Several of us from Taupaki School attended the Singularity Summit in Christchurch recently. This is the second in a couple of blog posts exploring my notes and reflections from the three days. Click here for the first post.

Part 2. Day 2 and 3.

Artificial Intelligence

Neil Jacobstein describes A.I as: Pattern recognition techniques; software agents; a vision of superhuman intelligence and computer science accelerating other technologies. But he warns of the importance of keeping our critical thinking hats on.

He talked about a practical framework for understand and using A.I (see Operational Recommendations in the slide below).

Artifical intelligence is being used in a variety of industries in many different ways. Neil tells us that  60 + start ups are already using Deep Learning and that Watson is becoming mainstream. There has been a huge advancement in computing power and IBM’s True North Is but just one example of this. We now have real time information discovery using software like Tensorflow and we can crowd source experts using Experfy

So what is A.I’s added value? There are lots of examples in healthcare like personalising treatments, DNA sequencing and more accurate diagnoses of disease. It has even been used to help people in poverty with credit card debt (Affirm ) and bringing transparency to the business world with Kensho. We can see that Education features on the above A.I category heat map, but Neil suggests that Education will be fast moving up the list for one on one communication.

Lastly he talked about Responsibility – this is a big one. Trust is going to big issue. Us trusting it and it trusting us. There needs to be a real emphasis on security, empathy, ethics and us all taking responsibility, because we are all in this together.


Speaking of Ethics, ethics seemed to be a reoccurring theme throughout many of the talks. Amin Toufani talked about the changing landscape of economics and equity. Rich people typically benefit more from technology and we need to really think about how we can use technology to benefit those in need. He talked about a potential shift from ownership to access, which could lead to a more sharing economy. An example of this might be renting out your self-driving car when you are not using it at work. But with the use of Bitcoin our self-driving connected car might be able to pay the car in front to slow down so you can get past it and get to work faster. This seems to move us away from the direction of equity.. Technology can either create more inequality or reduce inequality that choice is ours and we need to own the choices we make.

This is a quote from a homeless lady who sat on the street with nothing but her old typewriter. She said to Amin that she would write a poem on anything he wanted. So he asked her to write a poem on exponential technologies. It is still making me smile.


Mark Goodman talked about security and criminals as being early adopters of technology. Given Education’s increasing shift to a paperless world and the number of student’s on devices and our IT infrastructures in schools, this is one talk we should be sitting up straight for. I can’t reproduce any of the content of the talk (we were asked not to), but will give you the gist of why it is important and some ideas for making your world more secure based on trips to security conferences.

One example you may have heard about is is criminals using current gaming trends like Pokémon Go to lure people to remote locations to rob them This is a good example of thinking critically about the tech you are using. Our phones have Geo tracking on which is easy for hackers to intercept.

Ransomware is on the rise and the interconnectedness of the Internet of Things opens us up our surface attack area on unprecedented scale.

So what can we do? (tips picked up from Kiwicon over the years)

  • Change your password frequently and always use different ones for different logins. Use a password manager like KeePass to keep all your randomly generated passwords in.
  • Don’t ever give your password to anyone. Seems simple but many get caught out by people who are experts at tricking you into giving them hints about your password.
  • Always apply updates as soon as they become available – unpatched software is an open door for hackers.
  • Phishing scams are still the most common way to get attacked so learning how to spot one is essential.
  • Consider using multifactor authentication. This is becoming much quicker and easier these days.
  • Check out Netsafe and Cyberpatriots
  • Have a look at this security in education discussion at NetHui and related blogpost.
  • Go to at least one security conference in your lifetime (like Kiwicon )


Sue Suckling was just brilliant. She stood up and declared the age of exams is over – a brave lady who was very deserving of that standing ovation.

Sue talked about what is different about our current environment and why we need to change. She suggests:

  • We are hyper connected.
  • The future of jobs is uncertain. We know we will have mass job loss to Robots and that landscape is changing all the time
  • Education is borderless
  • Increase of online study e.g. Deakin and MOOCs
  • Digital native norms. She talks about Don Tapscott and his idea of digital native norms. (I am not so sure about this, I am looking into it more).
  • Demonetisation – degrees for free and mentions the Manaiakalani Trust
  • Power to the individual  –  learning from You Tube and Makerspaces.

