Yes but… Syndrome

Suggestion Box

I like this cartoon. It dispels a myth and confirms a truth.

The myth is that good ideas are born that way. The truth is that imagination generates new ideas and judgement determines whether they are good or not. To ignore these two steps is to ignore the laws of thinking.

The best way to have a good idea is to have many ideas and that is a logical advantage to us working in groups. However, that advantage is lost if we ignore the laws of thinking. The laws of thinking require us to suspend judgement until the idea has been imagined. It is impossible for us to fully imagine an idea and judge it simultaneously and to try is symptomatic of ‘Yes but… Syndrome (YBS).’

As individuals and in groups, YBS prevents us from consistently generating and maximizing the potential of good ideas for the benefit of our students. I speak from experience.

As an individual, until relatively recently, I suffered from YBS. I would spend more time judging my ideas than imagining them. Yes but it will be probably be too much work. Yes but it has probably been done before. Yes but it will probably be too expensive. Yes but it probably will not work. Any one of these internal judgments would prevent me from fully imagining an idea and would certainly prevent me from sharing it. Upon reflection, what I was really doing was predicting how other people would judge them. This in itself was quite irrational given that I have always had the pleasure of working with very open minded people who have positively encouraged those ideas that somehow slipped out.

Every now and then, I have a relapse of YBS but an understanding of the laws of thinking and two significant mind shifts have allowed me to manage it. Both of these mind shifts are connected and grounded in two Adaptive Schools’ Norms of Collaboration: Presuming Positive Intentions and Putting Ideas on the Table.

Presuming Positive Intentions

Members of effective collaborative groups consistently presume positive intentions in the thinking and actions of their colleagues. Presuming that an idea has been put forward to help the group allows members to welcome, listen to and inquire into an idea. I have never had any issue presuming positive intentions in those that I work with. I welcome the ideas of others in the belief that these ideas are shared for the benefit of the group and ultimately our students. Presuming that others will also welcome my ideas in this way has helped me to overcome YBS as has the knowledge that I am sharing ideas for the good of the group and our students. In this sense, presuming positive intentions in myself is my antidote to YBS.

Putting Ideas on the Table

Presuming positive intentions in myself allows me to fully imagine and share my ideas. Distancing myself from my ideas once I have put them on the table is what allows me to suspend judgement. Bob Garmston, founder of Adaptive Schools, often talks about not getting up on the table with your idea. I interpret this to mean that once you have shared an idea, it no longer belongs to you. It belongs to the group. It is then the responsibility of the group to inquire into it, refine it, and ultimately, judge it. Absolving myself of this responsibility to judge my own ideas has enabled me to share my ideas more freely. It is not for me to say whether my ideas are good or bad and if my ideas turn out to be bad, it is not for me to defend them. The best way to have a good idea is to have many ideas and an understanding of this law of thinking, coupled with my positive intent in sharing my ideas, keeps me off the table so the group can judge them.

YBS is not suffered from alone. Groups also suffer from YBS and group members and leaders must be cognizant of this. As it is for individuals, Group YBS is avoidable and Adaptive Schools describes some practical strategies that can ensure group efficacy is not undermined by it.

Dialogue v Discussion

It is very important that all members of a group are clear as to whether the group is imagining or judging ideas. If some members of a group are imagining ideas while others are simultaneously judging them, ideas will not be fully imagined. An understanding of the distinction between dialogue and discussion as described by Adaptive Schools is useful in this situation. Dialogue is employed to fully understand an idea and discussion refers to what occurs when a decision is being made. Facilitators and meeting agendas that make explicit reference to when dialogue and discussion are to be entered into will allow ideas to be fully imagined and effectively judged.

Exploratory Language

I am sure that it is clear by now that ‘Who has a good idea?’ might not be the best question to ask of those suffering from YBS. To encourage the sharing of as many ideas as possible, a skilled facilitator or group member will use exploratory language. Instead of asking ‘How can we raise reading scores?’ a better way to frame that question might be, ‘Given our experience as teachers of reading, what might be some things that we could try to raise reading scores?’ The question remains the same but the use of exploratory language (might, could) implies that there is more than one answer and the more ideas we have on the table, the better our chances of raising reading scores.

