thinking about uncertainties

Just watched the DeutschePost video on possible futures for 2050  – think I’m in the wrong career….that looked like fun to make! I like their self-proclaimed DP as a ‘driver of change’ and am going to try to remember to throw that into the mix in session 4 of the mOOC as a little lighthearted suggestion :p

So now I’m trying to do a bit of pre-planning thinking and pull together my ideas on key uncertainties as related to secondary education, more specifically the UAE public school system and New School Model. This is due to be rolled out in Cycle 2 schools (grades 6-9) in the coming academic year (Sept 2013) and Cycle 3 schools (grades 10-12), which is were my focus lies, some time after that. What are possible future uncertainties that are in my mind so far?

  • the idea of student choice & autonomy (maybe this is the prosumer idea) vs. regulated national curriculums set by government bodies
  • the idea of a learning oasis vs learning desert, as outlined in the KnowledgeWorks scenarios 
  • to what extent globalization will continue or will there be a move to a more community / local region focus

The thinking continues!

“It’s much better to be vaguely right than precisely wrong”.

I chose this Pierre Wack quote (taken from The World and South Africa in the 2010s as the title for my post because for me it ties together some key elements of scenario planning:

  • we are not trying to predict exactly what will happen in the future
  • effective scenario planning moves us away from being tied to only one outcome, or future story
  • SP is not an exact science – there is an element of intuition and creativity inherent in its design

There are of course other ideas which are also important, such as working collaboratively, but for me the above three points were things that came as a surprise to me, but which I really like.

Out of the SP examples included in our course material, the NAPDI North Star scenarios really resonated with me. I liked seeing how SP can be used outside of a business / commercial / governmental setting. For me, the process they went through enabled a strong community voice to be heard and created the opportunity for people to come together. From the document it seems clear that everyone involved took the process seriously while at the same time having some fun – the news headlines are great! The input from different parties is also clearly visible, which I think is important with an initiative such as this one. Would I like to be involved in something like this? Absolutely.

Thinking about SP in relation to my own context is something I’m still trying to get my head around. I’m not sure yet how to go about identifying the key issue, which as Tim Nelson outlined in his blog post is crucial. Also, I’ve got many possible key uncertainties floating around in my head which may or may not be relevant to my topic. Also, I’m not sure how far into the future we’re supposed to be thinking when we come up with uncertainties and scenarios. Are we taking a similar timeframe to Niki (ie. 5 years) or are we looking more longterm, such as 15 or 20 years? Or is it up to us to choose? More thinking to be done on this over the weekend! I do think, however, that SP is a useful tool for schools in general and also for my chosen area, ie. technology & assessment. Finally, I’ve really enjoyed this section 2 of the SP4Ed mooc – it’s been challenging thinking but interesting and stimulating , and the twitter chats are fun!    🙂

Important skills for generating effective scenarios

I like Oliver’s idea about needing to be able to assimilate and synthesize. You don’t need to have all the ideas yourself….in fact it’s better not to! But you do need to be able to pull everything together. I was blown away when he mentioned they might sometimes have 400-500 key influences that then get bundled together. This made me realize just how important the above characteristics are. It also made me reflect on senior secondary schooling – how we say we want to teach higher order thinking skills, but do we really do it? Or are we forced to pay lip service to it and then teach to the largely content-based assessments? A cynics view I’m sure, but it is early in the morning!  

Open minded – this is essential. You have to be open to future scenarios that may be far outside your own realm of thinking or comfort. To be able to accept, discuss and imagine yourself in this future requires an open mind. Tied to this, being prepared to listen to the viewpoints of people outside the ‘usual’ area requires an open mind.  I think it’s relevant for everyone involved, but it may be particularly relevant for people high up the food chain and new to the process of SP or those who are very stuck in their ways and resistant to change.

I think you need to be aware. Aware of the world around you, aware of the past, aware of what’s going on in sectors other than your own, aware of any growing international ‘feeling’, aware of social movements, aware of the youth…….just aware!



Lindgren, M., & Bandhold, H. (2003).  Scenario Planning: The Link Between Future and Strategy. Palgrave MacMillan: Houndmills, UK.  Retrieved from

Author Unknown. (2011). Eyes Wide Open: Embraching Uncertainty Through Scenario Planning.  Retrieved from

So, why do it?

Scenarios can’t predict the future, so what’s the point?


The benefits are in more than just predicting the future.

If that were the biggest benefit, we should just spend more time making a Martymobile!

So why do it?

Because it’s not all about the future. Scenario planning is just as valuable to us in our present day lives – where we often forget to appreciate, where we live in a routine not only physically but also in our minds, where we play out the same worries, the same hopes, the same fears. So scenario planning becomes a great thinking exercise in itself. It forces us to take the blinkers off, step outside our regular box and open our minds to more than just tried and true thought patterns. Bringing in viewpoints from totally random sources….poets, musicians, streetkids, monks….sharing experience and collaborating without a sense of hierarchy or esteem, enables us to live more richly now, today. We can all, no matter how open minded, creative or versatile we believe we are, benefit from the minds of others.

As Oliver Freeman says, scenario planning “takes [us] away from the trap” of prediction. With this, I would add it takes us away from the dangers of expectation. If we expect one future to happen, if we place all our thoughts on this, regardless of whether it be in a corporate or personal context, we are immediately setting ourselves up for a fall if this one particular thing we expect doesn’t eventuate. In allowing us the freedom to blend intuition with critical processes, to imagine multiple worlds, and to live just for a moment in each of these worlds, scenario planning frees us from the constricts we so often place on our minds.

