December 01, 2014

Flexible space? Remove your tables and desks...

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"Put a wheel on it!" This is the phrase that has my eyes rolling back several times over when people think they are creating a 'flexible' learning or working space. Flexibility requires flexibility of thought as much as furniture, and the one piece of furniture that says "you only have one thing to do" is the hallowed desk. Offices organise hierarchies with them; schools get locked into 19th century style timetables with them. If only you could get rid of the desks at the touch of a switch....

During the day, this Amsterdam design studio looks like a typical workspace. But at 6 p.m., someone turns a key, and all of the desks suddenly lift up into the air, with computers and paperwork attached. The floor clears, and the space turns into something new.

The large shared desks are attached to the ceiling with steel cables, and use a mechanism from large theatre productions to lift everything up and down. During work hours, the desks balance on rolling cabinets to keep them at the correct height and steady. When the work day is over, the whole room can be cleared in a couple of minutes.

November 26, 2014

Inside Out Thinking Down Under - provocation for learning

Provocations lead to deep, broad learning, and students tend to learn more, faster as a result. I've been showing educators how this is so, and how to do it, for the past five years with my motley crew. New Zealand educator Rob Ferguson woke me up this morning with a tweet, about how a provocation (the video, above) led to his students not just "doing art" for their 10th Grade assessments, but "doing art" to make a difference, as part of a global movement of artists:

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This might seem simple, but at play is some good, deep thinking. The provocation, through the video clip, comes at the beginning of learning, along with many other resources and content sources in an immersion that will contradict, delight, frustrate and generate a discord. This is not PBL where the teacher creates just one problem or open-ended 'essential' question, but a more realworld scenario where conflicting and provocative takes on several subject matters create confusion and discord. This discord is what sets students off to "problem-find" for themselves, seeking the genuine core of the many problems and many potentially 'essential' questions being presented. Having synthesised down to their own problem, or "how might we" statement, students will set out to ideate and prototype their solutions to the problem, or their way of showing off what they have learned. Often the ingredients used in the provocation will reappear in the prototypes, of which the photo above is one example.

Simple on the surface, deep, complex, frustrating, confusing learning on the underbelly: that is what we mean by design thinking for learning. And not a 3D printer or robot in sight!

You can read more about the use of provocation to create innovation in your school in my latest book, How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen.

September 19, 2014

Google Teacher Academy with NoTosh: a heck of an opportunity

 

Teachers take the seemingly impossible and make it happen. Every day. Teachers are the moonshot profession. We want to work with as many of you as possible in London and Amsterdam this year, at our GTA design thinking workshops.

When NoTosh took the Google Teacher Academy (GTA), we wanted to move it beyond simply exploring 'tech tools' and see if we couldn't harness the talents of educators, a sprinkling of technology, and a foundation of inspiration and moonshot thinking to really change the world of education.

Well, Google let us do it.

This weekend is the time to get your application in for London or Amsterdam's GTAs this autumn. Applying is the first step in opening up an amazing year ahead:

  • two weeks to put forward the education challenges you face on your doorstep or in your classroom;
  • two days intensive design thinking / technology professional development and action with the NoTosh crew, Googlers and selected Google Mentors
  • six months support from the Mentor team to put your prototype ideas into practice and continue to transform learning in your school.

If you're a school leader, please apply yourself, or encourage your teams to do so. If you're an innovator teacher, jump in and share your dreams for learning. If you're an educator in FE, HE or early years, consider representing your sector with an application, and add something different to the mix.

The Google Teacher Academy has been redesigned to help teachers gain understanding of the latest technologies while working in collaborative teams to solve chunky challenges that they've identified. Participants will be coached in harnessing the design thinking process to select and frame the chunkiest challenges in education, locally and globally, before working over two intensive days to prototype solutions alongside Googlers and selected expert coaches. 

Design thinking is an innovation process used by some of the world's most successful organisations to find and solve the greatest challenges on the planet. It is a simple process that can be harnessed back in your classroom, putting your students in the driving seat of their learning.

Selected expert mentors and Googlers will introduce new technologies with the potential to transform learning, as well as revisiting more familiar tools with a lens of student-centred learning in mind. 

Participants will learn by doing, working in teams of fellow educators to trial their ideas there and then, before being supported for six months by a mentoring team as they try out new methodologies and technologies in their classroom.

NoTosh, your facilitators for this journey, are global experts in innovation, creativity and learning, with offices in Edinburgh, Melbourne and San Francisco. The entire team plus a group of selected educators from the UK and Netherlands, will be on hand to support you as you put your ideas into practice.

You can apply for GTA London and GTA Amsterdam until September 22nd. 

September 18, 2014

I voted

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Scottish Independence is not just what I voted for today. It might not even be what we get. Whatever happens, my country is a better place for it already.