To some degree, we all live with YBS and if our students are the ultimate beneficiaries of our ideas, it is very important that we manage it.

*This post was inspired by my learning from On Strategy: What Managers Can Learn From Philosophy

What’s the hurry? What I’ve come to believe about change


What’s the hurry?    What I’ve come to believe about change

I consider myself to be an agent of change.  I’m in my forth headship in 17 years.  In each of these positions, I’ve approached them with the firm belief and personal understanding my role is to advocate and initiate change.  This is partially due to the life cycle existing in schools.  It is my opinion schools have a life cycle.  This life cycle is determined by different factors whether it is the age of the school, financial considerations, political factors outside the school, community demographics, or other factors.  At different points in the cycle, a school needs different leaders with different skill sets to move the school along until it reaches the next phase.  When I come into a school, I try to be very clear about my skill set and the change I will initiate.  If hired, I believe it is because it is perceived what I bring to the school is a match for where the school is at in its life cycle.  The other reason I see myself as an agent of change is because I believe we have a responsibility as educators to always do everything we can to provide the very best education possible for our students.  I believe it was Michael Fullan who made the point a school that isn’t changing isn’t learning.  I sincerely believe this.  We need to be constantly setting our sites on what is best for students, and continually evolve and change to accomplish that.

So, what have I learned about change?  I think the most important thing I’ve learned is change is a process, it doesn’t create immediate results.  This process is difficult in schools, especially international schools, where there is constant turnover in students, faculty, board members, and others.  There is a tendency to anticipate immediate results.  In my current school, The International School Yangon (ISY), we began a process of change aimed at environmental sustainability.  We were still in the discussion stage when many people were already expecting to see a difference.  I’ll never forget during a school event during this time hearing a comment, “here we’ve been taking about doing something different about the environment, yet all I see is the same old thing.”  Michael Fullan (2013) tells us we need to look at three-year trends.  From the time a change is initiated, it takes three years to really see a difference.  Kotter (2011) indicates it is important people notice some improvement in 12 – 24 months, but the reality is it will take at least three years before a change is fully realized.  He describes the expectation of results too soon as being one of the challenges of successful change efforts.  For my part, I see a cycle of change that is generally four years.  My experience has been I spend the first year in a school learning about what we need to do to build on what we are doing well, and identify what we could be doing better.  The second year is about building buy in, whether that is through strategic planning, a SWOT process, professional development, or the use of a consultant.  Ultimately, there needs to be a base of people supporting change, and a plan created for moving forward.  The third year is a key one.  This is the year change really begins to take hold in a school.  It becomes clearly visible, and a sense of urgency develops.  This is also a time when turnover begins to occur and key people might move on, meaning there is a need to maintain the focus and bring others along.  In a sense then, this year is about momentum and focus.  Year four is the year we begin to realize results.  The work that has gone into change begins to see its rewards.  In a sense, a new system has come into place.  Then, in years four and year five, we begin to fine tune, look for ways to improve, and look for new changes to initiate as a part of that constant cycle of school improvement.

Change is not easy, and it is not without conflict.  Heifetz and Linsky (2011) tell us conflict is a necessary part of change.  One conflict is a result of a feeling things are moving too fast, the pace of change is too quick.  In fact, when it comes to change, I’ve often been asked, “What’s the hurry?  Why are we moving so quickly?” I would argue change is never too fast.  In international schools, it is an absolute necessity we move quickly due to the constant turnover that takes place in the school community.  We need to take advantage of those who feel ownership over a change effort.  While we try to build that ownership in new folks, it is never quite the same.  Beyond that, if we really believe the change we are pursuing is meaningful for student learning, then it needs to be pursued at a rapid pace so all students can benefit.  Kotter (2011) agrees on the importance of urgency to the change process.  He sees a sense of urgency as perhaps the most important factor for effective change, citing it as the force generating a sense of momentum for change to be successful.  Garvin and Roberto (2011) concur, stating that in the absence of a sense of urgency, most people will simply continue doing what they have already done.  Many international schools have a history of going through a quick succession of leaders.  Garvin and Roberto describe that sense of urgency to be even more important in these organizations.  It is easy to resist in these situations and find reasons to condemn the new champion of change.  Urgency helps to create a climate that we are moving forward.  Early in my career I became head of a school that had experience nine heads in its eleven-year history.  As I began to initiate change, and confronted resistance, one teacher bluntly told me, “I’ve outlived five heads before you, I’ll outlive you as well!”  I publicly reminded him of this during my welcome back address four years later.

