Ola, Gooday’ and hello!
April was an extraordinary month for me, for a number of reasons; firstly I travelled round the world and no matter where I went, no matter what the season or the hemisphere, I was rained on… I have only just come to understand that climate change appears to have muscled in on globalisation!
I have had the fantastic privilege of speaking at events in Madrid, Melbourne and Brisbane in the last couple of weeks to a range of diverse audiences; from App developers to educators. The themes though have been the same; enterprise, technology, entrepreneurship and the future.
As is often the case when you have the opportunity to travel and to meet new people, in different settings, from different backgrounds, you get the chance to broaden your mind, challenge your thinking and eat too much of the wrong stuff.
One of the big issues that came out of my time at The AppFest in Madrid was the use of technology as a part of both formal and informal learning; in particular, how in too many places the fixation with hardware; how many computers, laptops and digital projectors we have, has hampered the developed understanding of the real potential for new technologies in the education sector.
Apps are a fantastic example of what new thinking can bring to teaching and learning; designed by entrepreneurs; men and women who think organically and without constraint, about making the impossible possible; finding new solutions to stubborn educational problems; from language development to algebra, I was stunned by the way apps have started to work their magic and encourage us all to re-vision the learning space.
Whilst in the company of some of the Spanish speaking world’s brightest and most enterprising people, I reflected a little on the harsh economic climate that they are enduring and how this new industry can lead the paradigm shift required to help stimulate a lasting recovery.
It was whilst I was in Brisbane that I was introduced to the Global Entrepreneurship and Development Institute and their annual index. It ranks nations in terms of the contribution entrepreneurship makes to their overall economic output. It makes for very interesting reading; especially when you assess it against the s-curve of a nation’s economic development.
You see the theory goes that a country’s first economic stage begins with its natural context and is driven by a number of key factors; geography, levels of natural resource and climate for example. As its economy matures it moves into an industrial stage where efficiency and productivity become the key but then it develops into full maturation which is an economy driven by innovation.
The latest index, published this year makes for interesting reading; at the top is the US, a spot it hasn’t filled in recent history, as it has been the proud seat of Scandinavian nations; they are still there or there abouts by the way, with Sweden taking the second spot, Australia complete the top three. The UK takes 13th with its closest European allies nearby; Germany 16th and France 18th… then it gets really interesting; Korea are 26th, Japan 28th, China are thirty places behind with Russia 62nd and India 74th; bringing up the rear are the African states of Angola and Uganda.
When you think about the s-curve of development you could anticipate these rankings given where in economic maturation nations are but this then got me thinking about the relationship to educational performance and in particular the dreaded OECD PISA rankings in Mathematics; because you see many established, Western economic states such as the UK, US, Australia and Spain are obsessed with competing on the PISA league table with the high flyers; China-Shanghai 1st, Korea 2nd Japan 9th because apparently, we aren’t doing very well! The US 31st, France 22nd, the UK 28th. As a result we are dragging our education systems backwards to mirror the highly traditional systems currently at work in some of the ‘high-flyers’. What this finally led me to understand was just how futile and misguided league tables and comparisons across varying contexts are.
We need a different kind of person coming through our education systems if we are to compete in the mature markets of innovation, that are the signs of a developed economy and therefore we must stop trying to replicate what is happening in countries such as China and Korea. They top the PISA tables because they need to. It’s vital to their economic development as they journey up the s-curve, but our future lies further up the chart and requires us to encourage and nurture the kinds of entrepreneurs you meet at places like AppFest, most of whom, taught themselves to do what they do, outside of formal education; in fact the vast majority of those I spoke to, describe themselves as mavericks who found school boring and lacking in dynamism, challenge and purpose.
Can I take this opportunity to thank the many new people I have met this month and who have challenged and broadened my thinking… it has been amazing!
Finally, I have at last got some news for those of you in Spanish speaking countries who have asked me about my first book and when it would be published in Spanish. Well I am thrilled to announce that Crear hoy la escuela del mañana La educación y el future de nuestros hijos, will be launched at The Madrid Book Fair at the end of May!