flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

I recently got in a conversation with some colleagues about the future of education. It was the end of a long day and we pondering on how schooling might be different in ten years time. These are some of the ideas that were bandied around:

  • Detentions: If we have to depend upon daily detentions to maintain learning then who is really in control?
  • Workbooks: Is there really a place for endlessly answering other people’s questions?
  • Notion of Pass and Fail: If students focus is on whether they will pass or fail something then have they already failed? Maybe the focus should be on creating beautiful work?
  • Rubrics About Growth: Too often rubrics come to measure specific content and skills that are being covered at that point in time, how can these be adapted to be more growth minded? With an towards development rather than improvement?
  • Facilitators not Teachers: Instead of being the font of all knowledge, how can change the role of the teacher to being that of a facilitator, helping students find their own problems and solve them? The meddler in the middle, rather than the sage on the stage.
  • Projects not Menial Tasks: Why aren’t units of work focused on building and creating meaningful projects?

What was interesting was that all of the predictions made about the future, have already been enacted somewhere in the past. The question then is why are they not more mainstream? Why are such thoughts too often seen as the exception to the rule?

Will Richardson’s argument is that we are in need of drastic change in education. For some this means a revolution, while for others it is about support. Whatever the change is, it starts with one person trying to make a difference. Richardson suggests 10% at a time. Maybe this is bringing a new practice into the classroom, working collaboratively as a team on a problem or simply flipping the roles and becoming more of a learner. The next step after this is to scale the change and help it grow and spread.

Richard Olsen’s suggest that many of the challenges with change in education often come down to our belief about learning. Something that far too many take for granted. It is here then that the conversation needs to be had, to make visible as far as possible our thoughts, inconsistencies and beliefs. This then is part of the purpose of the Modern Learning Canvas. Not as a tool that pushes people in any specific direction, but rather helps them understand their present context and clearly plot the next iterative step forward.

As Matt Esterman highlights, we know the future is coming, next we need to seriously act on it. The first step with any change though is calling out the elephant in the room. Identifying the perceived problem and talking about the issues. However, the question remains, how might we make the changes for students today, rather than wait for another tomorrow?


For those looking for ideas and inspiration, here are a some books that have helped guide my thinking along the way:

Feel free to suggest more.


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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16140590198

I agree with Steve Brophy that this week’s question for #youredustory is loaded. How are you different to your favourite teacher? Two issues. Firstly, like with my students, I don’t have a favourite teacher. As I say to them, I love teaching all my students, even if it feels like I never quite find that spark in others, I will always strive to look for it. Secondly, asking how I am ‘different’ implies we are ever the same – a fixed mindset. In my view, we are all different, even to ourselves, and are all changing on a continual basis. I am not the same person as I was when I started teaching, let alone when I went to school. For example, I remember starting University with a love of history and the desire to share this with others, while I left with a desire to make the world a better place for tomorrow. Therefore, instead of focusing on differences, I think it is better to focus on those who have inspired me along the way. Although I could go through and make some attempt to name names and try and identify how exactly they have influenced and inspired, but I feel that this misses something. It would be a list that is never quite complete. Instead, it would be historical, a statement of time. See for example, my reflection on blogging. As Jack Welch stated, in his autobiography, “nearly everything I have done has been accomplished with other people”. Who those people of influence and inspiration are does not always matter, but always being open to the ideas of others does.


