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John Couch Keynote: New dimensions in learning

Submitted by tessa.gray@core... on Thu, 2016-10-06 10:47

John Couch profileBio: John is the 54th employee of Apple. Then he rebuilt Sante Fe Christian School and worked for a genome company.  He returned to Apple in 2002.  He now heads the Apple Education Division.

Rewiring Education - Every Child can Succeed (also the title of his book about to be published).

John began by posing the question, what I have learned in the last 30 years about schools? The key message is that we need to rewire education! John went on to share his personal journey. He memorised his way through high school and through his first three years of College. He found it really easy to remember all the facts that the assessments required to achieve well. His first real challenge in schooling came at College with the spinning top problem where he had to describe the motion of a spinning top in free space. Because there was no exact solution to the problem he was unsure how to solve it. It was not a problem that could be solved simply through memorising or having crammed for the test. He realised memorising was not going to be the way to success any more!

As an outcome of this he did a programming course and this provided him with scaffolding for thinking about his thinking. This was the first time that simply memorising would not ensure high achievement. This led to later completing a Computer Science degree, and it was while completing this that he met Steve Jobs. Coding changed his life. Technology is an amplifier for the intellect …. just like a bicycle is for human locomotion. It enables us to go faster and further. Technology is a mental bicycle.

As an outcome of his professional journey John has learned some key things about leadership and change.

Effective leadership starts with WHY. This is the vision. Visions are inspirational whereas missions are statements that are more practical and focus on goals and the measurable outcomes of the vision. Lots of companies and people focus on the What we are going to do. There are obvious similarities in this message to the one Simon Senek has popularised through his TED Talk and website.

  • People emotionally engage with a message and are more committed to action if they understand why change is important and why it is happening. Steve Jobs had a very clear vision for Apple.
  • ‘Vision clarifies mission’.  This then provides the actions/steps and guides the progress towards achieving this Vision.
  • In the beginning there was a $40k ceiling to the salary at Apple. This was because the company wanted people who bought into the vision, not those who wanted big financial rewards via their salary package. Apple focussed a lot on the shared vision in its early days - this drove everything.
  • John told the story of Steve Jobs saying his son could keep the Apple2e computer if his dad joined Apple. His son Kris was captivated by the computer and did things on it that he didn’t think was possible for a 4yr old. He is still in the technology business.
  • Apple also articulated its education vision through the Apple Classroom of Tomorrow (ACOT) programme.  It was a 12 year longitudinal study.  This found:
      • Engagement is key.  If students engage then they will succeed. Technology aids engagement.
      • Education is a process …. it is gaining skills through experience.  Discovery is key!
  • Education v Learning - yes, there is a difference!

John Couch slide 1

Technology is only technology to those who came before it .... nice quote. For those whom the technology has always been there - it simply IS.  There is nothing interesting or challenging or new about it.

John left Apple in 1984 and joined Sante Fe Christian School. He took this as an opportunity to implement the Apple vision model into the education sector. He worked to help get everyone on board with the Vision and implement it.  He asks, can you articulate the why? .... or are you simply focussing on the what.  Technology is a ‘what’ and is only a successful support for education if it there is a clear ‘why’.

John returned to Apple in 2002. Some observations made were:

  • Technology should be used to do things in the classroom that couldn’t be done without it. Drawing parallels with the SAMR model.
  • Apple is strongly driven by Steve Jobs’ vision
  • ‘Don’t throw the chequebook at the problem, throw creativity at the problem’ was a mantra of Steve Jobs.

The important thing is not the device, it is the ecosystem around the device. It needs to be:

  • Relevant
  • Creative
  • Collaborative
  • Challenging.

This is an update to the ICOT model. The mission for Apple is to create personalised learning environments to achieve the vision of finding and developing everyone's unique genius. The Vision works just as well outside as inside the classroom walls.

If all teachers are doing is distributing readily available content then we are irrelevant - now there’s a provocation! Traditional classrooms are premised on the relationship between the student and the teacher. Modern classrooms should include linkages and symbiotic relationships between the teachers, students and the community. This gives real purpose to programmes and ensures genuine context is central. John believes we need to be using technology to enable students to see where their strengths and needs are, and how they can address their needs.

Content - Community - Context

Apple created a framework called Challenge Based Learning to implement all three. Feel - imagine - do - share is a simple way to summarise this model. Students are going to be paid to solve the previously unsolved problems. This is where the future sits, not in simply sharing what you know (or what others know).

John invited us to watch Todd Rose's myth of the average TED Talk.  John talked about his book and the premise Todd has that no one is average and catering for an ‘average’ student in fact misses everyone. The challenge in classrooms is to pick the challenge that is in the ‘Flow’ zone for students. Where the challenge and engagement are optimal.  The fundamental challenge is to meet the individual needs of the individual, and not teach to the average. This is no longer acceptable!

The ConnectEd Programme uses Apple products and uses a framework for leadership model to change the culture of the schools to make a real difference for ALL students. There are a number of premises:

  1. Free - the Apple suite of tools like Garageband, iBooks etc.
  2. “Everyone should have an opportunity to make something that will change the world”
  3. Code.  Coding is the common language - Swift is Apples answer to this.

John believes that coding is the future.  He believes that it will be completely integrated into the classroom of the future as a key and fundamental skill. The organisations below are all built on a foundation of coding (for example):

John Couch slide 2

Some questions posed:

  • Are we the Pony express or the Telegraph?
  • Are we looking to prepare for the future that is coming or simply preparing for the current state?  The challenge is to, as Gretskys famous quote says, to skate to where the puck is going to be.

An inspirational keynote that challenged us to think about a number of things:

  • What IS our vision for our students?
  • Are we CLEAR about the things we are preparing our students to be able to do?
  • How are we ensuring we are considering the INDIVIDUAL not simply focusing on the ‘average?
  • How are we making sure we MAXIMISE the potential of technology to amplify schools and education?
  • Are we in schools that are the Pony Express (preparing students for the current state) or schools that are theTelegraph (preparing students for the future)?

Greg Carroll, CORE Education Ltd.

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