What will qualifications look like in the future? This will depend on what is relevant, what is needed for the subject, what competencies are needed, what character dispositions are needed and includes record of participation.

She says verification is important (that learners can do what they say they can do) and fair enough – I want to know that the person flying my plane is competent at it. This is where Blockchain can come in as a permanent record of skills and competencies. But we still need verification of providers. She suggests a rating system, which is an interesting idea as humans are riddled with bias and machines are programmed by humans so can inherit their bias. I hope this one is thought through.

The biggest surprise for me was was when Sue talked about the blockers to change being fear from the students themselves. We as a society have spent decades indoctrinating them into a system where you need a degree to get a job. That is what we have taught them. The question now is how do we change this? How do we talk to our young people to support them in taking the leap of change? Find your Billion is a brilliant initiative and a great place to start!

A vision for the future of education according to Sue:

So what? What now?

So after hearing all those talks these three things stuck out for me as being important competencies and dispositions:

  1. Critical thinking – The ability to interrogate the world around us and make better decisions.
  2. Ethical competency – An understanding of ethical theories and applied ethics. Ethics gives us a framework to view our actions from a 360 degree view. How might this product harm or help others? What is the right decision when there seems to be no right answer? What moral guidelines am I or should I be guided by?
  3. Empathy – We are going to need it in spades. At this rate of change, technology has the potential to increase or decrease inequality in society, to allow us create or destroy and empower or disempower others. So we had better care and take responsibility for each other and what lies ahead because our future generations depend on it.

Knowing how machines and the internet works, the place of information security in the future and the possibilities of biohacking seem like good things to know about. What was crystal clear is that business’s and school’s that don’t adapt to change and hold on to their old ways, will end up left behind, slowly becoming obsolete and not realisng it, until they are.

I wasn’t scared by what I heard and saw at the Summit, rather super excited and filled with hope about what’s possible in our future.

Professional reading suggestions:

*These are my notes from SU. If any of this interests you, I would suggest doing some further reading as this is my interpretation and sense making of what I heard. Also check out these great blog posts on SU reflections:



Part one: Day one:

Several of us from Taupaki School attended the Singularity Summit in Christchurch recently. This is the first in a couple of blog posts exploring my notes and reflections from the three days. I am still processing a lot of this and what it means for Education and our future, so these are just my ‘initial thinkings’

The first day was set aside for speakers to introduce some important concepts in order for the attendees to be able to get their heads around the impeding cascade of content that was to come in the following days.

The first concept was this idea of exponential change, which in this context, refers to the idea that the world is changing at a far greater rate than ever before. In fact Kurzweil suggests that the 21st century will achieve 1,000 times the progress of the 20th century. This is all because of a thing called the Law of Accelerating Returns. An example of this is computing power doubling every year and halving in price. This opens up a whole new world of possibilities.

This is a concept that humans find really hard to get their head around and the graph explains why. Simply put we humans think linearly not exponentially. This lures us into a false sense of the speed of change. It always feels like we are in that spot labeled ‘present day’ and from that viewpoint change looks liner. Check out the Wait But Why blog post for more information.

My first takeaway had hit – I really had no idea, none, about how to be responsive to that rate of change or how to raise my consciousness of it. Lucky the next few days offered some content for comfort.

Breaking capitalism

One of my favorite speakers was Tiago Mattos who talked about Abundance and Scarcity models. Which, in short, mean you either have a belief that there are not enough resources for everyone (Scarcity) or you believe that there are enough resources to go around (Abundance mindset). I wonder if we talked to our students, children and co-workers about changing our mindsets from a scarcity mindset to an abundance mindset, how that might change our approach to our interactions, behaviours and mental models around building products.

All we know is capitalism, I thought this could be a really nice framework to build an alternative where ‘I’ becomes ‘we’ we work together, we are great, we achieved this together.

Tiago offered a continuum of ways of being:

  • Depriving humanity – The Dementor approach to life
  • Apathetic – Everything sucks
  • Lone Warrior – Egocentric (gets things done, but on their own)
  • Tribal pride  –  (our company is great)
  • Innocent wonderment – (we are all great). I am wondering how this mindset might map onto complexity theory, in terms of influencing how people interact within systems with each other – much more thinking here for me to do….


