Tag Archives: Education

Bookmarked: How France Adopts An Open Source-Based Education Strategy⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Kauffmann said that France has never officially embraced big tech in schools, which makes the project easier, and that the public generally is skeptic towards monopolies and the abuse of private data. The country is thus undergoing a cultural shift in the digital education sector, promoting the use of free, open, and interoperable code, data, and content, referred to as “digital commons”. This approach encompasses not only free licenses but also community involvement and governance.

How France Adopts An Open Source-Based Education Strategy – Free of Big Tech · Dataetisk Tænkehandletank

Found via a boost from @FourthWorld@mastodon.online might be an exciting move from France. Back in 2014-15 when I was working with Ian Stuart on the Glow Scotland reboot, we talked a lot about OpenSource and, AFAIR, talked to someone who came over from Paris to show us an open source solution they were using there at the time.

Re: Big Tech & Digital literacy⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I just saw What is Digital Literacy? A guest blog from Andy McLaughlin, University of Aberdeen – DigiLearn and a pointer to the discussion on LinkedIn.

But what do we do there – if we go open source or other methods are we giving our young people the skills to enter the workplace .

Ian Gibson

Ian and John, I’d love to hear your take on the idea that Big Tech’s “efficiency agenda” has been the biggest hindrance to digital skill development.

Andy McLaughlin

There is a lot of interesting ideas popping up in the conversation. I joined in, although I don’t really have a clear idea as to where I stand. Quite quickly I reached LinkedIn’s maximum character limit, so though I’d post here and link in there, POSSE style. Here are the rather ragged thoughts I wanted to post:

Of course in Scotland we have access to an Open Source product in the form of WordPress 😉 But I doubt there is much awareness of Open Source generally among my colleagues. As a primary teacher, I need to get my head round hundreds of experiences and outcomes, leaving little time for the reading, never mind the thinking needed in this area.

Open Source is involved in many work places. Some even owned by ‘Big Tech’. Unfortunately Open Source and open technologies (RSS for example) do not have an army of paid and unpaid evangelists in the same way as ‘Big Tech’.

I am not suggesting we should abandon Big Tech, but we should be able to think about the implication

I recently quoted this:

warning parents that although they think they are giving their children access to the internet, they are really giving the internet access to their children.

BBC World Service – The Documentary Podcast, Assignment: Ireland’s phone-free town

Could we replace parents by educators, children by pupils and internet by ‘Big Tech’.

Not sure I fully grok Big Tech’s “efficiency agenda” but to my mind it might be jumping into using tech too far from the base metal? Just a few (20) years ago, I’d start teaching pupils some basic text editing, a wee bit about the difference between bitmap and vector image software before moving on to more complex tools. I think I’d rather see a pupil ‘misusing’ powerPoint or Keynote to make their own creative images than cycling through possibilities in a more sophisticated tool.

I am also open to the idea that a bit of friction in your toolkit might mean to spending a bit more time thinking.

Walking in Two Worlds: the Māori Education Renaissance⤴

from @ @robin_macp

I recently spent two weeks in New Zealand on a school trip, which allowed me to learn a lot more about a system that I’ve heard a lot about. I read a fair amount of the work of the globally renowned academic Helen Timperley, Professor Emeritus at the University of Auckland, when I did my Into Headship course, so I hoped to learn much more about education across New Zealand. However, what I came away with was an incredible insight into a cultural revival that has relevance for all indigenous cultures around the world. This stemmed from an educational revolution that survived against all the odds. This is the story of that unique renaissance.

Why New Zealand?

I should begin by explaining the purpose of my trip, because there’s a remarkable backstory that needs some unpacking. My school has a link with the town of Ōtaki going back to the First World War. A New Zealand Merchant Navy ship, the SS Ōtaki, was sunk in 1917 by a German raider called the Moewe. The SS Ōtaki’s captain, who fought a heroic action against the Moewe, went down with the ship and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. His name was Archibald Bisset Smith, an Aberdonian and a former pupil of Robert Gordon’s College. Also killed that day was the Ōtaki’s youngest seaman, William Esson Martin, a 14 year old who was also a Gordonian.

