Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Full Circle

July 6th and I am sitting in LAX (Los Angeles Airport) waiting for the flight home. The photo attached was taken in almost the same place on the way out, so I have come a full circle.  No photo this time as I am on my own. Russell has stayed on with family in Cleveland and then will head to Boston to attend Harvard. I am eager to get home and join the family celebrations with the anticipated arrival of a new grandchild. I am marvelling at technology as I receive updates on the progress of our new grandchild into the world in real time, and remember back to delivering a child in Papua New Guinea and my mother only hearing about it when it was all over! It would have been two days between her hearing that we were going to the hospital and finally getting news of the child's safe arrival from us.

Looking back over our adventures as recorded in this blog I feel like I haven’t recorded the half of it and hope to go back and fill in a lot of gaps before we forget the details. Every day we appreciate how blessed we have been to have received this opportunity and are thankful to the people who have enabled us to go away for twelve weeks. Obviously the Woolf Fisher Foundation who gave us the impetus, but also our family, friends and colleagues (who are friends) have added to their loads to make this possible and we recognise this and are truly grateful.

We have learnt so much and have simply enjoyed being curious and going from experience to experience and soaking up ‘stuff’ and making connections. We have connected ideas and people, dredged up memories long forgotten and added new ones.

This is not the last post, but there is a sense of rightness in noting that I was here on April 30th, looking forward to an amazing adventure, and here I am on July 6th having lived it and more.

Green Water

I had to laugh when I saw this sign in the shower at the airport in LAX. I am quite sceptical of the energy saving notices in commercial establishments when they relate to water.  In this case it meant that the water pressure was so low it took three times as long to shower and wash the shampoo out of your hair so they would have been better providing normal pressure and getting you out of the shower faster.

Many of the places we have stayed have displayed a sign similar to this telling us that if we reuse our towel we will be saving the planet.  I would be a lot more convinced if they also provided plugs in the sink.  We have stayed in 20+ different accommodations in our travels and the ONLY places to consistently provide plugs in sinks were the homes of our families.  In some places there was no plug in the kitchen sink, many either had no plug at all in the bathroom, or it leaked rapidly and was completely ineffectual.

In some places we had no option but to wash our clothes under running showers as they provided no washing facilities and no plugs in basins.

I will believe these signs are more than money saving gestures for the hotels when they do their bit by providing well sealed plugs in the basins.

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Travelling Companions

There is no doubt at all about who was the best travelling companion on this trip - especially now I am completing the journey on my own.

But there have been a couple of other items that must be mentioned. The first is my trusty Trakdot. I bought this fabulous device back in 2013 after seeing it in a gadget magazine.  I had had a bad experience losing my luggage in LAX and this wee device seemed like just what I needed.  I have used it nearly every time I have flown since, from local trips in NZ to Asia to the UK, from Australia to Europe to the USA and it always delivers. When I land I get an SMS and an email from my suitcase telling me where it is in the world. And if I have my bluetooth on I usually get advance notice that my bag will be appearing on the luggage carousal any moment. It is wonderful.  I did note on one flight this trip that TSA seem to have taken an interest in it.  I had the notice inside my suitcase that TSA had been borrowing through it and my Trakdot had moved from the bottom of the case to sitting on the top. But nothing was said, so it must have been deemed kosher.
The notification emailed reads:
Your Trakdot device: NamedXX is indicating its location is within the area of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). If this is a final destination of a flight you are on, proceed to baggage claim to pick up your luggage. If you are at your final destination, but it is not the location of your Trakdot luggage, then proceed to your carrier's Baggage Claim Office and arrange for the luggage to be sent to you from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).Battery: Full.

The other must have is the app TripIt Pro. All your travels in one place. You download the app on your phone and you sign up to create an account with them. The Pro Upgrade costs a fee that is well worth it.  I had to allow access to my GMail, and then it takes every travel looking document and adds them to my TripIt account.  From there it handles all my bookings like a travel agent sending me notices 24 hrs in advance that I need to check in, what Gates and terminals and even tracks my seats.  It informs me of flight delays, Gate changes etc on the day right up to boarding. It provides maps and information about the arrival destination as part of the deal. My human travelling companion has come to accept that TripIt will always be the first to let us know of any travel changes.  I have stood in an Air NZ terminal, with the AirNZ app on my phone, and TripIt has informed me of flight changes before AirNZ themselves do - every time. It is well worth the investment.

Notifications received like this:
TripIt Pro alert: Connection summary for DTW DL 98 arrived at DTW and will disembark at terminal M, gate A3.Your connection DL 5264 (DTW to CLE) is currently ON TIME departing from terminal M, gate A61, at 5:45pm EDT. You have 1h, 53m to make your connection.For help or changes, contact FLIGHT CENTRE BROKER JIM: 09 815 6675; Delta Air Lines: 1-800-221-1212View your trip to access the latest flight status information.Happy travels,The TripIt Pro team

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Future Ready

The opening Keynote for ISTE 2016 Michio Kaku — futurist and theoretical physicist-  connected with a train of thought that has been running as we have travelled around the world and connected with educators in many countries on the #BurtsLearn journey.

First a little about the Keynote.
Michio Kaku was an entertaining and knowledgeable speaker who challenged every preconception any of us non-scientists may have had. He posed all kinds of challenging questions from a physicist’s perspective and had the engaging ability to laugh at himself and make the audience laugh. His topic was a futuristic one and he undertook a wide-ranging view of the world our young people will be living in when they are our age.

I am not going into detail here about his speech as the journalists from the ISTE team have done a wonderful job of recording his points and they can be read here.

It was his reflections on education that connected with me most directly as I was able to bring a modicum of intelligence to the content whereas I simply had to take his word about the medical and technical insights he shared.

Before I comment on his predictions I will backtrack over some observations from the previous couple of months.

  1. In some of the places we visited and shared with educators they expressed surprise that our parent community in Manaiakalani subscribe to a pervasive 1:1 digital approach in our schools.  We heard many stories of parents defining the number of hours, or in some case minutes, that young people were allowed to be on digital devices in school for various reasons cited by parents.  One of the recurring themes was that digital devices isolate children and stop them being sociable.
  2. We have heard around the world of the growth of compliances as allergies dictate the actions of schools and teachers. Approximately 1 in every 13 children in the United States lives with food allergies. That’s roughly two in every classroom. Eight foods account for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Even trace amounts of a food allergen can cause a reaction. Classes and schools are issuing stringent rules curtailing the eating behaviour of the 12 in every 13 children who do not have these allergies - and of course the teachers have to abide by these rules too. Then there are the non-food allergies, some of which are potentially fatal.
  3. We were quite taken aback at one District conference we attended to find a notice on our table requesting we refrain from wearing scented products eg perfume or aftershave, as it could produce a fatal reaction in those allergic to it. These environmental allerigies are being taken very seriously in Canada with schools having policies about this.
  4. We have also seen and heard a lot about the fear in schools of acts of random terror and violence on a large and fatal scale.

These barrier and risk free environments being created in school systems may well a the pressure point that causes society to look closely at the industrial model of education, which is less than 200 years old, and question how much longer we can continue to bring children together for much of their waking day and contain them in social groups for the purpose of learning. Particularly when we consider that there are many more factors (take unacceptable behaviour as an example) that make parents concerned about the particular group of young people their own child is required to spend the day with.

It may well be that the parental concern about time on devices in point (1) above will be counterbalanced by the subsequent points. And they may conclude that the benefits of learning in a different physical environment being supported by technology delivering learning opportunities, outway the increasing risks when children who are strangers are brought together in one place.

It would be a shame if it was negative drivers that brought about the disruption to the status quo of ‘school looking like it was when I, the parent, went there’ that innovative teachers and school leaders have been modelling in increasing pockets of a number of countries around the world. But it is looking quite possible that it might be far more pragmatic factors than striving for innovative approaches to learning enabled by modern technology and creative minds that change the way we bring young people together in school buildings.

And so I return to our Keynote speaker. Professor Kaku introduced us to exciting technologies and innovations that will make learning even more delightful and engaging, and accessible to more people, perhaps everyone in the world. Where I was disappointed was that the examples of applying these futuristic innovations was in the context of a kind of school building/congregating system that is an extension of what we currently do.  One of his examples was that when unable to attend school a child would be able to have their surrogate sit in their chair and absorb the learning.  

It is understandable that with an audience of 15, 000+ educators he felt the need to assure us several times that we would not be losing our jobs and schools and kids will still need teachers. But I had been hoping for more.  I had been hoping that he would have taken us beyond this industrial model to a time when our children will not be herded unilaterally into groups for hours for learning to occur.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Happy Place

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA
From our arrival at the small airport (Wellington size), to our stay in a condo, to the conference, to the time spent on the beach, to our departure through TSA we experienced unfailing friendliness, helpfulness and genuinely happy people.

The beach itself is an endless stretch of white sand which is both long and wide, with choppy surf, and balmy tropical water temperature and atmosphere. An extensive stretch of sand pools form between the soft sand and the surf, creating warm pools for children and those who are content to wallow. And the concept of burn time which governs our lives on the beach in NZ doesn’t appear to feature as you don’t seem to burn!  Lots of surf life saving teams on the beach as there was quite a strong drag in the surf while we were there, so only confident swimmers were out in it.

