International Day of Happiness

A Happy School, image
Image: Yonjeee Lee – 12 years old, Rep. of Korea ‘A happy school is not only education, but also friendship…’

Pursuit of happiness is on the global development agenda, but not enough is being done to address learner well-being. UNESCO’s ‘Happy Schools’ framework (pdf) addresses the disparity.

The Global Partnership for Education has a wonderful blog referring to the UNESCO’s Happy Schools framework, whch was originally launched on March 20th 2012.

We hear so much about achievement and attainment levels and the need for testing and assessment so it was with real joy that I read the article and found that there are others who know that happiness is key to learning.

If a child is not happy they do not find it easy to learn!

Some of the source comments are quoted below. They makes inspiring reading and a great encouragement for education principles which believe in the word ‘educatio‘ meaning ‘leading out‘, rather than levels and testing assesments.

”Happiness has captivated great minds since ancient times, with thinkers as varied as Socrates, Aristotle, the Buddha, Confucius, John Locke and Johann Pestalozzi expounding on its nature and the importance of well-being in our lives. And today messages about the importance of well-being, mindfulness, positive thinking and how to live a more meaningful life seem ubiquitous.”

”Happiness has also become a dominant policy concern for the global community. The United Nations designated today, March 20, the International Day of Happiness in 2012 and identified the pursuit of happiness as “a fundamental human goal” the previous year, while the concept of well-being features across many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Just last month, the World Government Summit held in Dubai included a high-level Global Dialogue for Happiness, which examined the issue of happiness from a policy perspective. Speaking at the event, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said:

“Paying more attention to happiness should be a component of our efforts to achieve human and sustainable development.”

“But what role does and should happiness play in education?”

Sue Martin: SmithMartin Partnership and Books Go Walkabout

A Social Business Christmas

Image: Christmas learning from Barcelona

Preparing for Christmas we realised that although we have a number of active and complex projects moving ahead into 2017, including more international book and author events, web and communications build-outs for community clients and development of our literacy and book projects, we had no homework!

So we have signed up, via the latest batch of FutureLearn subjects, to a course on Social Business and its development, delivered in partnership with the Universat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Social Business: a Sustainable Way to Face the Most Pressing Needs of Our Time, as the on-line collaborative course is called, will enable us to test our belief that we are a social business, effectively working as a not for profit company, or rather generating profits with social outcome as the expected significant return.

‘We will begin by defining a Social Business according to Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Laurate 2006. We will look at how a Social Business is different from other similar concepts such as Social Economy or Social Enterprise’.

We hope to see how the theories of Muhammad Yunus match our delivered practice, and to discover how other international social business developers interpret their work through the academic theory and practical dialogue that the ‘Pompeu Fabra course will deliver.

Our course starts on 5th December 2016, so there is still time to visit the FutureLearn pages and to sign up. Read more here

The course is free and lasts for four weeks, but is designed to enable you to both learn and share your experiences in just a few hours a week.

We’ll let you know how we get on. Happy Christmas to all our readers!

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A Kellet thank you…

Following our recent delivery of Book Fest celebrations at The Kellet School in Hong Kong, the school have just published a short film thanking contributors to the Annual Fund activities across the academic year.

We were delighted that our team of authors were able to make such a great contribution to the learning and understanding of the writers craft. (Our delivery is featured at 2 mins 30 secs.)

The Kellet School children produced a vast amount of very high quality work from the BgW week, as you can see from the film.

We were delighted to be able to contribute and know that our authors would be happy to return to Hong Kong any time. Thank you to everyone who took part in Book Fest from us too!

The Team at SmithMartin LLP – Books go Walkabout

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Saying it cannot be done…

I was given a book mark yesterday by one of my colleagues. It carried the following inscription.

Those who say it cannot be done…

Should not interrupt the person doing it.  

(Ancient Chinese Proverb)

There’s no telling how the wisdom of China came to be on the bookmark, or yet still how to test the veracity of its origins in the short time since I read it.

However, I had been thinking about it through a couple of politically bumpy client meetings yesterday. Having a vision, having scoped alternative courses of action and begun the journey to realising your project, then there should come a time when the nay-sayers or constructive critiques about the original concept should fall gently away…I would wish to argue.

If your project has a sound ethical and inclusive focus, then you should remain true to your vision, realising that new enterprises, of whatever type, are difficult to begin, difficult to make happen and difficult to manage when they go live.