Encouraging faculty to support change can be a challenge.  There are always people who strongly support a change effort, and were a part of initiating the process.  They are the base, and are the ones who can move things forward.  Unfortunately, they are not the loudest.  The ones we hear from most are those who resist the change.  They are the ones who run to different members of the community to complain the change is destroying the school, they are too overwhelmed, or they are not being listened to.  Garvin and Roberto (2011) describe these behaviors as dysfunctional routines.  Early in my career, I used to pay too much attention to these voices, believing I need to “win” them over.  I’ve since changed my opinion.  Reeves (2209) describes the types of people we find in an organization where change has been initiated.  He says roughly 17% of the people are leaders, people who can be counted on to move the effort forward.  He describes 81% as middle of the road, either followers or fence sitters.  Then, he describes the remaining 2% as the toxic 2%.  Unfortunately, these are the ones we tend to hear the most from, and so tend to give the most attention to.  Alternatively, he says we need to focus our attention on the 17% who are leaders as they will guide the middle 81% forward, leaving the toxic 2% behind.  Heifetz and Linsky (2011) go further.  They believe it is essential to court the middle group.  It is essential they see the change is serious, including the termination of those who constitute the unwilling, so they begin to see a need to get on board.  Fortunately, there are ways to filter out the toxic 2%.  At ISY, we engage in an annual SWOT activity.  During these meetings, various members of the school community have voiced their support for the changes taking place.  While some teachers have voiced resistance, others have voiced their strong support.  In our most recent SWOT analysis, one teacher even described the changes taking place as nothing short of “transformational.”  We hear these same sentiments in our end of year teacher interviews, and our annual community climate surveys, where it is clear the support is strong for the changes taking place across the community.  I have found find ways to hear how the majority feel about a change process can eliminate the power the toxic 2% take on by being the loudest.

I want to be clear and acknowledge change is not easy.  It is hard work, but it is necessary work.  I believe most educators support the idea of change, knowing it means a better education for our students.  Change is also stressful.  According to Heifetz and Linsky (2011), stress is important for change to occur.  It creates an awareness and motivation for moving forward.  In fact, they indicate complaints of stress around change are a good thing.  It is an indication something is happening, people are being asked to act differently, and are moving forward.  I personally believe stress is important, but we need to balance the stress and put it into perspective while not falling back onto complacency.  We owe it to our students to be constantly learning, to be in a hurry to provide them the best education they deserve.

You can find more posts on my blog  Gregory A. Hedger’s Blog


Fullan, M. (2013). The six secrets of change. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass.

Garvin, D. and Roberto, M. (2011). Change Through Persuasion. In: On Change Management. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, pp.17-34.

Heifetz, R. and Linsky, M. (2011). A Survival Guide for Leaders. In: On Change Management. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, pp.99-118.

Kotter, J. (2011). Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail. In: On Change Mangement. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation, pp.1-16.

Reeves, D. (2009). Leading change in your school. Alexandria, Va.: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Just wondering about my Graduation speech to wrap up the year.

As we are finishing up with our academic year, that we have students, teachers, colleagues and friends moving on to different countries, that some of us are ready to jump on a flight to go back home for some time, I have mixed feelings. But the strongest one I have is gratefulness for an awesome year. So I have decided to share my Graduation speech for the class of 2019. This class embodies everything that I believe in and I feel that thanking this class is good way to wrap up 2018-2019. Have a great summer everyone!