The war memorial at Ōtaki College.

Since 1937, the Head Boy of the College (it was boys only in those days) was awarded the Ōtaki Shield and was given a round-trip to New Zealand on board a ship as a prize. The New Zealand government took over responsibility for this visit, and to this day the Ōtaki Scholar is an official guest of the government during their stay (although they no longer go by ship). To reciprocate, a group of people, including past Ōtaki scholars, set up the Everiss Trust to enable pupils from Ōtaki College to visit Scotland, and the inaugural trip took place early in 2023.

What prompted our trip, however, was a conference organised annually by the Global Alliance for Innovative Education (GAIL). GAIL is a network of eight schools across six continents, with Robert Gordon’s College as the European representative. Each school takes turns to host the conference, and the others send a delegation of staff and pupils. In 2023, this was hosted by Kristin School in Auckland, so we decided to make the most of this opportunity by combining our visit with a trip to Ōtaki College. It’s fair to say that, between the GAIL Conference (which deserves a blog in its own right) and the Ōtaki trip, I had one of the most profound and inspiring experiences of my career.

A Little (More) History

Before we get to the Ōtaki visit, let’s take a step back into the history of New Zealand. One of the fascinating aspects of this incredible country is that human settlement is a very recent event. The Māori arrived at some point from East Polynesia in the 13th century AD, roughly 400 years before the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman landed. Following James Cook’s landing in 1769, European immigration had a devastating impact on Māori settlements and their way of life. The Treaty of Waitangi (1840) is essential to understand, because the translation of this key document was (and remains) deeply controversial. The Māori signatories believed they were conceding the function of governance to the British, when in fact they were ceding sovereignty. What followed was a travesty for the Māori, as they lost their lands as well as their rights. Crown policy in the early 20th century was designed to eliminate Māori customs, and this led many Māori to believe that the only option open to them was to assimilate with European culture. They encouraged their children to speak English and abandoned cultural practices at home. Māori heritage and language was facing extinction in the latter part of the 20th century.

Artwork at Kristin School showing signatures of tribal leaders to the Treaty of Waitangi. These were developed specifically for the treaty because signatures weren’t part of Māori culture.

Whatarangi Winiata and Generation 2000

In the early 1970s, Whatagrangi Winiata, an academic who had spent many years working in America, returned to his tribal home in Ōtaki. Located on the south-west coast of North Island, Ōtaki is a small town with a population of only around 4,000 people. Yet it sits at the heart of three tribal settlements who populated this area in the 1820s, collectively known as the ART Confederation. A survey was carried out in the early 1970s which showed that no one in the ART Confederation under the age of 30 could speak the Māori language (‘te reo Māori’). Winiata decided to do something about this.

This is a phenomenal case study not just in cultural revival, but in educational and community leadership. Winiata came up with a plan he called Generation 2000 (Whakatupuranga Rua Mano), which had four key principles:

  1. Our people are our wealth: develop and retain
  2. The language is a treasure: halt the decline and survive
  3. The marae is our principle home: maintain and respect
  4. Self-determination: we control our own affairs

Specific metrics were put in place which were to be measured in the year 2000, a generation later, with the strategic aim of creating a renaissance in Māori language, culture, and identity – and the vehicle for all of this would be education.

The strategy to revive language was based on immersive teaching for the youngest learners, led by the elders and set in the traditional meeting place, the marae. This began with week-long seminars, and the pedagogy was focused on being able to hear and then use the language, rather than drilling on grammar. The priority was building cultural capacity, hence the marae setting was also critically important.

What followed was the establishment of early learning centres and primary schools where the medium was entirely te reo Māori. A pivotal development, which enabled these schools to survive, was the creation in 1981 of a Māori university in Ōtaki called Te Wānanga o Raukawa. It began with no funding, no buildings, and only two students. Yet with incredible perseverance, it grew, became a campus, and also provided teacher training. In 2012, the university built a $10m institute for Māori lifestyle that also serves as a community centre for everyone in Ōtaki. Education is now the main source of employment in Ōtaki, and that economic success also explains, in part, why the Māori renaissance has been successful and sustainable. 

