Happy Steve

Innovation and Learning

Start with clarity of intent.

Now build it out with an evocative vision. Improvise progress by tinkering: with lots of trial and lots of error. The not knowing is the best bit: the mysteries the surprises, and from time to time the windfalls! 

Hello there, I'm Steve Collis! 

Click on "contact", won't you, and wave right back at me?

How to understand the revolution.

In this post: the wonderful TED talks movement. Scroll to the bottom of my post to hear how we bit the bullet and booked up a TED speaker and are inviting you to come hear him too. 

"What on earth is happening?

Someone took my map away from me! 

I spent 13 years of my life AT SCHOOL learning what SCHOOL WAS. I still see that old school on the tele and in films. But I know in my bones it is cracking at the seams."

Not just education, of course, but all society. Industrial era schooling is irrelevant now because we are no longer in the industrial era. 

We need maps to navigate life. Who am I, where am I going, and am I doing well? What are the rules of the game here (I have a feeling they're changing)? Now if we equate calm orderliness in your classroom as a great sign, we may have an out-of-date map. If feeling 'in control' is our litmus test, then I propose we venture out of this comfort zone.

The 'map' for what school is and for what society is (the former is measured by relevance to the latter) is going through a revolution. So what will the new map look like?

My way of finding meaning in the chaos begins with deciding who to listen to. Who is making sense? Obviously my group of guides spans my school, family, friends, TV shows, blog sites, tweeters, videos, and without doubt books, books, books. The voices I reject are as important as the ones I embrace. 

One of the best sources of intelligent, innovative, creative, perceptive, revolutonary thinking I have encountered is the 'TED Talks' videos website.

If ideas are food, these are my daily bread. 

Originally, 'TED' was an elite conference held in California. It was invitation only, but if you were invited you had to pay a packet to attend. The speakers were heroes, outliers, game-changers - thinkers and actors who had already changed the world, or whose ideas had found that special traction which emerges when an elegant path forward is perceived in a pathless forest. 

This was back in the 1980s!

After 2000, TED took what proved to be a critical new direction: they started freely and openly publishing the conference talks online. 

Some of these videos are so famous that, even if you haven't heard of TED, I wonder if you have heard of the videos:

- Bill Gates releasing mosquitoes to bite the participants.

- Sir Ken Robinson on 'Do Schools Kill Creativity' 

- Al Gore, in 2006, on averting climate crisis. (Coincidence that 2006 was when CC got traction?) 

- Sugata Mitri on the incredible 'hole in the wall' project.

Possible the presentaton with the highest impact, for me, was this one; show-stopping, jaw-breaking:


The speaker Hans Rosling, has developed a poweful visualisation tool for the development of countries. The world is getting better and better: People are living longer, are better educated, and wars are fewer, and health care is improving. People in Vietnam, for instance, have a life expectancy now that equals the life expectancy of people born in America in 1974. Over 40 years the improvement has been phenomenal. 

I'm not saying it won't all come crashing down - but I am a different person since seeing the raw data on this stuff.

In the 'noise' of information overload, endless bloggers (like me!), the idea-soup of the web is too much to stomache; it just makes you sick and disorientated. I have found TED, in comparison, to provide insight and clarity. For me, insight and clarity are two of my most sought-after prizes. Our world is nothing if not confusing.

Let me mention a final TED speaker who has gone down in history: Charles Leadbeater. I associate his TED talk in 2007 on 'Innovation' with a series of related presentations that managed to capture for me, in essence, the value of 'bottom-up' analysis of social movements, education and the economy. I think my distrust of 'top-down' control mechanisms crystalised from that point.

(A case in point: Twitter... all of these educators passionately looking for improvements to learning without anyone telling them to, measuring them, getting them to sign-off, filling in forms etc - much of the time there is one lone tweeter at a school, starting a mini-revolution in their own backyard, answerable to no one but the hive mind of the REAL education revolution. OR the old cliché: a bunch of buzzing bees being the change they want to see in the world!) 

Leadbeater has more recently spoken at TED on 'Education Innovation in the Slums', a crucial topic, because it would break your heart to see the approach of poorer nations like Rwanda or Cambodia who are embracing a cliché of 1960s English Boarding School class control & rote learning that is ill-fitted to economies needing not factory workers but entrepreneurs. 

***** We have booked Charles Leadbeater to come to our school and we're inviting you too! ****

At my school (NBCS, in Sydney) we have been so taken by Leadbeater's insight and original thinking that we booked him up to come and speak! We're running our own one-day Leadbeater conference! 

We figured we'd go ahead and book him in and then get the word out so people can come and join us! 

He is presenting on "Learning from the Extremes" on June 14, 2011. You can book up a spot right now, while we have spaces free: http://charlesleadbeater.eventbrite.com/

Please post comments with your own top 5 recommended TED talks!