June 7th

Fred’s Graduation speech for the class of 2019
While I did not ask for the French National Anthem to be played at the beginning of this ceremony, and I will spare your ears and shall not sign it, I would like to bring a different perspective on graduation. Let me tell you about graduation in France and more specifically let me share the one vivid memory. (Play I will survive). This is one of the only memories that I have from when I graduated from high school. NOT the original 1978 version, come on! But this song has nothing to do with school-it is the song chosen by the French football team when they won the Fifa World Cup. I will let you figure up the year. In fact, I don’t have memories related to graduation at all, because in France, there is no graduation. Nothing. Nada. Rien. One takes their French Baccalaureate examinations, waits for the results that are graciously displayed outside the walls of the school-gates are closed. You have to imagine a gathering of Seniors, often with their parents, outside their school waiting for the results to be posted up. If you passed the Baccalaureate, kaboom! If not, people tend to lose a lot of dignity, they cry, shout and share how the world is unfair as they know that they have to repeat 12th grade. If you have a certain grade, not good, but not so bad, they give you a chance to take a few oral examinations to make up the missing points. Those oral examinations are within the next two days and students don’t have time to really prepare, but they have time to really stress out. And results for this session are given orally in front of the entire assistance: Charbonnier: passed, Dupont: failed, Durant: passed.

(Pretend phone is ringing) Wait, sorry about this. I am just going to check, you never know. Well, this is very timely. Let’s listen to this together, I believe you will like it- (listen to Garth’s voice mail)

Class of 2019: THANK you, thank YOU, and THANK YOU! What a privilege it has been to be with you. So much so that I solemnly declare that, because of all the following reasons, the class of 2019 will not graduate and stay with us for at least one more year because we just love them so much. This non-graduation ceremony is due to following reasons:

  • reason number 1: for being a class with not only a strong GPA but also solid Approaches to Learning, those skills needed to succeed in life: thinking skills, communication skills, social skills, self-management skills and research skills. This class, beyond academic grades, has them all.
  • reason number 2: through the Empower and Educate for Equality group, for the class contributions to a new contemporary, less sexist dress code and content warnings for class material. Students have been educating educators.
  • reason number 3: for changing our Thankshaving to thanksgiving, for changing a nice tradition to a meaningful, impactful school wide campaign to support people in need around us.
  • reason number 4: for an amazing Associated Student Body and beautiful, thoughtful and fun games and activities (I will always remember Jorge eating the skittle off a plate full of whipped creme). From the very first event they organized, the throwback Thursday for the class of 2018, until the very end. Lots of learning happened with ASB including the challenges of leading.
  • reason number 5: for their brilliant musical taste included but not limited to the libertines, ska-p and some great electronic music.
  • reason number 6: For their parents’ effort, spirit and collaboration with decorations of the senior area for Valentine’s Day, for the carnival celebrations and more.
  • reason number 7: for the class resilience in some of the most difficult situations young adults can go through in life.
  • reason number 8: for the smiles, the hand shakes, the good spirit that will make this class impossible to forget. Well, we won’t have to since they are not graduating yet and they will be back next year
  • reason number 9: for the pride and genuine pleasure that all of us, AC faculty and staff had with the class of 2019.
  • reason number 10: for the many dinners that we had together, virtually, when Dorian, my son, was talking about you, Jake’s jump shots, Antonio’s defence, Santi’s 3 pointers, this Basketball team made him dream; and for that, as well as encouraging him when he was playing in front of you, I thank you.
  • Well done Class of 2019! The Academia Cotopaxi High School experience is a rigorous educational experience and has prepared you well. You are equipped with the skills that you will need to be successful in a world that is changing exponentially, in a world that may not have created the professional careers that you will embrace. You are ready!

I would like to thank our AC Faculty: it is an honour to work with such professionals who support our students, everyday. You are responsible for the success of the graduates in front of you. You have spend lots of hours coaching, teaching, mentoring, giving feedback, sometimes having tough conversations. You support each High School student to be present, to do their best and to get involved. Thank you High School Faculty! I am extremely privileged to work alongside you. 
Let me also take a moment to thank families: you are here tonight with mixed feelings. It is the end of something and the beginning of something else. C’est la vie.
Let me thank Ms Monica Jacome, who has helped so much throughout the process of graduation.



This post was born at a point in an after-school run where I was just clicking over from thinking about work to getting a song stuck in my head.

