8 Top Global Education Thinkers

Meet 8 Top Global Education Thinkers you should know.

John Connell

John Connell

John Connell (@I_Am_Learner) is an education expert and strategist with wide experience across all the key sectors and at all levels in education, and is founder of the ‘I Am Learner’ international education consultancy (http://consult.iamlearner.net). He counts UNESCO, European Schoolnet, Promethean, Education Fast Forward, Skills Development Scotland and Pearson amongst his clients. In 2001, Connell initiated, and then led for 6 years the design, procurement and initial implementation of the Scottish Schools Digital Network project, now known as Glow. This is Scotland’s national connected schools program, digitally linking all of Scotland’s 3,000 schools across a national broadband network and national web-based learning and collaborative platform. Connell is also a well-known voice in the world of ed-tech blogging (http://iamlearner.net and http://commonlearn.net)

While the growing mobile networks are already having an unmistakable impact on education around the world, mobile learning (m-learning) is still fundamentally an emerging phenomenon. Much play has been made in some places, for instance, of the many and varied schemes to introduce tablets, e-readers, and even connected handheld gaming devices into the classroom. Some of these have been successful while others are more conspicuous by the hype surrounding them than by any proven effects on teaching and learning. But such schemes are, in my opinion, really only scratching the surface of m-learning. They have validity in their own right, of course, but they are for the most part simply attempts to extend the range of connected devices for students from desktops and laptops to devices that are small, versatile, easy-to-carry and, yes, more mobile. So while they do have the capacity to enable access to learning in a greater variety of settings, whether in school or out of school, than with desktops, and even laptops, their mobility capability is by no means always the pivotal factor in their deployment.

Learners in the developing world have a hunger for learning that has not been provided for in the past because the means simply weren’t there for its ‘delivery’. Just as the mobile networks themselves are expanding most rapidly in the developing world, so it will be paralled by a rapid escalation of people taking advantage of those networks for their own education.


Gavin Dykes

Gavin Dykes

Gavin Dykes is a London-based education and technology innovations expert, who works with governments, agencies, major corporations, and institutions across the world on strategy and policy. Dykes is also the Education Fast Forward (http://www.effdebate.org/) director, and a co-founder.

Learner voice seems to be, particularly as I get older, absolutely compelling. It’s my desire to invest in young people and their ideas, and learner voice is a vital component. Too often learner voice is seen as almost a tick box; we’ve asked learners their opinion—and that’s learner voice. I think if you do that you are completely undervaluing what you can get from learners, and from people who are really participating—not in somebody’s education—but in their own education. These are things that may challenge people, who are a little older, because that’s not the way their experience has gone, but those challenges are absolutely critical. Through those challenges we frequently learn new things.

Learner voice to me is part of a spectrum. And that spectrum, for me, runs all the way from learner voice, where we’re encouraging children to express their opinion, and young people to play a full part in organizing, and participating in their own education, through to emerging leadership. Because if you have a voice, what are you going to do with it? Emergent leadership is a really important part of that.



Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan “is a worldwide authority on educational reform with a mandate of helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning.” Fullan is also Professor Emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. His books include Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change Knowledge (2012), Motion Leadership in Action: More Skinny on Becoming Change Savvy (2012), and Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School (with Andy Hargreaves) (2012).

“The world needs to see what our children can do with what they know. Do not use Heavy-handed accountability—or accountability as a stick. Focus on individual teachers—and a need to get better teachers into the profession. While it looks like a good solution and the future—if you don’t have good pedagogy for how you’re going to use technology—it puts the cart before the horse.”

According to Fullan, the best education systems…

  1. “Focus on a small number of core goals—deep literacy… deep numeracy, and students learning through out.”
  2. “Put a lot of energy into the quality of the teaching profession. “They focus on attracting good teachers to the profession, and professional development once they’re hired.”
  3. “Invest in leadership. School principals and coaches are leading the strategies.”
  4. “Create collaborative working conditions for teachers.”
  5. “Use data, but in a non-judgmental way. This supports a school culture where it’s OK to take risks. There’s no punishment in the short run as long as you learn from it.”