So what of those metrics? Well the national census in 2013 shows how remarkable progress has been. Around 1 in 5 Māori people can speak the language nationally; in Ōtaki, one third of the population is Māori, and 16.8% can speak their mother tongue, so that means about half of the Māori here are fluent. That’s far higher than the national rate, and crucially there is no stigma at all in speaking the language (unlike in other parts of New Zealand). In fact, many non-Māori are comfortable using a wide range of vocabulary, and in our visit we heard a lot of terms used with regularity, particular ‘iwi’ (which effectively means ‘nation’, ‘tribe’ and ‘people’), and ‘whanau’ (‘extended family’), reflecting the deeply embedded cultural values of this community.

What We Learned

Our group of pupils from Aberdeen were brilliantly looked after by host families, and we spent a lot of time in Ōtaki College. The Principal, Andy Fraser, is descended from a Scot (from Carnoustie) who settled here, and Andy married a Māori. He is fluent in Te Reo Māori, and is a genuinely inspirational school leader. I sit in on a staff meeting where he speaks Māori fluently, and the staff sing us a traditional greeting. Andy has scant resources to improve things, so he resorts instead to being resourceful. Whenever there’s a chance to enhance the facilities, he mobilises the community and gets things in motion. The school’s values are carved into beautiful boulders that line the drive-way – these were salvaged from a construction project, as were the solar panels which power the swimming pool.

Andy takes us to a marae, where we go through a pōwhiri (the traditional welcome ceremony), where we do the hongi greeting of pressing the forehead together and rubbing noses. The local mayor and MP are here to greet us, and one of our pupils plays the bagpipes to reciprocate their incredible hospitality. Throughout the trip, we are struck by the huge emphasis they put on their connection with Scotland. The assembly hall has portraits of the main building at Robert Gordon’s (the Auld Hoose) and other scenes we recognise. When I venture into a shop in town for souvenirs, the woman behind the till immediately identifies me as part of the visiting Scottish contingent (her children go to Ōtaki College) and gives me some trinkets on the house. Everyone seems to know we are here, and it means a great deal to them that we want to learn as much as we can about their community. 

Inside the marae, the traditional meeting place for the Māori people.

Ōtaki is not an affluent part of New Zealand. One third of the pupils at the College are dyslexic, so support for learning is particularly strong. The pupils we meet are, without exception, impressive, and are keen to meet our group and spend time with them. I get to see a haka practice in the gymnasium and am struck by how genuinely inclusive the culture here is. There’s a deep-rooted respect for Māori traditions, and that’s something that everyone here both buys into, and defends. After all, a major problem for the renaissance here is national education policy, as Māori language education didn’t emanate from within the system. Ōtaki College provides a lot of educational opportunities for the local community outside of the school day, such as traditional wood carving skills, and there’s a clear sense that the gains of Generation 2000 need to be built upon. There is a belief that five generations need to pass before the achievements will be made permanent.

A haka practice session in the gym

Another key learning point is about environmental sustainability, and how integral this is to New Zealand and in particular the Māori. Our group is struck by the commitment to preserving the ecological system, especially when we visit some of the world’s most stunning nature reserves, at TiriTiri Matangi (near Auckland) and Kapiti Island. Some of our group even manage to spot the elusive Kiwi. The Māori connection to the land is of paramount importance; the pepeha is a form of introduction where a person has to say where they physically come from, meaning their river, their mountain, their tribal land. It is beautiful to hear it being said in full. 

We’re here in the middle of a fiercely-contested general election campaign, which shortly after sees a firm step to the right as the Labour Party, previously led by Jacinda Ardern, is decisively rejected by the electorate. At the same time, a referendum in Australia failed to change the constitution to “recognise the First Peoples of Australia by establishing an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice” by a margin of 60% to 40%. Generation 2000 is a striking success by any standard and provides a model for cultural revival that could be replicated the world over, but these events means that there will be no complacency amongst its younger beneficiaries. They know that the revival has a long way to go, and that they can never rest on their laurels.  

