Key learnings from a Remarkable Conference

MARCH 15, 2017 / Articles

A collaborative report with input from Regional Principals Phil Muir, Jon Bowen, and Hugo Vaughan 

Exceeding expectations - NZ Herald conference report >>

Leading Remarkable Learning, convened by Westmount School, was a powerful learning experience for teachers, school administrators and policy makers.             

The aim was to redefine and refresh views of education, and to inspire the education community for the future.

The conference featured New Zealand and international experts in education leadership and innovation. It presented and interpreted the latest research and technologies in key areas of 21st century learning:

  • Self-organising learning environments
  • Schools in the cloud
  • Designing schools as incubators
  • Developing teachers as coaches and facilitators
  • Cross-curricula, cross-continent collaboration

What we learned

Sugata Mitra, the professor whose research has led to the creation of a global network of Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLEs) and a ‘School in the Cloud’, taught us a huge amount about how technology enables us to think and learn in a more meaningful way.

His common sense approach and thought-provoking insights into what motivates learners to be self-directed was inspirational. He told us of his recommendations around using devices in group activities and how best to ask those ‘big questions’ to unlock rich learning, great thinking and problemsolving.

Listen to Sugata Mitra talks to journalist Duncan Garner on The AM Show >>             


Mark Osborne is an expert in leading change management, with a special focus on learning environments. He unpacked the reasons why schools needed to be growing learners in modern learning environments, and using the learning styles that accompany these physical spaces.

Mark reminded us of the forecast for the job market and how so many current jobs would be phased out with technology over the next few years. He also stressed the importance of future proofing our students moving into the next phase of the world of work.



Frances Valintine, an educational futurist and founder of the Mindlab by Unitec and the Tech Futures Lab, outlined the pressures both on the education system, and the future of jobs.

One impact of changing technology was on traditional tertiary institutions, which were being challenged by online learning forums that gave learners the skills and knowledge they needed quickly and cost-effectively (often free). This meant they would no longer need to take the risk of incurring huge debt, potentially for jobs that would not exist by the time they graduated.




One School Regional Principal Gordon Poad explored the importance of teachers leading with their hearts, as well as the thought of “grab an opportunity, have a go and see what the impact is”.

Gordon also stressed the importance of giving teachers time to collaborate.


Listen to Gordon Poad's interview with Andrew Patterson on NBR Radio >>


We were also treated to the services of a genuine knight of the realm – the amazing Sir John Jones. Sir John took us all on an emotional rollercoaster with stories and lessons from his life in education.

He offered simple but sound advice around selecting and developing staff, managing students, and creating schools as positive, caring, vibrant centres of communities.

Sir John reminded us about why we teach – and why it is such an honourable, important profession.

Listen to Sir John’s interview with Kathryn Ryan on Radio NZ >>



Our expert MC, Andrew Patterson, of National Business Review, facilitated brilliantly. His reflection of what we heard each day, as well as his masterful questioning of the panel discussion really maximised our engagement and learning.

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