I was thinking about the school that we are fundraising to build in partnership with United World Schools (UWS). Our partnership with UWS was confirmed in August and we reached our financial goal to get the school started at the end of April. It has been a huge community effort to raise the money and as we near our goal of having the school built, the community’s focus is now understandably turning to how our students will contribute to and benefit from the partnership.

The school is in a remote part of northern Myanmar and from what I understand, we are the only UWS sponsor school in partnership with a school in the same country. An important condition of the partnership is that our faculty and students will be able to directly interact and work with the school as it develops.

Our school is a community of compassionate global citizens. That is our Mission. Our Vision is to develop lifelong learners that will be a force for positive change in the world. For us to live our Mission and Vision, compassion must be central to everything that we do inside and outside the classroom and working alongside our UWS partner school will provide a context for our students to develop the self-belief and skills to be a force for positive change in the world.

I love our Mission and Vision. They are direct and aspirational statements. We will make the world better. I feel good knowing that this is what I get to work towards everyday. Our Mission and Vision are supported by eight strategic themes that provide direction. Service learning is one of those themes and our partnership with UWS came out of an identified need to provide authentic service learning opportunities for our students. Notwithstanding our overriding commitment to our Mission, Vision and students, we see our partnership with UWS as exactly that – a partnership.

And this is the point where the song kicked in….

David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ popped into my head. No idea why. It could have been worse. My son is five.

Once the school is built, we could definitely choose to be heroes. We could send some students up there and build them a library out of clay. Our students have done that for another school already this year. We could send some students up there to talk about gender equality. We have a very active group of students who have been promoting this for years. We could send some students up there and set up a composting system. They could definitely do that. We could send some students up there to help set up their learning spaces. Our elementary students just designed their own playground and our new campus in Nay Pyi Taw is about to go through a similar process. We could send some students up there to calculate the school’s carbon footprint. We will be carbon neutral in four years and our students are leading that. We could even have some students set up a couple of solar panels on the roof to heat water and power fans.

Our students have the knowledge and skills to do all of these things and more by virtue of what they have learned and experienced in class, on trips, or in after school activities. We can get started right away.

We can be heroes, just for one day…

Being a hero feels good. But where I am from, being called a hero is not necessarily a good thing. It can be used in a derogatory way to describe someone who does something for the sole purpose of making themselves look and feel good with no genuine compassion for those that they want to be seen to be helping. To develop compassion for other people we must be able to understand their perspective and that can take time when those other people have a very different perspective of the world than ours.

Service learning is grounded in compassion. The first of the five stages of service learning is investigation. This stage includes identifying and justifying a need for service. In our partnership with UWS, any need must be identified with our UWS partner school and their community with a common understanding of the issues that the school and community need help addressing. There will be some needs and accompanying actions that will be immediately obvious and our students can get to work on those straight away. However, some issues are more complex and will require a great deal of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity before effective action can be taken. Action will make us feel and look good but we need to be careful that we are addressing issues that our UWS partner school and community needs addressing in a way that they want it addressed. Otherwise, any real positive difference made will be fleeting at best.

We can be heroes, forever and ever…

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address many of the issues that our UWS partnership will be addressing – poverty, gender equality, quality education, clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, affordable and clean energy, and eleven more. This is one major reason why this week our school decided to adopt the seventeen SDGs as transdisciplinary themes through which all teaching and learning will be filtered.

We want our students to serve and learn alongside our UWS partners and we want that service and learning to stay with them for the rest of their lives. We are entering into service learning partnerships to develop lifelong learners who will be a force for positive change in the world. For this to happen, our students will need to apply what they learn once they leave us. And for this to happen, our students will need a very concrete understanding of the issues facing our world.

A focus on the SDGs will provide this understanding and we are looking forward to strengthening our partnership with UWS to help achieve some of the ambitious targets laid out by the SDGs. Ours is a small partnership in the bigger scheme of things but it promises to be one that will produce some real heroes that make a positive difference well into the future and hopefully all around the world.

If you are going to be anything, be compassionate

The Mission

This post was written on March 16.

Yesterday will go down as one of New Zealand’s darkest days.