I voted for a nation that has taken the notion of 'democratic debate' to the extreme that few in the Western world have ever, genuinely, seen.

I voted for a dialogue that values hope and ambition over fear and incredulity.

I voted for a nation that has been having a deep dialogue about its future for no fewer than three years, while others 400 miles away assumed the status quo was in the bag.

I voted for the shivers-down-your-neck cheers of hope and optimism in George Square on Wednesday night. I voted for the "chance of hope" of which a certain no voter wasn't so sure, in the same Square that evening.

I voted for the quiet chats and discussions, in the backs of taxis, in pubs and cafés, outside schools between mums and dads, while we wait for our kids to leap out. 

I voted for a highly visible and social dialogue, where the influence of the Establishment, a ridiculous but very real entity growing out of central London, is diminished to the point of laughability by the people, men, women, children and teenagers alike, who tell it as it is.

I voted for a future dialogue that values the views of all, even if they're not in agreement with us, and a mutual respect for importance of getting our thoughts out there to debate in the first place.

I voted for a new breed of media industry that mocks the bias, the interested parties and the in-crowds, and presents information as it is on every day, not just polling day.

I voted for a growth mindset that believes the country of over 5 million is capable of as much economic growth, invention, ingenuity and promise as a land of 60 million.

I voted for a country that will never have nuclear weapons on its soil.

I voted for a country that will value green renewable energy over anything else, and provide 25% of Europe's green energy.

I voted for the reality that my vote in a General Election will actually elect a government that is close to what I chose.

I voted so that, never again, will I see politicians from another country tell me that I am not capable of running my own affairs (or at least, I won't care what they say).

I voted to get out of the arrangement whereby I should be grateful for every penny that I am given, while contributing more out of my pocket than I receive.

I voted so that we could punch above our weight, and not be told to be quiet.

I voted to put up with the hard times as well as the good, because at least they'll be our hard times to work through together.

I voted for a risk, a risk I know is like all other risks - they pay off with time.

I voted for the risk to pay off some time, but maybe not in my time.

I voted so that we could get on with this venture together, especially with those who didn't think we should do this at all. Without the 'nos', we are nowhere. It was Salmond who said in 2011, "we have won a majority of votes, but we haven't the majority of wisdom". That will still be true, more than ever. 

I voted so that my company in Scotland can thrive as an equal to my company in the United States, that my country can thrive as an equal to every other nation on the planet, not as the cousin who speaks up at the Christmas dinner and gets told to pipe down and let the big boys get on with it.

I voted so that, even when the mega businesses, who believe they rule our planet and maybe even do, tell us that we're wrong, we can smile, say "thank you", and get on with our idea of a quality life instead.

I voted so that one of the richest countries in the world can eradicate the poverty that is on its doorstep (and I'm happy to put my money where my mouth is to do it, when I know every penny is doing what it was intended to).

I voted so that my children can identify themselves with two cultures who value equality above all else: they are Scottish and French. Liberté. Égalité. Fraternité.

I voted yes.

I voted.

September 03, 2014

Keep your audience captivated: article in GTC Scotland magazine

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At the beginning of a school year we are bombarded with messages telling us how to teach, what to teach, when to teach it. At the end of the day, there's so much anyone's head can cope with. In this term's Teaching Scotland magazine, from the General Teaching Council of Scotland, I've written a feature story on the power of concentrating on a simple question: How might we generate "happy learning"? It is an excerpt from my new book, How To Come Up With Great Ideas (And Actually Make Them Happen) (iTunes; Paperback):

"Take a moment to recollect your happiest memories as you learned something new. Where were you? What kind of activity did you undertake?

"I've asked around 8,000 young people, mums, dads, parents and business people this question over the past four years, and their answers are remarkably similar. The top reply is often: "Making stuff". Close behind is school trips, learning that took place far away from school, or out in the school garden. Others describe moments they felt they could choose what they did next, or followed a truly personal passion. Nearly everyone remembers a passionate teacher.

"This simple exercise is a great way to find out whether the people around you 'get' what great learning is about, and not a research paper in sight."

I go on to describe how this exercise has been harnessed in High Tech High, amongst other schools, and the impact is has had on learning outcomes, by shifting the focus from "learning by recipe" and teacher-defined projects, to more student-led discovery.

The full PDF edition is online along with the specific article, Keep your audience captivated.

Thanks to Meghann McDermott, my old high school orchestra buddy and now a teacher, too, for sending me a photo of her copy!

About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

Ewan’s education keynotes & MasterClasses

Module Masterclass

Do you worry that your school or district could better harness its people, digital technology or physical space? Do you want some actionable inspiration, a mentor for a learning journey with your staff?

In a keynote or masterclass we can give them concrete ideas based on experience, enthusiasm fired by a vision of what can be, and backup before and after to make it happen for them.

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