Thursday, 31 August 2017

On the pathway to creative excellence

Learn Create Share, the critical pedagogy of the Manaiakalani programme, develops students' key skills as they work towards creative excellence.

In the workshop today we found students of 9Mn learning new skills, creating a specific product (a balance toy) and sharing their work as they progress on their individualised learning pathways.

Students were learning critical skills such as self management and planning (the use of GANT charts to plan their work), the use of tools and machinery (drill press, and welding torch for example), and their imagination, as they worked towards the completion of their individualised product, and the sharing of their progress on their blogs.

The class was technology rich in both a digital sense, and the more traditional hand tools and machinery sense, as students had their hands on a wide range of tools and equipment. The engagement amongst the students was high as they focussed on their individual tasks.

Of special note was what educationists, in their jargon, call 'agency'. That is, the obvious management and control that students were exhibiting over their own learning.

These are all essential ingredients of any pathway towards creative excellence.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Learning to take risks

Last Christmas I saw the movie Moana. Maybe you did too. I loved it. It reminded me of this fabulous whakatauki:

Tēnā te ngaru whati,
Tēnā te ngaru puku

There is a wave that breaks,
There is a wave that swells

It got me thinking and reading about our Polynesian navigators.  These voyagers navigated across thousands of miles of ocean, able to move from one island to the next with no maps, no compasses, no sextants, none of those 'European' inventions that we might think are essential to long distance navigation. We would be insulting to label their techniques as primitive in some way. That implies superiority of the European tradition over the Polynesian, when these peoples were successfully travelling across those thousands of miles of empty oceans while Europeans were often still unwilling to sail beyond visible land masses along the coasts of the Mediterranean, or the Atlantic.

I was fascinated by how they did this. They used a whole range of techniques including use of the stars, the movement of ocean currents and wave patterns, the air and sea interference patterns caused by islands and atolls, the flight of birds, the winds and the weather. From this knowledge they were able to set out on their own journeys of discovery, journeys that involved great risk, journeys that created their own futures. And none of this knowledge was written down as we would know it today. No iPhones, no Apps, no text of any kind, this was maintained by oral tradition.

This got me thinking about our own journey, our journey towards our lofty goal as ‘A centre of creative excellence’. There are lots of similarities. We don’t have a map. While we have clever modern technologies they don’t tell us how to get there. That's down to us, the people. He tangata he tangata he tangata. We have a lofty aspiration, a hope, a dream, that this is somewhere out there, and we have to go find it.

Like the Polynesian navigators, we have to learn stuff. We are creating our own pathways, our own futures. The things we learn we have to share because working together makes us much stronger than we are as individuals. We have to believe we can do this. It’s called a growth mindset.

And like those Polynesian navigators we have to take risks. At this stage in our kids' lives they have to develop the ability to take risks, and to know which risks are worth taking. That’s a part of their school journey.

What does that look like? We had one fantastic example of what it could look like to learn to take risks. Two weeks ago we held our 2017 talent quest. The school prefects organised the event. The highest number of students that anyone can remember for many years came forward and auditioned. Of those, five acts went through to the finals. They now know what it is like to put yourself out there in front of a packed auditorium and perform. The prefects similarly know what it is like to put yourself out there for others to look at. For every one of us, putting ourselves in front of others, setting ourselves up for possible criticism, is a huge risk. We all tend to think that people will hate us, that people will be overly critical about us. That creates anxiety - the pulse quickens, the mouth goes dry, we start sweating. But that’s what we all need to do a little more often.

Our vision includes the word ‘excellence’. For those Polynesian voyagers nothing less than excellence would do. Anything else meant death, For us, for different reasons, nothing less than excellence will do. It is our future. For our students ‘excellence’ means success. It means success NOW. It means access to the sort of life they want. It means giving everything their best shot, because they are WORTH it. It means making sure that every assessment they tackle gets their greatest effort, every time. It means going into the exam room at the end of the year determined to give themselves their best shot, because what they do is for them, not for anyone else.

Who amongst our students will be the next millionaire? The next developer of a world changing app? The next national league or basketball star? The next great advocate for human rights? For the future of Te Reo?

'Learn Create Share' is all about just that. It's about learning to take risks, to create stuff, to learn while doing it, to share that creation with others. The 'creation' might be something physical like a 3D printed object or a sculpture. It could equally be a poem or an opinion written in a blog. The world needs more wealth creators not wealth consumers. It needs people willing to take a risk, to stand up and stand out, people willing to 'Learn Create Share'.

Like those Polynesian navigators, we are steering by our own stars, making our own way towards our destination as ‘A centre of creative excellence’.