My mother back in Christchurch messaged me to check the news. I had a hundred and one things to do at school that day, most of which remain on my to-do list. I was shocked and saddened by what had just happened in my hometown and my mind was elsewhere.

In an international community like the one I live and work in, on any one day someone in our community will be shocked and saddened by something that is happening in their home country. Yesterday was the turn of the New Zealanders and the way that it stopped my wife and I got me thinking. If we all took on each other’s shock and sadness, we would all be paralyzed and incapable of helping each other. And we need to help each other.

We need to act with compassion. Which I have learned is different from empathy which is different from sympathy.

Empathy means that you feel what a person is feeling and sympathymeans that you can understand what the person is feeling. As much as it saddens me to think about those caught up in this nightmare, it is impossible for me feel their pain. And given that I have never had a loved one taken by an act of violence, been victimized for who I am or what I believe in, or had another person’s life in my hands, I do not think I can even begin to understand.

Compassion is the willingness to relieve the suffering of another person. You do not need to feel or even understand someone’s suffering to relieve them of it. In fact, in many cases, it would be better if you did not. If a psychiatrist felt the pain of each client, she would be of no use to anyone.

Because compassion does not rely on personal experience, we can develop it in a classroom. It is very important that we do so if we are to expect our children to confront the ecological, sociological and technological problems that threaten our very existence. The solutions to those problems call for people that are able to see beyond themselves and those like them. They call for people that are willing and able to support and be supported by others.

For our children to be able to act intelligently, compassionately and with strength, we need to infuse academic challenges with the following global competencies:

  • the use of concepts, knowledge, skills and languages of various disciplines to research current global issues;
  • the understanding of economic, political, technological, environmental, and social systems worldwide;
  • the understanding of multiple perspectives; the valuing of diversity;
  • the ability to communicate with multilingual skills, through fluency in reading, writing, speaking, and listening and through the use of technologies;
  • engaging in responsible action and service to improve conditions both locally and globally; and
  • the ability to function effectively in an interdependent world.

We have high expectations of our students and they will achieve academically. And our message to them must be: If you are going to be a scientist, be a compassionate one. If you are going to be a lawyer, be a compassionate one. If you are going to be a soldier, be a compassionate one. If you are going to be a politician, be a compassionate one.

If you are going to be anything, be compassionate. Our future more than likely depends upon it.

Bloom, Paul. Against Empathy: the Case for Rational Compassion. Vintage, 2018.

WASC Focus on Learning International Edition

Reflections on the Future of Learning

Consider the future for our current kindergarten students and what the world will be like when they graduate in the year 2031. Given the technological advances we are witnessing today, any description of our near future that does not resemble something out of a science fiction story may likely represent an underestimation of the changes that will impact our lives. It is within this context of accelerating change that we are tasked with the challenge to reimagine school and learning. If one word could be used to describe the current educational landscape, it would indeed be change. Three factors associated with driving this change are arguably the areas of social and emotional development, personalised learning, and emerging technologies.

Social and Emotional Development

While the discussion surrounding social and emotional skills is not new, there is an ever-increasing importance placed on this area. The developmental abilities of empathy, initiative, curiosity, resilience, and adaptability will be vital in preparing our students for the rapid changes in society we are experiencing. How do schools ensure that students are ready to communicate effectively, engage with others in meaningful and authentic ways, and embrace the inherent beauty of human nature?

Thomas Friedman argues in his book, Thank You for Being Late, that our students are growing up in an age of acceleration in which technological change is outpacing human adaptability, as per Eric Teller’s graph.

If it is correct to assume that technology and globalisation will not slow down, then our focus must be on improving human adaptability by ensuring a population that is more agile, creative, and adaptable.

Schools also have a responsibility to reconsider what is now commonly viewed as our outdated and misaligned systems and metrics of success, which are associated with rising rates of mental illness. The narratives related to achievement and personal realisation are considered to be contributing to the adverse health outcomes found in society. How can schools and society support our students in redefining measures of success that include balance, health, and well-being? Several collaborative groups are seeking to answer this very question, which is exemplified by the Mastery Transcript Consortium and the work of universities and K-12 schools to redefine student transcripts.