My final reflection is on a conversation with Andy’s daughter, who went to Ōtaki College and is a brilliant example of the alumni. She tells me that her grandmother’s generation thought that the best thing they could do for their children was to get them to assimilate; abandon Māori language and values to speak and think in English. Her mother’s generation, however, were activists and they fought to have a voice. Now, her generation wants to use that voice. She says that Māori people in New Zealand have to “walk in two worlds”, the indigenous and the European, whereas everyone else only walks in the latter world. Her children will, I hope, always be able to walk in their own world with nothing but freedom and dignity. 


My thanks go to all our host families in Ōtaki, and the incredible staff and pupils at Ōtaki College. I’m also incredibly grateful to Mark Wilson, Principal of Kristin School in Auckland, who gave us our first grounding in Maori culture at the GAIL conference. We made friends for life on this trip, and learned even more than we could have imagined. Sean Press, a brilliant Ōtaki Scholar (2012), and his wife Emma, accompanied us on a lot of our visits and provided a superb experience in their adopted home city of Wellington. And finally, Andy Fraser and his family were the best hosts you could ever ask for (Mon, if it helps, Scotland definitely doesn’t look that much like New Zealand…!). We can never repay you fully, but we’ll try our best! 

5 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Edtech #OTESSA23⤴

from @ education

I did an invited talk yesterday for the kick off day of the OTESSA conference, part of the larger Canadian Congress conference. It was a lovely experience, not least because I was introduced by Connie Blomgren from AU, and Jon Dron was also in the … Continue reading 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Buy Edtech #OTESSA23

#OER23: Open Education and Open Source⤴

from @ education

Although I'm barely back into the UK, I've decide that the resting and relaxing thing to do is to pack up again and head further northwards to the OER23 conference. For many of us this is the touchstone conference, offering not just an opportunity to … Continue reading #OER23: Open Education and Open Source

wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display 2023-01-27 20:15:23⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

Liked One More Reason #ChatGPT Seems Like a Sweetheart by Maha BaliMaha Bali (blog.mahabali.me)

This ChatGPT thing, quite apart from all the other AI writing tools, is disturbingly addictive and… likeable? I had tried before with you.com/chat to make it say mean and biased things, but it wouldn’t. And this surprised me because if it trained on internet data, the internet is full of stuff like that, right? So…

An interesting experience with chatGPT.

Who trained you to be so sensitive and polite and politically correct?

I couldn’t be angry with it, because it was such a sweetheart about not giving me what I wanted.

ChatGPT and Grimm Realism⤴

from @ education

So, after my last wee rant about AI, it continues. ChatGPT has eaten our collective minds. We continue to talk about the need to change assessment practices in response to AI , or enthuse about the ways in which it might help us with some … Continue reading ChatGPT and Grimm Realism

Some ill-formed thoughts about AI, robot colleagues, resistance, refusal.⤴

from @ education

Unless I toss all my devices in the bin and take up cat-sitting as a profession, I cannot avoid the internet stooshie about AI in education, in this case hand-wringing about ChatGPT and plagiarism. Can we seriously not think of more interesting conversations to have … Continue reading Some ill-formed thoughts about AI, robot colleagues, resistance, refusal.

IDL in Teacher Education, Part Two: Planning for IDL Through Dramatic Enquiry⤴

from @ The IDL Network

In part one of this two-part article, I exemplified how my student primary teachers critically examine CfE guidance on IDL. In this second post, I describe how I have been exploring IDL examples and implementation with students through Mantle of the Expert (MoE) – an approach to dramatic enquiry first developed by Dorothy Heathcote in … Continue reading "IDL in Teacher Education, Part Two: Planning for IDL Through Dramatic Enquiry"

IDL in Teacher Education, Part One: The IDL Implementation Gap⤴

from @ The IDL Network

Within Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), interdisciplinary learning (IDL) is one of four contexts for learning (along with curriculum areas and subjects; ethos and life of the school; and opportunities for personal achievement). However, despite its supposed centrality within CfE, IDL has ‘not yet become a habitual learning approach in all of Scotland’s schools’ (Education … Continue reading "IDL in Teacher Education, Part One: The IDL Implementation Gap"