Iain Home

Iain Home

Iain Home is a father, student of education trends, and a global education-marketing strategist for Promethean. He understands the importance of education to all students, as well as the economic impact for not getting it right. Home is a global education business analyst, writer, and blogger.

“No structure, whether it is in the education world or the business world, ever seems to be perfect. Problems of one kind or another always exist. One common problem in business is the functional silo where people are either struggling, or not willing to think beyond their own department or function. Don’t cut learning horizons unnecessarily short. At 14, 18, 21, or whatever age a student is making important decisions about his/her education, it is those unknowns about where their career, and their life may take them that potentially cut their horizons artificially short. The blind spots will obviously be different for different students.

I hold my hands up and admit I was one of those students suffering from a dose of the ‘unknown unknowns’ (Donald Rumsfeld quote) with more than a hint of arrogance added in for good measure.  For me, it was French. I saw no value in learning French. I couldn’t see why French would be useful to my career or personal life. I only succeeded in wasting my own time and that of the teacher. Now at the slightly more mature age, I see the error of my ways. I’ve gained an understanding and appreciation of how a language other than English would have definitely helped working in a global business. The point is that I couldn’t even comprehend a time that I might end up working in a global company at age 14, so why would I ever need French?

Finding relevant examples to help students to realize the importance of what they are learning is key. I know it may be harder to do this with some subjects than others, and the links may not always be obvious. This also shouldn’t be the sole burden of the teacher either. I think it is absolutely right to bring in other people, from outside, to give the subject being taught some additional context. Every time you keep a student engaged in learning for longer, you potentially broaden that student’s horizon, and that has to be worth the effort!”



John Hattie

John Hattie has been Director of Research at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, Australia, Professor of Education, University of Auckland, New Zealand, and for the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honors he was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. He is an education researcher, who has a way of talking to all educators, from an educator’s point of view. The statistics don’t get in the way. For those who like numbers, he always gives a starting benchmark, or reference point, that makes sense. John Hattie has the ability to make research understandable.

“What a kid needs is not more… they need different. Teachers need to know what students already know, and because they’re all different, realize that’s very different for each. Students need to know clearly, and up front what success looks like in the lessons they are about to do, without waiting until the end to find out. Closing the gap between where students are and what success looks like is the most powerful way we can fast forward learning. Success is when kids see themselves as their own teachers.”


Angela Maier

Angela Maiers

Angela Maiers (@AngelaMaiers) is a teacher at her core, and a driving force for sharing with kids, teachers, and everyone how and why they matter. Her life path has been about teaching and communication. Maiers has worked twenty-five years as an educator with her passion the pursuit of literacy and learning. Her experiences include classroom and University teaching, instructional coaching, research, writing, publishing, and corporate training, as well as starting her own business. Angela Maiers believes everyone matters, and she’s out to prove it.

Every learner, no matter age, wants to be successful and they want to matter. They want their learning to be something—towards something. I think that I’m reminding everyone, not just kids, who they actually are. I ask kids all the time what their genius is. I think part of my role is liberating the genius of others around me. It’s giving people a front row seat to their own brilliance, and actually naming it in a way they haven’t named it. Part of helping students grow is being able to recognize and honor who they are right now. I don’t see kids as leaders in training.

I see teachers as already leading. My job is to label how they’re leading effectively, so they can amplify and refine that. That’s always how I’ve seen it. Kindergartners and 1st graders demand you know who they are. If you don’t notice their genius, or miss one thing about their awesomeness, they will let you know! They don’t do it with ego; they just know they were born to make an impact. And that’s how Choose to Matter came about.

When people don’t think they matter, they lose a sense of themselves. They lose creativity, productivity, and efficiency. It’s an economic issue as much as it is an emotional issue. Ordinary people are really extraordinary, but genius needs a reason to show up. It’s hard work; it’s not easy. It’s telling the real story, and not just the story we tell everyone. It’s life transformative, and a significant accelerator of innovation.

