Readings and Responses
Evolution of the Learning Brain - Or How You Got To Be So Smart - Paul Howard-Jones
Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst - Robert M Sapolsky
Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow - Yuval Noah Harari
Paul Howard-Jones, professor of neuroscience and education at the University of Bristol, examines how learning transforms us biologically; learning processes we share with bacteria, jellyfish and monkeys; how technology is impacting on our evolution and what might the future hold for the learning brain - a journey through 3.5 billion years of brain evolution, and the implications for how we learn today..
This book gives us a snapshot of how humans develop cognition, language, culture and eventually how they, thanks to their cultural transmission of knowledge, established education as a hub for propagating and sharing knowledge with the given community. All of this is underpinned by our biological evolution.
The book discusses neuroscience, evolutionary biology and education in how they have shaped learning among humans.
The final chapter offers some speculation regarding the future of our evolution and brain development. Howard-Jones offers four alternative visions – not all of them positive – and ends by expressing the future potential afforded by mobile devices that could monitor the neural activity of children learning in the classroom. I wonder whether this really is the great hope for education.
Full review below.
Robert M. Sapolsky is the author of several works of nonfiction, including A Primate's Memoir, The Trouble with Testosterone, and Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers. He is a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University and the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation genius grant.
This book is a landmark, genre-defining examination of human behaviour, both good and bad, and an answer to the question: Why do we do the things we do?
Sapolsky's storytelling concept has a powerful intrinsic logic: he starts by looking at the factors that bear on a person's reaction in the precise moment a behaviour occurs, and then hops back in time from there, in stages, ultimately ending up at the deep history of our species and its evolutionary legacy.
He provides a synthesis that harvests cutting-edge research across a range of disciplines to provide a nuanced perspective on why we ultimately do the things we do...for good and for ill.
Sapolsky builds on this understanding to wrestle with some of our deepest and thorniest questions relating to tribalism and xenophobia, hierarchy and competition, morality and free will, and war and peace.
Full review below.
Yuval Noah Harari, author of "Sapiens", turned his focus on humanity’s future, and our quest to upgrade humans into gods in this new book.
For the first time ever, more people die from eating too much than from eating too little; more people die from old age than from infectious diseases; and more people commit suicide than are killed by soldiers, terrorists and criminals put together.
What will happen to democracy when Google and Facebook come to know our likes and our political preferences better than we know them ourselves? What will happen to the welfare state when computers push humans out of the job market and create a massive new “useless class”? How might Islam handle genetic engineering? Will Silicon Valley end up producing new religions, rather than just novel gadgets?
As Homo sapiens becomes Homo deus, what new destinies will we set for ourselves? As the self-made gods of planet earth, which projects should we undertake, and how will we protect this fragile planet and humankind itself from our own destructive powers?
The book Homo Deus gives us a glimpse of the dreams and nightmares that will shape the 21st century.
This is the next stage of evolution.
Full review below.
Beyond Testing: Seven Assessments of Students and Schools More Effective Than Standardised Tests - Meier and Knoester
Cosmic Citizens and Moonshot Thinking: Education in an Age of Exponential Technologies - Roberts
Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom From Young Children at School - Shalaby
Beyond Testing describes seven forms of assessment that are more effective than standardised test results:
1 student self-assessments,
2 direct teacher observations of students and their work,
3 . descriptive reviews of the child,
4 . reading and math interviews with children, 5 . portfolios and public defense of student work,
6 . school reviews and observations by outside professionals
7 . school boards and town meetings.
These assessments are more honest about what we can and cannot know about children’s knowledge, skills, and dispositions, and are more adaptable to varying educational missions.
The authors conclude, “Assessments of schools and children should always be tied to this deeper purpose of education - the training ground of democracy”
At the core of their philosophy of education is the idea that education provides the foundation for an informed citizenry - one that can participate in democratic and collective action. The purpose of the book is to promote assessments that provide information to communities and parents so they can make better decisions.
Full review below.
Award-winning educator, innovation expert, and Global Teacher Prize finalist, Rohan Roberts, offers a provocative look at why our current education system is not fit for purpose and why we need to overhaul it. He takes a fresh approach to what we need to do differently to prepare our children for a world of exponential technologies, disruptive innovations, and ubiquitous A.I.
Roberts outlines the purpose of education in a world of increased outsourcing and automation and explains how we can future-proof our youth to survive and thrive in a world of accelerating change.
Underpinning this book is a constant focus on the importance of bringing a sense of awe into education and fostering a sense of cosmic wonder when contemplating human purpose and human existence.
The overall premice of this book is that the only real and long-lasting way to create a better society is to first fix our education system.
Full review below.
This book is written as four separate case studies. Shalaby helps us know four children deeply, as learners, also as people. Four very young children who are already labeled as "troublemakers" at school. She chooses children who are in classrooms with strong teachers who are committed to each individual child in their care. She helps us know each child and she invites us to look at each child through a new lens that can help us see the structural issues in our classrooms and schools that make school a difficult place for these children. Through these children, she helps us to think about freedom, compliance and power. These four incredible children help us see our classrooms in new ways.
Shalaby pushes beyond the case studies during the last third of the book and this part of the book required true and honest reflection.
But with that reflection, the author offers us hope, and reminds us of the power that we, as teachers have to make change, to make things right for our children, to move beyond the mandates and the constraints and to be change makers.
Full review below.
THRIVE - Valerie Hannon
Valerie contends that it all starts with our story - so we need to ask what is our story as a school?
Our stories about our planet, our community/school, our family/ourselves
In addressing What Is The Purpose of School, Valerie is starting with WHY, which is what Simon Sinek teaches we must always do.
Valerie contends our great purpose must be Learning to THRIVE in a TRANSFORMING world - she states we are on the cusp of change so great that there has never been a time of greater promise or greater peril.
Three key challenge areas - requiring disruptive thinking
- The sixth great extinction
- The anthropocene age
- Climate change
- AI - Artificial Intelligence
- Global Connectivity
Our evolution as a species - evolution in our own hands
- Genetic engineering
- Convergence of human bodies with artificial intelligence
- Human enhancement technologies (HET)
Valerie cites research showing 44% of low-education workers’ jobs at risk by 2030 - BUT we I contend need to view that “education” as much more than just academic learning
So how do we thrive in light of these huge shifts
- Planetary Global
- Societal community
- Inter-personal human to human
- Intra-personal - you as an individual
What does thriving at these four levels mean for education?
Planetary Global - learning goals need to focus on
- Learning to live sustainably - core, central to everything endeavour
- Protecting the earth’s ecosystem - reverencing the planet (Papatuanuku)
- Acquiring Global Competence
- Culturally responsive practice
- Navigating a disrupted and uncertain landscape of work (importance of KCs and KTs), where the (desired or planned for) career is likely to be hugely disrupted
- Flexibility of thinking and responding
- Social Emotional Learning
- The ability to learn, re-learn, un-learn and LOVE learning
- Reinventing a participative, authentic and meaningful democracy
Equity of opportunity
Inter-personal - Relational - learning goals need to focus on
- Growing great relationships, which make for good lives
- Growing and fostering Empathy
- Making, keeping and growing friendships
- Connecting with others - especially older generations
- Structured play based learning
- Respect for all
Intra-personal - learning goals need to focus on
- Learning who I am in the world - my story
- Learning my purpose
- Being able to be calm and silent
- Learning to be mindful rather than mind-full
From here, as a teaching staff we will reflect on and discuss
What does it mean to thrive for our children in our school?
This will in turn inform our Strategic Planning and direction for 2020