Personalised Learning

In the recent KnowledgeWorks, The Future of Learning Report, the authors describe the future of learning as one where, “flexible configurations of human educators and mentors, along with digital learning coaches and companions, will be coordinated seamlessly to support learners’ short- and long- term needs and help all students reach their goals.” Personal growth of this nature is requiring the development of customised learning relationships and connections with an expanding range of learning partners. Our current school structures do not necessarily always lend themselves well to this system of learning, particularly when considering an expanded view of what constitutes mentors and learning coaches.

Schools are experimenting with systematic changes, such as flexible scheduling, blended learning opportunities involving both face-to-face and online opportunities, the redesign of campus learning spaces, and alternative credentialing, including a complete redefinition of report cards and transcripts. Technology is, of course, also challenging schools in many ways as learning continues to be more and more personalised due, in part, to a push towards 1:1 computing environments and an increase in adaptive software systems.

Emerging Technologies

Many of us have already experienced adaptive learning in which a program analyses our performance in real time and then modifies the teaching methods and curriculum focus. The use of an adaptive program or app to learn a new language is now commonplace. The field of education will undoubtedly continue to be revolutionised as machine learning becomes more prevalent. As computer systems use data and statistical techniques to “learn” on their own and continue to improve performance without a human explicitly programming the computer, schools will need to continue to adapt to this new reality. Teachers can increasingly use learning and predictive analytics to connect millions of data points to arrive at conclusions and predict future performance based on past data. One of the key outcomes we see today is an increase in personalised opportunities and students guiding and pacing their learning.

What we are experiencing now is considered to be the third educational revolution, following the high school movement and education for life in the early 1900s and then the support for higher education at around the midpoint of the last century. As the Future of Learning report highlights, schools are now becoming more fluid in that we are moving from a fixed structure driven by administrative convenience to one that is a fluid network of relationship-based formats that reflect a learners’ needs, interests, and goals. Algorithms and artificial intelligence are providing personalised learning opportunities and educators who best match each learner’s needs. We are also increasingly seeing a demand for flexible and customised learning environments which many of our current administrative structures act as constraints.

While there is much work ahead of us, the International School of Zug and Luzern’s (ISZL) foundations of an adaptive and evolutionary mindset provide our community with an effective basis to embrace the changes in the educational landscape we are experiencing today and will continue to do so in the future. Learning at ISZL is guided by an inquiry-based and transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary program that values play, experiential and project-based learning, and hands-on experiences, which are supported by a relationship-based and connected community. It is these set of values, philosophical approaches, and sense of community that will both empower and enable ISZL to adapt and thrive in an environment that requires critical building blocks for a digital economy while not allowing technology to outpace our humanity.


KnowledgeWorks. 2018. Navigating the Future of Learning Forecast 5.0. Retrieved from

Featured image: Photo by Myles Tan on Unsplash


Twitter: @dequanne

Bursts of Inspiration

So roughly seven years ago my big brother Tim had a full blown brain hemorrhage and stroke, and his road to recovery has been not only challenging for him and his family, but ridiculously inspiring as well. When the stroke happened he was already in the midst of recovering from a terrible military accident, which crushed his hip and pelvis, so you can imagine how those closely combined years and experiences must have thrown him for a loop. The thing that you need to know however, is that these events didn’t crush his sprit or send him into a spiraling depression, they somehow triggered a deep strength of character, and tapped into a level of courage and perseverance that has driven him forward. Together these events have unleashed a level of internal fight and sense of purpose that have turned him into a real life super hero for me and for countless others…my brother the super hero, how lucky am I?

Over the years I have often wondered about how he has found a way to keep his spirits up, and how he has managed to find his own inspiration throughout the struggle and throughout his long road to recovery. When we talk about it, he passionately reminds me that there are little bursts of inspiration all around us everywhere, and all the time. We just need to open up our eyes and hearts to recognizing them, and embracing them, and using them to become better versions of ourselves for others. I remember walking on the beach with him a couple of summers ago, and talking about how important it is to use these daily inspirations to find purpose and meaning in our lives, and to use them to give back, and to in turn find ways to become our own inspirations for the people that we meet along the way.

