10 February 2013

ICOT Part 1: Getting There.

Foreword: writing this "preamble" prior to a more definite account as it is still not clear in my head how/what to report on ICOT2013. Bear with me! What follows is likely to help the process.

I went to ICOT2013 (International Conference on Thinking)  The 5 day, big ticket speakers, breakout loaded event was indeed something to remember.  The outstanding line up  E.  De Bono, G. Claxton, E. McIntosh, Mai Chen, amongst other education and thinking luminaries, was promising: when else would there be the chance to hear all these people in New Zealand, at the same event? The waves of enthusiastic expectation crushing in my twitter timeline were convincing. The opportunity to spend time face to face with people I usually interact through social media was compelling.
I registered early November with the feeling I ought to go and I ought to be prepared to be very much outside my comfort zone. I was going with minimum prior knowledge of what was going to be presented, I was going on my own, with no agenda and no one expecting to hear back from my experience. I justified the expense of the fees, travel and accommodation to Peter by telling him I was going on a geeky city break. He had not asked any justification… I was curious, I just had to go and see.

Then came the dilemma of selecting breakouts. I rationalized my choices by drawing on the following questions:

- What does "thinking" look like in the classroom?
- Can we have critical thinking without an inquiry process?
- How can a teacher help their students make sense of their dispositions for learning?
- Can ICTs effectively support thinking and life long learning?
- How to have a common approach to thinking, learning to learn, in a secondary school with its specialist subject areas and all other silos?
- How to make assessment for learning understandable, visible and "rewindable" for all parties involved?
- And what shape and form does all this take when the focus is second language acquisition?

It has been the best part of three weeks since ICOT2013 finished. I have not answered any of the questions above. I have many more. I can not do it by myself. I can not do it fast.  That is a lot of "not" statements but I will use them as cues to keep my optimism up: here is to a lot more conversations and head scratching ahead, and you Ruth, and Lesley and Kheya and… will be up for it!

Going to ICOT2013 has helped me crystallize bits of knowledge and understanding about teaching and learning gathered over time. What has become more definite is that some primary schools are doing extremely well at fostering students as masters of their learning destiny, within eye-catching, agile learning environments, supported by a range of tools used purposefully, and staffed with reflecting practitioners who share their practice, engage in conversation across the sector, take risks and have strong,supported, opinions. What has taken shape more clearly is that there is a need for a common language about thinking and learning, spanning across subjects, used by both teachers and students. It has shed light on the urgent need to stop doing what we have always done if we are not getting the results we want, sheltering behind NCEA as a shield against changing practice effectively. It has elucidated the problems there may be about using ICTs: if it is merely the substitution of something that can be done with a pen and a pad, then it won't redefine the nature of the tasks learners could otherwise come up with themselves and fail to transform current practice. It has brought to the fore that without inquiring deeply, meaningfully, systematically and collaboratively into teaching and learning,  chances change happens and is significant to impact on students'  confidence and ability to learn independently is close to nil.

These are my ICOT2013 take aways. Until I substantiate. 

David Koutsoukis  The Seven Selfs of Self Leadership


  1. Wow, there's enough there to keep us going for eons. What I suggest is that we take it presenter by presenter. As I wasn't present (Boo hoo, but the funds situation wouldn't have allowed it) you can walk me through it gradually. No rush. In the meantime I've jotted down at least 50 topics that I'd like to raise. As you know, I'm not always a very disciplined thinker and tend to go off on tangents (a very messy learner) but if I as least start with a heading in mind it might help to focus my thinking.

  2. The thing that is always at the back of my mind with these inspirational speakers is how can I apply their wisdom to my language teaching in very practical everyday ways. I'm aware that in a few weeks things will become much clearer as I find myself in the hotseat, no doubt treading the fine line between a certain amount of compliance and preserving my integrity by not reverting to easy but superannuated options.

  3. OK, Should we start with Guy Claxton, who's been a favourite guru of mine for several years (I'm a great fan of his Magnificent 8 qualities of the Powerful Learner), or Ewan McIntosh, whom I've just discovered, thanks to you? I was deeply impressed by his 90 minute presentation in French at the Clair conference in Canada. Brain food.

  4. Ah! No it won't be presenter by presenter. The post is shaping up more as a two part Big Question-Practical. Yes your input on what I heard from Guy Claxton who I know has been animating your forward moves will be most useful. As far as Ewan McIntosh, yes that will be a separate post or several. Kheya and I are going to sit down in a week or so and consider this together, and with you here.


Let's go Back to the Drawing Board!