|1 Oct 2016|
|WM Fall 2016 edition|
As I sit and write this introduction to The WORLDTM Magazine, a mag- nitude-6.2 earthquake has rocked parts of central Italy, an area of this country that my family and I have visited for the past 13 years. It is o the tourist track, bucolic, and typi- cally Italian in that everyone knows everyone else, slow food is a way of life, and the local pasta dish, vincis- grassi, is created from the most ba- sic ingredients, lovingly prepared for at least four hours, and of course, tastes heavenly. But, it is the sense of community that is so overwhelm- ing; everyone is included, no one is ignored. So, in the last weekend of August this year, we flew back for twenty-four hours to give moral support to those whose houses collapsed or walls buckled. It is not much but it is an acknowledgement that we care, because they cared for us when we arrived as strangers in their midst; it is the least that we can do.
As a certain J.M. Power remarked, ‘if you want to make your dreams come true, the rst thing you have to do is wake up.’ Face life’s hurdles and jump, or step, or take a running jump if necessary; but, whatever happens do something that will lift you up. Hurdles by de nition are never that high; you just need to be able to get over them, knock them down, trip on the top bar, snag your foot on the wooden bar, run through them if necessary; and whatever happens you will get over them.
For me, part of that dream was to belong to a community that really was a community; one outside the work setting, somewhere where we could call ‘home.’ The locals de - nitely judged us when we arrived, but accepted us all the same. They did not understand our cultural perspective, which we realized was quite di erent, nor did we really un- derstand theirs. Still, we constantly struggle to appreciate why they act or react the way they do. But we often eat together, work together, build dry stone walls together, cook together, and importantly celebrate together, because the Italians love to nd an excuse to break bread and drink wine together.
We constantly read that the world is getting smaller, but really nothing has changed, it is just a matter of distance and geography. Thus, the feature story in this magazine about an AISB initiative from eleven years ago that explains how a group of faculty and students joined forces to help the victims of the tsunami that hit Sri Lanka, is about community support.
I hope that the traditional concept of community, whereby a number of people whose members live in a speci c locality who often have a common set of shared values, cul- tural heritage and language, is evolv- ing into one that is more complex, more diverse, more tolerant, and more inclusive: a community that respects di erent standpoints, and indeed relishes them.
Robert Brindley AISB Director
A Curriculum for the Future? As published in the Director's Blog on May 10, 2016
The more I read and witness the rapid changes that are evolving around us, I am convinced that ‘average’ will not get anyone very far in life. In a recent article, the Financial Times reporting on the boom in robotics investment in 2015 (http://on.ft.com/26NvonM) made it clear that manufacturing is increasingly, indeed almost exponentially, becoming more automated, with minimal human intervention or supervision. As we are all aware, many, many jobs and career paths are being eliminated in the process.
How we structure education needs to take into account future career demands.
There is a seemingly universal perception that resources such as tablets, laptops, and iPads are naturally positive additions to the array of teaching strategies used in the classroom. These devices are amaz- ingly powerful, but I need to see data, supported by practice, of their e ects, both positive and negative. Likewise, as we enter another season of MAP testing that benchmarks our students against their own prior personal performances aswell as those of other students in many other international schools, I again question who decides what the ‘average’ performance should be in any particular grade level. If, for example, the popula- tion of students in grade 3 around the world are all underachieving, then any ‘average’ will only be relative to a skewed population. I have an inherent dislike of the word ‘average’. What parent relishes the comment in their son’s or daughter’s report card that says, ‘there has been average performance this semester,’ or implied comments that their o spring are just ‘average’?
As I question the current use of technol- ogy in classrooms, and its e ects on learning outcomes, I do recognize the power of the Internet; it gives access to a plethora of amazing articles, which enable me to read a much wider range of material on educational research than ever before. One such paper, on the topic of ‘average’ that hit my inbox a few weeks ago, was entitled, ‘What Do We Lose By Measuring ‘Average’ In Education?’ (The End of Av- erage: How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness by Todd Rose. 2016).
"... During the Age of Average we have de ned opportunity as “equal access”— as ensuring that everyone has access to the same experiences. Of course, equal access is undoubtedly preferable to older alternatives such as nepotism, cronyism, racism, misogyny, and classism. And there is no doubt that equal access has improved society immensely, creating a society that is more tolerant, respectful, and inclusive. But equal access su ers from one major shortcoming: it aims to maximize individual opportunity on aver- age by ensuring that everyone has access to the same standardized system, whether or not that system actually fits.
... But now we know there is no such thing as an average person, and we can see the aw in the equal access ap- proach to opportunity: if there is no such thing as an average person, then there can never be equal opportunity on average. Only equal t creates equal opportunity. Equal t may seem like a novel idea, but it is ultimately the same view of opportunity expressed by Abraham Lincoln, when he declared that government’s “leading ob- ject is to elevate the condition of men—to lift arti cial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to a ord all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life.”
We understand that the education of our students must change, but how? At a re- cent conference in Bucharest I listened to a representative from Google who talked about their corporate strategy being tied to trying to imagine what adult life will be for our present-day kindergarteners. It is this mind-set that we need to adopt to ensure that changes that are made are relevant and as well informed as we can, given the unpredictability of what is before us.
To create a curriculum that has closer alignment with the concept of equal op- portunity, the educational buzzword at the moment is ‘personalized learning,’ or as some like to rephrase it, ‘learning person- alized’. However, I see education evolving in two directions. Firstly, knowledge, skills and concepts that everyone should be taught, independent of personal attributes and characteristics. Not personalized at all, but a common set of learning out- comes that all must be taught; traditional basic skills in traditional subjects need to be learned and mastered by everyone, be they in Math, Science, Humanities or any of the other liberal arts subjects. Students must learn fundamental knowledge and skills through conceptual understand-ing and skill repetition and retention. Not just to an ‘average’ level, but to master: competence to a very high level. Technol- ogy can de nitely help in this regards, but some of the more traditional learning styles have their place here too.
Secondly, to echo the sentiments above, a curriculum needs to give students a chance to become ‘the very best we can be, and to pursue a life of excellence’ (Todd Rose). Our curriculum, therefore, must also address the concept of ‘equal t’ – a curriculum that more closely meets individual student’s attributes. A cur- riculum that fosters creativity, invention, product design, technology, and allows our students to express and validate their own particular passions and inclinations.
Hence a curriculum that merges the strengths of the past with the demands of the future, yet plays into the inherent strengths and aptitudes that we all possess is paramount; a curriculum that does not acknowledge the concept of ‘average’ but appreciates individuality; that uses the latest and ever-changing technologies with purpose, not just hope that it might somehow improve learning; a curriculum that benchmarks itself against any stu- dent’s personal potential; that demands certain mastery of certain skills and knowledge understanding; a curriculum for the future.
Visit the Director’s Blog today: http://director.aisb.ro/
Read the entire WORLD Magazine Fall 2016 edition here.
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