That conversation really resonated with me and called me to action. The thing about life for everyone, and in particular for us in the field of education, is that you really can’t go two hours or so without being inspired by someone or something that can change your day for the better, and push you to be better, and ultimately, inspire you to do better…but here’s the thing, you have to allow it to. Whether it’s students or adults overcoming hardship, or struggling to find their way, or dealing with issues that most of us know nothing about, or even just watching how students and teachers are always inspiring others through a positive action, or a random act of kindness, or a simple day changing comment or smile. There is always a burst of inspiration around every corner if you stop to look and internalize it…but how often do we actually make a point of doing that? Probably not often enough. 

Listen, I know that I’m lucky because I have my big brother to inspire me everyday, and I also know that not everyone has a real life super hero in their family, but really, it doesn’t matter. We all have access to some form of daily super hero in the form of friends, colleagues, students, family members, or even random strangers. Super heroes that provide us with little bursts of inspiration that are just waiting to be grabbed, and used, and paid forward so that we can collectively do and be better for our world..and for each other. My challenge to you this week, and over the summer holiday, is to make an effort to open up your eyes and hearts to these inspirations, and find ways to make them help you become a better version of yourself. Life really does get better when we can find ways to see the courage and strength and beauty of others as inspirations, and for fuel for our own personal journeys. Have a wonderful final full week of the school year everyone, and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.

CTV News – I Want to Give Back

CTV Listen – Stroke Survivor

Quote of the Week…

Life becomes easier and more beautiful when we can see the good in other people-Roy T. Bennett

Inspirational Videos – 
Learning Sign Language

Golden Buzzer

Nike Change the World

Nike Dream Crazy

97 Year Old D-Day Jumper

A TED Talk Favorite –

 Aimee Mullins – Adversity

Related Articles –

Find Inspiration

Inspire Others

Motivate Yourself

Overcome adversity

Attitude is Everything

Research Shows an Empty Backpack Is as Good as a Parachute


Parachute pictured not from the study.

A study published in BMJ last year showed that parachutes are no more protective against death and injury than a standard, empty backpack[1]. BJM (previously the British Medical Journal) is a peer-reviewed publication, the study design was a randomized controlled trial, and the researchers were professors affiliated with Harvard Medical School and the UCLA School of Medicine. Results demonstrated that participants who jumped out of an airplane or helicopter wearing an empty backpack were no more likely to suffer trauma or death upon impact than those jumping with a functional parachute.

How’s that? 

Looking past the astonishing abstract, we learn that participants jumped from a parked airplane or helicopter, ‘falling’ no more than 60 cm to the ground. None of the participants – whether equipped with a backpack or a parachute – were harmed. The study’s outcomes were statistically valid, but extremely situation-dependent. Context matters.

Many of my readers carry passports from, were trained in, or work in schools where English is the dominant language. We tend to source our research from English language publications, which over-represent studies from Anglophone countries. Does work done in the U.S. or the U.K. have applications in Chile/Kenya/Germany/Qatar?

My doctoral research requires translating data across cultural lines, rather than linguistic ones. I have an interest in the Middle East, but find minimal journal articles reflecting my subject area there (LGBTQ+ inclusive school policy and practice). Therefore, I require a thorough understanding of the methodology and the theoretical underpinnings of any study I transport internationally, and a solid explanation for how – or whether –  the work can be appropriately applied outside of the original context.

International educators are familiar with adapting curriculum, policy, and school norms to include internationally diverse stakeholders. We’ve all got anecdotal stories of the challenges with administering American standardized tests, for example, outside of the U.S. (third graders in Kuwait asking what a bale of hay or a chapel is). My concern is when a grabby study headline (empty backpacks work as well as parachutes!) gets more attention than the details behind it. Next time you hear “research shows”, first examine the publication and consider if and how the findings could be effectually adapted to your context.

Which methods or criteria do you use to translate educational research to your international context?

[1] Yeh, R. W., Valsdotttir, L. R., Yeh, M. W., Shen, C., Kramer, D. B., Strom, J.B., Secemsky, E. A… Nallamathu, B. K. (2018). Parachute use to prevent death and major trauma when jumping from aircraft: Randomized controlled trial. BMJ. DOI: