Saturday, July 11, 2009

End of Conference

I was really knackered after a full-on conference day but we jumped into a taxi and headed out to the zoo for the Night Safari. We began by watching a cheesy Creatures of The Night show with otters, a boa constrictor, hyenas and some cat-like things. We then jumped on the tram for the tour through the Himalyas, Africa and Asian Rainforests we got great close-uos of hippos, rhinos, elephants, giraffes, deers, tigers, lions and other possumy, wombatty things. Half way around we got off and walked trails to look at leopards, flying squirrels, otters and bats. Lucy now has a morbid fear of bats after getting up close to a real squawker.

We eventually got home at 11.00pm having had no tea, but too tired to care.

Today was the last day of the conference and it started very strongly. Professor Kishore Mahbubani gave an Asian perspective of the world, both its past and future. He commented on the growth of China and India in particular and his surprise when western commentators expressed surprise. His view is that Asia has been the dominant power in the world for almost all of the world's history and that it has only been the last 200 years that the west has had dominance. The world is merely returning to its natural state.

He identified 3 paradoxes. The first is that the globalisation of western education has contributed to the decline in western dominance in the world. The second is that this means that non-western elements now need to be included in the curriculum. The third is that at a time when the rest of the world is opening up the west is becoming more closed.

His suggestions were to continue the globalisation of western education as this has contributed to the growth and development of critical thinking and to a reduction in poverty, to introduce non-western elements into the western curriculum so that the west can begin to understand different cultures and that students can understand the inter-connectedness of the world, and that ther has to be a two-wat street of ideas between the west and east because both world views are valid.

His analogy is that the world use to be like 192 different boats (countries) floating on the sea and that we merely needed rules to prevent them colliding. Now we have 192 different cabins on the same boat with no captain or crew, but most are just worrying about their own cabin. His question to us is to imagine the limitations when the education system only teaches about its own cabin!

He got a standing ovation from the 1500 present.

The second speaker was Professor David Perkins whose topic was educating for the unknown. His big question was what is worth learning. He proposed a checklist of Enlightenment, Empowerment and Responsibility. If material did not empower people to take action and to contribute, if it did not enlighten people or did not enhance a person's sense of responsibility then it was most probably not worth learning.

His little poem was:

Taught a lot but matters not
Not taught but matters a lot.

He talked of a concept of 'flexpertise' which required one to have an understanding of the wide scope of disciplines, to concentrate on ways of knowing (thinking skills), to develop ethical understaandings (empathy, spirituality, equity), to develop personal and societal understandings (leadership, collaboration) and to include horizon themes (current important themes).

We need to reduce what is in the curriculum using his 3 criteria of empowerment, enlightenment and responsibility. His suggestion is to pick the richest topics first, work in some of the others, just touch on some and then drop some!

I then headed off to a workshop on designing a new curriculum which I was really looking forward to only to find out the presenter hadn't turned up and there was a presentation on the Turkish education system. I politely left.

I cruised through the exhibitors stalls and spent some time speaking to two consultants from the UK who were like agents for Guy Claxton and his Building Learning Power ideas. They had produced some great looking resources which I am going to consider purchasing. The one I liked was a unit on astronomy which used the BLP ideas, was corss-curricula in nature and included PD for teachers. It was on a DVD but costs about 500 pounds. There was also another DVD on BLP strategies (hundreds of activities apparentl) but about the same cost. I did manage to talk them into giving me their display copy of their text Building Learning Power in Action.

The astronomy thing would be great for our pilot integrated curriculum class and the text would be great to work with the whole staff on the Key Competencies.

I also missed the next workshop because I was a bit tired but also there wasn't much on offer. This conference has been very higth quality, especially with the keynote speakers but the workshops have been a little limiting. There seems to have been little choice for secondary schools in our context. I suppose I was looking for more on school leadership, though I did get plenty of that from the keynotes.

While dodging I ran into ex REAPer Mike Scadden who is now doing consultancy work on brain stuff. He talked to me about opportunities teaching overseas which piqued my interest and could be the next move for me as I can't see myself taking on the leadership of another school (unless it was brand new, and especially if it was in Opotiki!!! - anyone can dream!)

The closing ceremony was a bit low key, but the confrence has been great.

I then joined up with Leigh and Lucy and we walked off to that place I said I would never go to again – The Long Bar at Raffles Hotel (last time cost $200 for 6 drinks!). Leigh had a Singap[ore Sling, Lucy had a non-alcoholic Singapore Sling and I had a beer – only $65 this time.

We then walked off to Lau Pa Sat food hawkers and had a great feed of satay (chicken, beef and prawn)– another must in Singapore – washed down with a glass ofr sugar cane juice. We then ambled back to our hotel to pack.

Lucy and Leigh informed me that the 8GIG Ipod that Lucy had bought was for mwe and in the morning we were going to Orchard Rd to buy her a 16GIG Ipod. Aren't they generous?!

After our final sleep in our luxurious hotel (not looking forward to the bill) and final hotel breakfast we sprinted to Orchard Rd by subway, bought the Ipod and got back to check out.

I'm typing this up sitting on the SilkAir plane about 40 minutes from Penang and the next bit of our adventure.

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