The New Zealand Curriculum calls for young people who will be "confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners." It's an innovative document, which provides the blueprint for 21st Century teaching and learning. However, this document is very much like the modern learning environment - it isn't going to transform education on its own. The transformation of eduction to meet the needs of our 21st Century learners requires not only educators, but also the public / our community, to understand the shift around concepts such as knowledge and learning. To be effective and innovative educational leaders it is our responsibility to ensure that not only our students and staff understand the vision, but also our community.
While I understand why we are completely re-framing education and re-creating an environment which defies a traditional school environment, I am also aware that not everyone is on the same kaupapa. I recently showed my family around the Hobsonville Point Primary School. Of course they were blown away by the design of the building, but I sensed some confusion around the lack of traditional school devices - such as walls, whiteboards and that general institutional look and feel. It's not that they don't want to 'get it,' but rather that their understanding of education has been shaped by their own experiences at school - both good and bad, but largely a traditional educational experience.
Traditionally the secondary education model has been a 'one size fits all' model. Students receive instruction around specific subjects and then navigate their way through various assessment to show they have retained the information. How well they responded to the skills and concepts delivered, determined their pathway - vocational or academic (and others!?). This kind of education may have equipped students in the industrial age? However, we have to change what we do to equip our young people for life in the 21st century. Unfortunately, this traditional model (or variations of it) still occurs. I have very clear memories of being drafted into 'girls subjects' when I was at College - it was the mid 1980's! I had a passion for Architecture and in order to get a place in the 'boys subjects' to pursue my passion I had to do a great deal of foot stomping. Unfortunately, the environment created by the teacher (a reaction to having 'a girl' in his class) soon extinguished that dream. Education in New Zealand has had some revolutionary moments in an attempt to shift to meet demands, however, this has often only really resulted in tweaking at the edges and more than often hasn't had the student at the centre.
I've just finished reading the MOE document: Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective A key point for me, when looking at why we need to change what we do, is the discussion around what is knowledge. It identifies that one of our biggest challenges is understanding the paradigm shift in the meaning of such words. Traditionally, knowledge is content, concepts and skills required for subjects. The learner assimilates that knowledge and shows how well they have 'learnt' it through assessment. In the context of the 21st century learner the concept of knowledge needs to be viewed as a verb, rather than a noun. Instead, knowledge involves creating (doing) and solving problems and finding solutions to challenges as they arise. The shift is to develop everyone's capabilities to work with knowledge. This isn't to say that subject specific knowledge isn't important, it still has it's place. However, it is about how it is used. The 21st century teacher does not have all the expertise, but instead has the disposition to collaborate with students in a 'knowledge-building' environment and to co-construct learning around what is relevant for students. Education as we know it needs to be turned upside down so that it is centred around the learner, rather than the learner conforming to the system.
Our challenge at Hobsonville Point Secondary School is to continue to build strong relationships with our families and the wider community and to ensure that the movement between the school environment and community is seamless. By doing this our Vision will be transparent.