Thursday, March 7, 2013

What works?

 You just have to google 21st Century Learning / Personalised learning / Big Picture Ed / any of those key words to get a very clear message - The current model of education no longer fits.  As Sugata Mitra says, it's not broken - it's actually still very robust as it has been around for the last 300 years, producing students with set skills.  This may have worked at a time when the nature of the workforce could be easily determined. However, now jobs of the future are undetermined.  Set skills are no longer the desired product for the workforce.  The design needs to be changed in order to develop thinkers and problem solvers (amongst other things).  What do we do when something becomes outdated?  I'd suggest that we don't hang in there with it, hoping it might make a comeback some day!  Or when we do attempt to bring it back, we find that it will never quite have the same impact as it once did (my hand-knitted leg warmers are coming to mind, along with Stubbies and wine cooler - they'd make an impact - but the wrong kind).  I digress.  My point - why keep on doing the same purley becuase that's what we've always done?

Look even closer to home - this same message is being reinforced by ERO and the NZC.  So, why  is it so challenging for educators to shift their thinking and practice?  For the very reason that Sugata suggests - the traditional model is so robust, however, this does not mean it's the right way.  Why change when you can show that a high percentage of your students are leaving your school with excellent qualifications?  However, just because they have the Quals, does this mean they've been engaged in learning, or have they just been doing what it takes to get through a predictable system.  I'm not saying that teaching and learning has not been effective - there is some outstanding practice occurring  but often in pockets.  Unfortunately, education is so assessment driven, but, as I keep questioning, does leaving school with a heap of credits equate to leaving school as confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners?

Our challenge isn't just knowing what education needs to look like, but also how to make it happen?

Over the last few weeks through investigating community projects that we could form partnerships with and through meeting fellow educators who are interested in what we are doing at Hobsonville Point, it has been incredible refreshing to connect with people who are passionate about education, passionate about teaching young people and providing opportunities for them to continually inquire and grow, and also passionate about their own learning.

I reflected back to my time at school and what made me pursue an English teaching pathway:  A teacher.  So often our own passions are ignited because of opportunities we are given, experiences we have or through positive relationships we develop.  Mr Lee was an avid and fanatical English teacher and quite the expert around all things 'English'.  However, this isn't what drove him.  What set him apart from your typical siloed subject teacher was his passion for teaching and learning and his desire to engage students in anyway possible - even if this meant putting himself out of his comfort zone!  On the other hand, my interest in History was quickly killed off by a teacher who was driven by the desire to fill her students with the information required to complete the assessments!  The specialist knowledge that teachers bring is important, but their disposition to be passionate, reflective, inquirers, innovative, learners, and pedagogically driven as opposed to  subject driven (this list is endless) is more important.

We have to remember - we are not teaching students to be 21st century learners - this is what they already are.  It's our responsible to provide them with the environment and opportunties to be 21st century learners and stop plying them with traditional models for the only reason being that this is what we have always done.

My daughter has just had a week at her school camp and had am incredible experience, learning lots, without realising she was learning (she thought she was just having fun!).  But now it's back to school and making sure she can cover enough to be assessed against the National Standards - not so fun.  Why do we seperate these experiences?  Education needs to be turned upside down.  When students have positive relationships with their teachers and are engaged in relavant and authentic teaching and learning experiences, the assessment will happen, amongst other wonderous things.

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