David Roberts talked about disruption and I think it was one of the most important talks because he clarified for me what disruption meant. I had felt a bit uncomfortable with the term for a while after hearing a lot of talk like “we need to disrupt education” as if it were an ointment that we apply to all the broken areas of education.

David used the spice trade as an example of how disruption works. The spice trade was a booming industry and spices were worth more than gold due to their popularity in preserving food (we know they don’t, they just make rotten food taste better – but they did not know that then). Along comes Frederick Tudor who invented the first insulated warehouse and completely disrupted the spice industry. He didn’t intend to he was just experimenting with putting ice into a wooden crate and shipping it around the world.

No one in the spice trade made it into the ice trade. Just let that sink in. Disruption is unlikely to come from the industry you are in and you won’t see it coming.

So ask yourself this question: As educators what are we in the business of? What industry are we really in?

And prepare: In my view one of the best ways to prepare is to be agile enough to pivot when disruption happens.

And Remember: Innovation is doing the same thing better. Invention is making new things. Disruption is doing new things that make old thing obsolete.

Click here for the next blog post on the Singularity Summit exploring Artificial intelligence, Security, Education and the So Whats?

Taupaki School core values

Taupaki School core values

Teachers, principles and even students reflect on their practice and make changes as a result of those reflections. How often do we as boards stop and reflect and make changes? I have been giving this some thought over the holidays and wanted to get some of my thoughts written down to help clarify my thinking.

What things have worked for us as board?

A shared vision

The first thing that comes to mind is our vision. Our vision was created by our community around 10 years ago and it still helps to guide our thoughts and actions. Our goals and strategic planning fall out of the vision and decisions we make in all areas are linked back to the vision. One of the things I love about having a shared vision is that it is not mine or yours, it is OURS – we all own it and are in it together. It is not created by one person, it is created by everyone in the community. Bill Martin hits at the heart of what a shared vision brings to life and work of a school “Shared vision brings alignment, commitment and accountability to organizational culture as it is born out of the lived lives of the vision-creating community. “(Martin)


Alignment has been key to making sustainable change for us. How can we possibly make change when we are all going different directions? Alignment takes a lot work and holding people’s feet to the fire. It is easy to get sidetracked, make excuses and get caught up with the everyday events in a school. We all do it, but being committed to questioning, challenging and supporting each other when needed is a vital part of pushing through when things get difficult.

IMG_4667An example of working towards alignment comes from one of our initiatives to embed maker culture in our school. Taken first from our vision “We aim to give students experiences so that they can learn by doing, making sure that these experiences are relevant, purposeful and realAnd then included in our Annual plan, maker culture is planned and resourced for. There is involvement at every level of the school from board members to our caretaker who has been involved in creating an interactive rubbish bin with the students, teachers and parents at Make Club. 

Learning conversions

A critical part of alignment and change for us has been how our principal and teachers involve the board in learning conversations. Operating in silos as individual agents is counterproductive to enabling change in schools. The conversations we have had helped us create a shared understanding of the life and work at Taupaki. The board is always invited to learning conferences and this has helped with alignment and allowing us to meet as people not positions.

Systems and structures

Systems and structures have helped make the cogs move more efficiently. For example:

  • having a governance manual for clarity of governance verses leadership team roles
  • a work plan to guide our work
  • using a modified version the BAS (Board Assurance Statements) from ERO (Education Review Office) as part of our self-review
  • using forums for pre meeting questions and discussions so our meetings are decision focused.

All of these systems and structures help to free us up for more of the strategic thinking and planning aspects of board work.


I notice that our board members talk about how much they ‘enjoy’ being on the board. It seems to come as a surprise to them, but I think it is an important point as working together isn’t always easy. Having fun acts as sort of social glue that bonds us, creating common ground. A mantra that I have on loop is to be hard on the issues and soft on the people. This is much easier said than done and we all make mistakes, but it is how we respond and move forward from those mistakes that makes the difference. We are after all, human, and when all is said and done schools are all about the people and the relationships between them.

What hasn’t worked and what are we struggling with?