When people pursue something bigger than themselves, or for a bigger cause, innovation happens at a rate we’ve never seen in education before. Choose to Matter takes compassion-driven innovation into schools to ask students what they’re gong to do, how they’re going to contribute, and how they’re going to lead. It takes sharing with kids that we need their contribution, and that they can make an impact. There are problems in the world that break our hearts, and we just need enough innovative contributors to solve them. When people know they matter, and their actions count, lives change, learning changes, and the world changes.


Lars Persen

Lars Persen

Lars Persen (@larspersen) works with pedagogical use of interactive technology for Norwegian Promethean partner, Scandec Systemer. He holds lectures for school leaders and owners about strategy and implementation of technology with learning activities in focus. Previously a teacher and school leader, Persen was recently appointed fellow to Education Fast Forward (http://www.effdebate.org/) and has also participated at the advisory board for Horizon Report-Technology Outlook for Scandinavian Schools (http://www.nmc.org/publication/2015-nmc-technology-outlook-scandinavian-schools/). He is an educator and lifelong learner.

“In my opinion the research of Marzano, Pickering and Pollock will best function as a basis for self-reflection, peer-to-peer assessment amongst teachers and for discussing professional instructional development in staff. However, strategies usually focus on instructional sides of the classroom activities, which is only a part of learning activities. We have to move more away from teaching (students as consumers) to learning activities, where students are producers of knowledge. There are no simple solutions or quick fixes.

There needs to be a significant change in the role of the teacher, from presenter of knowledge to learning facilitator. It is unlikely that teachers can know everything about every subject. We cannot afford to let this limit learning. The teacher as guide, and more as co-learner, can wisely provide options, suggest actions, and be an ethical role model, making way for students to become deeper thinkers, problem solvers and collaborators. And through real formative feedback (questions) students can find better resources to knowledge beyond what one teacher was ever able to present. We don’t have to transform the entire education system, but we do have to transform how we think. We should measure learning change using good standards and objectives, and technologies that can increase motivation, as well as enhance relevance and mastery.”


Kristen Weatherby

Kristen Weatherby

Kristen Weatherby of TALIS is( @KW_Research on Twitter), and is an active contributor to the OECD EducationToday Blog. Weatherby is not the traditional OECD (http://www.oecd.org/unitedstates/) employee, because she doesn’t come from government, or a university research background. She worked in the private sector, for Microsoft worldwide, and in the UK, on Microsoft education programs—working with schools and teachers, as well as the government to help find programs and solutions for integrating technology into teaching and learning. And actually began her career as a classroom teacher.

“There are so many different buzzwords and new trends going around, but what ministers of education want to know is what’s actually working. It’s also good to have union members in the conversation to see if these reforms are actually viable—making sure that teacher voices are represented.

The way I explain TALIS (http://www.oecd.org/edu/school/talis.htm), particularly to teachers, is that it really is a way to give teachers a voice. It’s a teacher’s opportunity to tell us what is happening in their schools and what kind of access they get to things like professional development, appraisal and student feedback. Furthermore, what kind of climate is in their schools—is there a climate of collaboration, do they like their jobs, and are they confident about their abilities to teach? Additionally we ask what kind of preparation did they receive—did they feel prepared when they first entered the classroom as a teacher?

With the data we’ve collected, we’re able to look at countries around the world, know something about their education system—something about their socio-economic status of the schools where those teachers work, and look at what factors may contribute to the experiences of teachers in those countries.

What I think is useful for countries, and what we hope to do is help to make changes in policy, where teachers get more support in the areas they need to improve the quality of teaching. So, you can look at and learn from what other countries are doing. And that’s where we hope TALIS will help.”


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8 Top Global Education Thinkers
Meet 8 Top Global Education Thinkers you should know.
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