We are blessed to live in a country with stunning beaches and to have sought out beach paradises in many parts of the world, including PNG. But the thing that struck us about Myrtle Beach was how happy everyone was.  Groups of people enjoying themselves in all kinds of ways.  There were those lined up under the obligatory hotel umbrellas with two loungers, but the majority of people had other ways of doing ‘holiday at the beach’.  On my last walk along the beach I took my phone to try and capture some of it to preserve this feel good memory.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Profile of the SC graduate

Many schools in New Zealand have developed a ‘Profile of a Graduate’ from their schools and it is a huge task.  

It was refreshing to be introduced to the 'Profile of the South Carolina Graduate', as something which has been developed for the whole state.

The framework that supports the profile of the South Carolina graduate is vital to helping our state stay competitive in today's global economy as it addresses the need and solution for a sustainable, educated and qualified workforce. More here

It undoubtedly contributes significantly to coherence between schools and across the age levels of schooling.

  • Rigorous standards in language arts and math for career and college readiness
  • Multiple languages, science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM), arts and social sciences
  • Creativity and innovation
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Communication, information, media and technology
  • Knowing how to learn
Integrity. Self-direction. Global perspective. Perseverance. Work ethic. Interpersonal skills

Does the benefit gained from the process of wrestling with the tough questions in our school community as we gain understanding and consensus around “What does a graduate from XYZ School look like?” outweigh the benefit of having a rigorously developed state profile?

Undoubtedly the people who were present at the time when the school went through this process gain enormously and get a great return on their investment of time and creativity. But over time, as more new staff arrive and go through an induction process rather than a development process, you have to wonder if the benefit of contributing to a profile that has been widely adopted brings a greater long term sense of satisfaction.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Leadership Keynote

The opening Keynote for the SCASA conference was Chris Fuller speaking on the Five levels of leadership. Chris works with The John Maxwell Company and is one of the world’s leading motivational speakers. He warned us at the outset that he speaks in Tweetable soundbites, and the next hour+ verified this.

I don’t have a hope here of reproducing his speech, despite two of us taking notes flat out. What did become apparent was that the essence of his message had been shared with us by our kaumatua, Ihaka Samuels before he passed away; “If you want to know whether you’re a leader, look behind you and see who is following. If no one is, then you’re not!” Ike had several ways of delivering this message, but you knew what he was referring to when he said, “Look over your shoulder!”

Chris Fuller quoted Margaret Thatcher in a similar vein, “Being a leader is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren't.”

His own way of stating this message was, “If I think I’m leading and they’re not following, then I’m just taking a walk!” adding the quip, “And I’ve walked for some power walkers in my time!”

The Five Levels of Leadership he led us through:

1. Position -The Level of Rights

People follow because they have to. You have Positional Leadership. You are the Boss. They don't have a choice. They have to follow, whether they want your leadership or not.
Note: Your influence will not extend beyond the lines of your job description. The longer you stay here, the higher the turnover and the lower the morale

2. Permission - The Level of Relationships

People follow because they want to follow YOU. They believe in You. They trust You
They Don't Have to, but they want to follow You.
Note: People will follow you beyond your stated authority. This level allows work to be fun

3. Production - The Level of Results

People follow because of what you have done for the organisation. Your accomplishments.
Note: This is where success is sensed by most people. They like you and what you are doing. Problems are fixed with very little effort because of momentum.

4. People Development - The Level of Reproduction

People follow because of what you have done for them. What's in it for them.
Note: This is where long-range growth occurs. Your commitment to developing leaders will ensure ongoing growth to the organisation and to people. Do whatever you can to achieve and stay on this level.

5. Personhood - The Level of Respect

People follow because of who you are and what you represent. Your Values.
Note: This step is reserved for leaders who have spent years growing people and organisations.
Just a few make it to this level. Those who do are BIGGER THAN LIFE.

Some of his quotes captured throughout this keynote:

Every leader gets the team they deserve, eventually
The law of the lid: Your leadership ability is the lid to your organisation
No one wants to be managed, Lead people, manage things
If you don’t have a SUCCESS-OR, then you’re a failure
Start training your successor
Every team has a Swing Dog - The one who impacts whether the leader’s vision is carried out or not
People join companies, people quit PEOPLE
Teams need a dragon to slay or a princess to rescue
The elevation of the external keeps us from the squabbling of the internal
Create a leadership team - if it’s lonely at the top something’s not right.
Only secure leaders empower others
Ask the children of your employees whether they like it that Mum/Dad works for you.
If they reply “Oh, it’s a 3 wine night” you’ve got your answer.
If we're not getting better, people are getting bitter