Governance as inquiry was meant to be a deeper way for us to review ourselves as a board and deepen our practice. The biggest challenge has been finding time to do this work. Meetings are full with compliance work and board members are busy people with day work. The challenge this year will be ensuring we spend enough time in strategy, big picture thinking and reflecting and refining our work, as well as making sure all the compliance boxes are ticked. It is also election year along with an ERO visit around the same time. So as we reflect on what is working and what is not, the question of how we stay focused on future thinking while working through significant events, is firmly at the forefront of our minds.

For those of you who are hearing Governance as inquiry for the first time, you can read what it is all about here.

For those of you who have heard me talk about Governance as inquiry you will know it has been a while since I have written any updates on where we are at. This is due to a healthy dose of reality that reminds me of the importance of alignment and shared understanding when implementing change.

Everything was moving along nicely after our staff and board got together to co-construct the model and frame the first inquiry. However things were about to change. At a meeting shortly after there was confusion, apathy and resistance all in one room. Where did all of that come from? I think this is a normal part of change, when the talking moves to action it can get hard for people. A natural reaction to this can be to jump into advocating your position or coercing people into going along – but this never ends well. So, much reflection was needed and new way forward to be generated. It turns out to go forward we needed to go back. We needed to slow down and truly get a shared understanding of exactly what Governance as inquiry was and what it meant to all of us. We all come from different backgrounds varying from a very good grasp of inquiry to knowing next to nothing.

I put a few slides together for a board meeting to describe and discuss the differences between learning as inquiry, teaching as inquiry and Governance as inquiry. Slowly we started to get our head around the what and why.

The main difficulty lay in the two objectives we were trying to achieve. One was to create a new way of reviewing curriculum areas so they were deep and resulted in lasting change and the other was for us as a board to inquire into our own practices. We needed to be clear that these were two different things (because a review can include how the board is performing in an area, but this is not the same as the board inquiring into its own policy and practice).

Can the model service both objectives? We are in the process of answering that now. We have iterated the model and the numeracy inquiry is underway. We have a small group of people who meet to gather feedback on how the model is performing. It is apparent that one of the biggest challenges to implementing change is the value that is assigned (perceived or otherwise) to that change. What mental models do you have around inquiry? Is it an add on perceived as extra work or is it viewed as a challenge that extends thinking and improves your practice?

Taupaki School Governance Inquiry Model

Taupaki School Governance Inquiry Model









Our next steps include making the Governance Inquiry model dynamic so it is easily shared and modified. As the board moves through its first inquiry we need to be mindful not to rush through each phase and default back to tick boxes.

Whilst it can be frustrating when progress is slow, it is far more important to keep the big picture of authentic deep learning and sustainable change in mind. Sometimes we have to go back in order to go forward together.

Confirmation bias is one of the most common biases we humans are subject to. Confirmation bias is the tendency to select and perpetuate information that aligns with our existing beliefs or practices. One can see immediately how problematic this can become for our growth and interactions with others. One example of this noxious bias, is denying climate change exists despite the overwhelming amount of scientific evidence that suggest that it does. Confirmation bias also affects our interactions with others as well. We naturally gravitate to those who share similar mental models and goals and it is easy to fall into the trap of feeding echo chambers and promoting similar views to our own. A leaders job is to ensure that there is equal opportunity and that every voice is heard. Sometimes though, it is not enough to provide opportunity. There are many reasons why people may not speak up or take opportunities you present them with.  A leaders job I think, is to help remove the obstacles and blockers that people experience that stop them from reaching their full potential.  We can’t assume that just because a person has not shown interest in something that they are not interested in it (it may just be that for them there are too many perceived obstacles in the way for them to put their hand up). We need to be asking ourselves along the way if everyone is reaching their full potential. If not why not and how am I contributing to that deficit? We need to be reflective practitioners always checking to make sure our time and interest in people is not weighted to those who affirm us or make things easiest. To help avoid falling prey to confirmation bias, leaders can remove hierarchies and encourage a culture of critique and feedback. Confirmation bias is particularly resistant to self correction and so we need others to respectfully challenge our beliefs and mental models. Spend time with people who have very different views and dig deeper into why they hold these views. Invite dissonance in and learn to sit with it, it is in that discomfort that new ways of thinking emerge. Finally, question everything – especially yourself!