"Learning and Wellbeing are inextricably linked."
- Anne Johnston
Disclosure: My attendance at EduTECH 2017 was through a media pass provided by the conference organisers.
Following Brad Loiselle's presentation in the plenary session was a panel discussion about the United Nation's and seventeen sustainable development goals. The panel consisted of Caroline McMillan (Vice-Chancellor, University of Newcastle), Pam Anders (Director of Public Engagement, Oxfam Australia), Dermot O'Gorman (CEO, WWF Australia), Anne Johnstone (Principal, Ravenswood School for Girls) and was chaired by Scott Davidson (Principal, Cabramatta Public School). It had been on the schedule in between Carol Dweck and Brad Loiselle, however, due to the atrocious weather, the flight of one of the panellists was delayed.
The panel was interesting. It very much came across as pre-scripted, however, there was some fire and passion amongst the panellists and some interesting responses. The first question was about the future for students and the discussion on that point appeared to centre around the global context, glocalisation; and the need for students to have dispositions towards continual learning and skills development as the market changes and different industries come and go and the skillsets required change over time. We are teaching students now who wll potentially see the change of the century.
The second question was how do we optimise quality education for all students. Given the context of the panel focus I took this to mean all students globally rather than just all students in Australia, and Anne Johnston's quote at the top of the article came in at this point. The task of optimising quality education for students from such disparate learning contexts as suburban Mumbai to rural China, the Pacific Islands, Europe, and of course Australia is an incredibly challenging one. We are unable to find consensus on what good education looks like and how it should be measured in Australia, I can only wonder at how that consensus would be achieved internationally.
It was noted that there are eight men in the world who own the equivalent wealth of fifty percent of the poorest of the global population, an astounding yet also unsurprising statistic. In Australia alone there is a gender-based wage gap of sixteen percent, exacerbated by the (uncited) fact that one percent of Australia's wealthiest own the wealth equivalent of seventy percent of our country's poorest.
I then heard a comment that I have not heard before, nothing about us without us. Apparently that is rather surprising. Once I Googled it to find out what it meant I realised that I had heard the sentiment before, just not expressed in that way. It was an interesting comment on the back of the Youth Brains Trust that Jane Burns spoke about in her masterclass the previous day; and one which makes a lot of sense. Pam pointed out that we need to try to avoid being the victims of change, that we need to embrace it early and in doing so guide the change positively.
The remark that talent is everywhere whilst opportunity is not struck me as interesting as that is almost the opposite of what we tell our students. There are plenty of opportunities out there, you just need to have the drive and work ethic to see them and take advantage of them is a message I have heard many times in many different parts of education. It seems an interesting juxtaposition that on one hand we try to encourage our students by telling them there are lots of opportunities and that hard work and effort are all that is needed whilst also saying that there is lots of talent but no opportunities. I suppose then it coems down to what is beign defined as an opportunity and an opportunity for what, exactly.
Sally-Ann Williams commented on twitter that Pathways programs are doing a lot of good in resolving the issue of there supposedly being a lack of opportunities. The follow up to the opportunity remark is that talent (and hard work!) should be overcome any background problems if there is equitable education access, which is, I think , the heart of the UN's goal for equitable access to a quality education for all students rrespective of their geographic or socio-economic location, which is a link back to Brad Loiselle's talk and overcoming a disadvantaged background.
This is, I believe where technology can play a role and where glocalisation can be a positive influence through the scalability of technological communication and the ability to influence change as has been seen through the development of the Earth Hour movement, the Arab Spring a few years ago and the I'll ride with you social help that came on the back of a Lindt Cafe terrorist attack to support Muslims afraid of the social backlash.
We as educators need to set our students up with the skills, knowledge and disposition to tackle social justice and inequality issues to change our world. As Kirschty Birt commented on Twitter, it is dfficult for one person to make a difference, but people connected by technology can change the world.
The panel session ended with a modified Trumpism; let's make the planet great again, and then it was time for the morning break. The panel session was interesting, but not an event that had a place in a keynote plenary, in my opinion. It would have been better suited to the individual sessions, where the audience could perhaps have been involved with some question and answer time, interrogation of responses and the research to back the statistics being mentioned.
Thank you for reading this. If you have missed any articles in the EduTECH 2017 series, you can find them here.