You need that period of buoyancy and enthusiasm in the start-up phase, untrammelled by the gloomy onlooker, to enable you to realise your successful outcomes.

My bookmark reflection led me to two conclusions today.

As an accidental serial entrepreneur in my own tiny corner of existence,  I recognise that occasionally projects do fold in on themselves no matter how good your heart or muscular your approach.

I also chided myself for not saying any of the above during the meeting.

(I think there’s another blog entry in that last line too!)

Tim Smith

Partner at SmithMartin

The web and education – how we think about information

Michael Wesch of Kansas State University produces a continuous stream of films and concept refreshing ideas about information, education and the cultural power of the web.

The short film below offers the viewer some interesting insights into the way the web has changed how we will think about education, schools and universities in the future.

The Canadian media thinker Marshall McLuhan in the sixties saw that ‘…the school is the custodian of print culture’. Now, Wesch argues, the game has changed for institutions. People can read, wrie and publish their own reflections on the internet.

The Wesch argument is based upon the insight that ‘…the public now lives and breathes in a much larger sphere of information and knowledge’. He argues that education’s interface with technology should allow individuals to pivot their life course decisions by “…5 degrees”, in a way to release potential that would have been unimaginable before the advent of WWW.

The Wesch film also has a piercing shard of insight into the potential collapse of hierarchies. The abandonment of which schools and universities will probably find the hardest thing to achieve.

Wikipedia, populated with volunteered knowledge, is larger than the Encyclopedia Britannica. The web means, for Tim Berners-Lee, that ‘…the link is enough’. With enough hyper links the bookshelf, the hierarchy of knowledge becomes less important.

Not irrelevant, but in a way that allows the knowledge researcher to follow the nodes and synapses of a thought or idea – in a way which would be impossible in a traditional print library.

You can find Michael Wesch’s YouTube channel here, to see more of his film work around ‘digital ethnography’.

You can also find the Thirdsectorweb home page here. Our partnership service for schools and Children’s Centres. which helps to publish their information, knowledge and culture on the web.

A surfeit of information?

Below is a short film of a recent TED programme talk by a teacher – Diana Laufenberg. It has a number of different messages.

A mapping of the transition from a knowledge poor community to a present day surfeit of information. (We too remember the power of a printed version of The Encyclopedia Britannica).

How using their own voice in learning and the outcomes of it is a powerful tool for student learning itself. Finally, Diana Laufenberg makes a telling case for the power of failure.

The one answer, and only one answer is right – the prescriptive model of going to a single building to be ‘given’ knowledge, these Diana argues are outmoded paradigms.

In a world of web technology, laptops and mobile devices – with the clamour of data and image, how best should we learn, reflect and filter?

We have many clients who use the web to allow the leaners voice to emerge, to post the creative works of students online. Others are less well developed in this area, perhaps missing an opportunity to maiximise learning.

What is interesting in this short talk, is how, even in a community that is highly affluent with clearly pervasive use of technology, that the debate still rages. Inspiring.

You can read more about TED – Ideas Worth Spreading here.

Forest Schools

treeThis really captured our imagination at at a time when schools are about to go through further changes.
Could be just the opportunity to see if a Forest School could be the way forward for children to experience the joy of experiential learning in an outdoor environment. It can be true release from the confines of the classroom which many young people find claustrophobic and not conducive to learning.

A recent tv programme has taken a group of boys to outside challenging environments and the success was amazing. Not just for the actual learning but for the desire to find out more.

The Forest Schools Website, full of information gives the following outline.

The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences

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‘Forest Schools is an innovative educational approach to outdoor learning. The philosophy of Forest Schools is to encourage and inspire individuals of any age through positive outdoor experiences. ‘

Forest Schools has demonstrated success with children of all ages who visit the same local woodlands on a regular basis and through play, who have the opportunity to learn about the natural environment, how to handle risks and most importantly to use their own initiative to solve problems and co-operate with others. Forest School Programmes run throughout the year, for about 36 weeks, going to the woods in all weathers (except for high winds). Children use full sized tools, play, learn boundaries of behaviour; both physical and social, establish and grow in confidence, self-esteem and become self motivated.

Definitely worth checking out, we have just heard of a nursery who is starting on the scheme and would love to be there with them as they journey into the woods.

We have been involved with an organisation called Woodland Ways for some time and place great value on the inspiration and satisfaction from developing woods in both rural and urban areas.

Sue Martin -SmithMartin Partnership LLP – creating futures, enabling imaginations