasser Al Missned, Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation