Monday, 27 November 2017

VR will greatly enhance learning

Virtual Reality will greatly enhance learning

By 2025 an estimated 5 million students will be using VR

An amazing development was recently reported in the local newspaper that helped sick children cope with MRI scans and unpleasant medical procedures without sedation. The local hospital in partnership with the local university developed a virtual reality (VR) programme to relieve young patient’s anxieties and fear prior to and during these procedures. Using the VR programme they achieved a 90% success rate!

Another useful application of VR is being developed at Carnegie Mellon University where they are developing a virtual peer named Alex who has been helping children with autism to integrate storytelling and learning and to develop science reasoning and science discourse.

So, what is VR? Virtual reality is fully immersive, the world as you know it is gone and a completely simulated experience is presented to you. Apparently, the key to all successful VR is ‘presence’, that is, you effectively forget the real world and feel completely absorbed into the digital experience. Modern VR technology is able to mimic your movements from the real world into the digital and allows the viewer to feel as though they are in the virtual world.

VR is sometimes called the ‘Empathy Machine’ as it has the ability, through storytelling, to develop empathy in the viewer as opposed to film which asks the viewer to relate to a character’s emotions. One powerful example of this is Lynette Wallworth’s VR experience ‘Collisions’ (as sited in Idealog, Winter, 2017).

 So, how can this purposefully impact in the classroom? Biology for example, is usually taught through textbooks, slides, video and drawings but start up company The Body VR are taking an immersive approach to education, letting you travel the human body in person and actively interact with it.

Another example is Medivis, who are redefining anatomy learning building an entire learning platform that allows you to visualise the human body in a fully 3D, life size, holographic format, accurately tagging every single piece of your body – no need for books, drawings, or expensive cadavers!

Ok, so back to the school classroom – what will this look like and how can it positively impact learning?

An educational pioneer in VR is zSpace:

zSpace is an immersive learning experience that allows students to interact with objects and understand the concepts behind them. Students can complete group or individual complex tasks in a natural and intuitive manner. For example, students can experiment virtually using Franklin’s Lab, then use their new skills to design real-world electricity boards in the tech room, and then take the design back to VR to improve and build on their design using virtual tools that would otherwise be too dangerous.

A pioneering school district in New York, Plainview – Old Bethpage Central School District, began using zSpace in 2014 and report that students now give more detailed responses to questions, are more engaged in classroom dialogue and ask deeper questions about learning. They report student engagement as being ‘off the charts’.

As Elizabeth Reede wrote in 2016:

Educators and students alike are seeking an ever-expanding immersive landscape, where students engage with teachers and each other in transformative experiences through a wide spectrum of interactive resources. In this educational reality, VR has a definitive place of value.

Perhaps the most utopian application of this technology will be seen in terms of bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students.

And, the final crucial word goes to Michael Fullan who so aptly states:

Pedagogy is the driver, technology is the acceleration

Friday, 3 November 2017

VUCA and agile in an age of disruption – new terms associated to leadership in a rapidly changing world

VUCA and agile in an age of disruption – new terms associated to leadership in a rapidly changing world
As leaders we are constantly facing political, economic, social or environmental challenges and have always focused on reducing the uncertainty and impact on our staff and school communities. However, we now face a new order whereby the impact of those changes is increasingly unpredictable and severe in their impact due to the volatility of the world, especially politically and environmentally. This unpredictable world is often referred to as a VUCA world.

VUCA which is an acronym used by the American Military to describe extreme conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq. It stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, see below:

There now appears to be a shift by leaders away from reducing any impact towards a focus on actively engaging with uncertainty which requires higher levels of leadership agility.

Global creative change agency Impact offers the following success factors around leading effectively in a VUCA world:

  • Always retain a clear vision against which judgements can be made, with agility to flex and respond appropriately to rapidly unfolding situations.

  • Provide clear direction and consistent messaging

  • Anticipate risks but don’t invest too much time in long-term strategic plans. Don’t automatically rely on past solutions and instead place increased value on new, temporary solutions, in response to such an unpredictable climate.
  • Think big picture. Make decisions based as much on intuition as analysis.
  • Capitalise on complexitybe confident that you have the right people in the right placerapidly break down any challenge into bite size pieces and trust in the specialist expertise and judgement of those around you.
  • Be curious. Uncertain times bring opportunities for bold moves. Seize the chance to innovate.
  • Encourage networks rather than hierarchies as we reach new levels of interconnection and interdependency collaboration yields more than competition.
  • Leverage diversitybe sure to draw on the multiple points of view and experience they offer. Doing so will help you expect the unexpected.
  • Provide strategic direction, whilst allowing people the freedom they need to innovate ...
  • Get used to being uncomfortable. Resist the temptation to cling on to outdated, inadequate processes and behaviours. Take leaps of faith and enjoy the adventure.

By employing the above features of leadership they believe you will have sufficient agility, dynamism and responsiveness to navigate through the VUCA landscape.
Agility, being agile, what does that actually mean/look like in leadership?

Research tells us that agile leadership is not just good leadership. It is leadership that supports agile transformation, that is, being agile, and having a mindset that embraces change.
However, Agile leadership is NOT about driving and promoting change, it is about leading by example, actively engaging in your own development and inspiring people through action rather than words.
Agile leaders are humble, empathetic, compassionate, kind and care for their colleagues.
The Agile Business Consortium lists nine principles of agile leadership in an uncertain world and, as school leaders, we already embrace principles such as building a shared common understanding and purpose in our schools. However, they also include the following interesting aspects:
·      ensuring quality multi-angled thinking time and focusing on the highest priorities

·      recognising that emotion is an important part of the human experience and when individuals work with their emotions, they achieve more of their potential

·      empowering staff is a necessary skill

·      recognising that forgiveness, positivity, generosity and gratitude are important parts of a healthy working environment.

AND, most importantly,

·      recognising that leadership lives everywhere in the organisation

·      being open to the notion that great ideas can come from anywhere in the organisation

Michael J Barry captures agile leadership as follows:

How agile is your leadership?
Are you ready to lead in a VUCA world?