Essay Plan #take 1

Essay Plan #take 1

Thinking about the plan for my first essay.
Not sure how if it’s going to be readable so I think click on the image and save it to see a bigger version. Running out the door now but will try to play with photo features when I get back and see if there’s a better way of viewing a pic such as this.

Success….even before leaving my chair! Click the photo to see a bigger (readable!) version.

Research #3

Chau and Cheng. (2010). ePortfolio, Technology and Learning: a reality check. Journal of Interactive Learning Research, 21(4), 465-481.

Description: Set within a tertiary education setting, the authors of this article explore the relationship between theoretical ideals in ePortfolio use for learning and assessment and actual classroom practice, namely the adoption and effective use of ePortfolios by students. To begin, they identified four key theoretical advantages to using ePortfolios – namely their ability to enable all types of learners to succeed; as a means of learner empowerment through authorship; as a tool to extend technology use and capabilities; and finally as a way to foster online communities and networks. These four key ideas were then explored with a group of students enrolled in an English as a Second Language course at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. Results of this study indicated some inconsistencies between theory and practice a series of ‘checks’ were suggested, linked to each of the four key theoretical ideas. In addition, recommendations were made for future ePortfolio implementation in educational settings.
Evaluation: This research-based article is useful for my own investigation into ePortfolios as it takes a real-world, honest view and does not attempt to hide the mismatch between theory and practice. This is important for me to consider as any technological innovation is bound to encounter issues and if some of these can be acknowledged and planned for in advance it will likely help to smooth the path of diffusion. Particularly useful are the links drawn between student authorship and a sociocultural approach to learning as well as comments focused around what students did and did not like about the ePortfolios. These comments all tied in to the Perceived Ease of Use (PEOU) element outlined in the Technology Acceptance Model (TAM) and as such reinforced my thinking that TAM is an important change model for me to consider as both PEOU and Perceived Usefulness at a student level will be instrumental in the overall effectiveness of the innovation I propose.

Note to self when writing essay – the focus is not on why ePortfolios should be used in schools (already being done and done well!) but on why they should be used as the key assessment tool.

The Big Think…..learning reflection 1

I don’t really know where to start. Someone once told me a long time ago that a messy room = a messy mind. At the moment, I feel like this is the case, but in reverse, or maybe working in both directions. My mind is messy and as a result my study is messy….and vice versa. How to break the circle?! It’s not that there is too much work, but rather that my time management skills are not the best….or else I’ve just tried to take on too much in terms of full-time study, part-time work and also setting up a business. Hmmm….when I write it like that it does seem a lot. But definitely doable because I don’t have a family and absolutely am in awe of everyone who is working, studying and looking after families.

Even writing this reflection is somewhat difficult at the moment. I think maybe I’m worrying too much about having to do it ‘right’ or follow particular guidelines, so I’m now going to give up on that and do a big mind dump of thoughts and feelings. It may not make sense and it may be quite random to read, but maybe it will help sort out the mess in my head and lead me to some clear next steps or guiding questions.


What have I loved?

–          Communicating with people through the forums. I’ve also enjoyed doing this via blogs but found it a bit harder to get into as the forum setting is definitely something I’m more familiar with. Am I liking being challenged to explore change in this way? Yes for sure, but. That’s all so far, the ‘but’ remains undefined.

–          Seeing my blog start to grow, albeit slowly. I value this as a learning tool and it gives me ideas about how it could be incorporated into secondary school settings.

–          Finding a research topic that I really believe in and am excited about investigating! Getting the research bug is always fun J

–          Being inspired by other people’s blogs / ideas etc


What have I not enjoyed?      

–          Not being on top of things, and so having a rushed / flustered feeling.

–          The pressure I put on myself through internal dialogue

–          Being behind on deadlines for assignments

(Interesting how nothing here is actually content related!)


What have I learned?

–          That I need to work on this feeling I have that my learning process needs to somehow fit a particular expectation or should mirror that of someone else’s. Interesting, because as I reflect on this I can see that it has been a recurring theme for me, not only in terms of formal academic study but other types of learning as well.

–          That despite there being much research on change and many different models suggested, common to all is the acknowledgement that change of any kind is an on-going process and supporting people through this process is key. My own feeling here is that this support is what is often rushed through, or shortened as a result of various factors such as funding / time etc.

–          That if major change is going to be made – do it properly, once. Not kind of, with lip service, many times over.

–          That my time management skills at the moment are terrible. This is strange, because it’s unusual…..usually I’m very good at organizing time. I think perhaps I’m still not sure how to fit my topic within the context of the first assignment I’m making less progress ‘on paper’ than I normally would.

What questions do I have?

–          Do we use only one change model, must we use it in its entirety? Or can we pick parts out from two or three? I’m thinking Rogers’ diffusion of innovations, PU and PEOU from TAM and LAT may all be of use. Is this too much?

–          Am I going to look at my research topic from the point of it being voluntary or mandatory uptake? Does it matter? Does it have to stay the same between this first assignment and the final research topic?

–          What changes can I make to my internal dialogue and thinking so that I feel less pressured to fit a particular mould and more okay with the idea that ‘my learning is my learning and can weave its path as it likes’?

 Do I feel better?!

Yes, kind of. But I will feel better this afternoon once my draft essay plan is put together. I don’t know if what I’ve written counts as a learning reflection – it’s really not specific to the course material at all. But it has certainly been an interesting metacognitive task for me to do. What are my next steps for today……nutting out the plan for the first essay and putting up a welcome blog post for the sp4ed mooc. Am I still going to continue my current mission to give up coffee? Yes!