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In response to the PLN Challenge that is going around at the moment, +Peter DeWitt broke with the traditional by simply posing one question, “What inspired you this year?” and an open invitation for anyone to answer. So here is my response:

Do Extraordinary Things

I think that the first thing to consider is what it actually means to be ‘inspired’. The Oxford Dictionary defines inspired as: “of extraordinary quality, as if arising from some external creative impulse.” I think trying to capture what is ‘extraordinary quality’ is a very personal thing. It makes more sense though by reasserting it in Peter’s original question: “What encouraged you to do extraordinary things this year?” In many respects, I think that ‘being inspired’ and doing ‘extraordinary things’ is a way of viewing the world. A lens to look through to reflect on everything around us. Here then are some of things that encouraged me to try and do extraordinary things this year …
 

Breaking the Mould

Whether rightly or wrongly, it is so easy to label students, to put them into a box, to presume what they can and cannot do. “I taught them in Year 7, so surely they are the same student in Year 9?” The worst thing is that many students feel comfortable in living within this façade. However, it is amazing what can happen when you give students some sort of ownership over their learning. I took the bold step this year of handing back control of learning through the creation of the school yearbook. Although there were some hiccups and hurdles, there was also a fervour in the classroom that I had never experienced before when the the product at hand was wholly and solely that of the students. I had given back the feeling of control before, but never enough that I actually didn’t have any control over the final outcome. I gave feedback, provided possible ideas and solutions, but also allowed space for the students to fail. I learnt that sometimes you need space to fail if you are to succeed.
 

Technology has the Ability to Help Facilitate Change

It is not necessarily technology, but more the way that technology is used to redefine the way we work. Whether it be following ideas on Twitter, posting a blog, connecting via a Google Hangout or using Google Drive to share and collaborate. I am always inspired by the way technology allows you to put out an idea and see it come back with a completely different perspective. Associated with this, I have also been inspired by the way that the students or teachers use technology each in their own way and without any urging or encouragement. Not only does this inspire me to reflect on the way I use technology, but also to keep on lobbing fuel into the wildfire of learning.
 

Learning with Learners

I always thought that being ‘connected’ was something that somebody else did. I always wondered where people got the time. I just didn’t think that it was me. Inspired particularly by my many years attending the ICTEV Conference, I took the plunge and cannot remember my life as a learner before. I think that +Tom Whitby sums up being connected best when he says, “PLNs accept people for their ideas, not their titles.” I am always taken by the thoughts and ideas that supposed complete strangers from around the world have provided me. Whether it be reading posts or listening to podcasts from those at home and abroad, as well as engaging with other learners in regards to various thoughts and ideas from the use of technology to the structure of leadership. In the end, there is certain irony with being a connected learner, for the world seems both larger and smaller at the same time.

Home is Where the Heart Inspiration Is

There is nothing more amazing than watching your own child grow and change on a daily basis. I am particularly taken by the way she persists. Whether it be trying to climb into the car or using the paint brush, it is exciting to watch her think about a problem and come back to it again and again until she succeeds. It has also been great to see my wife take on new and somewhat difficult challenges with her work. Not only taking on an unfamiliar role, but also making the most of it. Lastly, my mother has inspired me this year the way in which she has done all things possible to overcome adversity, all with such a positive mindset.
 

The World is My Inquiry

I am always fascinated at the questions that life throws up on a regular basis. Whether it be driving through the country, working in my garden or solving problems at schools, the world is full of wonderment if only you are open it. For example, I was walking along the beach the other day and stepping between the seaweed and it got me wondering, just as many of the ‘weeds’ we have now were either introduced or inadvertently brought here many years ago, is there any ‘seaweeds’ that were brought here from abroad or is the word ‘weed’ just misleading? I find it most interesting to return to my childhood home with a new eyes, finding things that I had taken for granted, to make uncanny what once was closed and contained in my mind.
 

Things Do Not Always Have to be the Way They Are

Although I have touched on this already in regards to being connected and learning with others, what inspires me the most is that there is always a choice. Through mediums such as Twitter and Diigo, my world has been open to a breadth of ideas and practises such as blended learning, genius hour, gamification, project-based learning, maker culture and flipping the classroom. I am not saying that I incorporate all of these things into my teaching, I think of myself more like a bower bird having a nest made up of this and that. Although I may not have a direct influence over every decision that effects me, I do have a choice about the way I respond to them. Being connected at least helps inform that choice on an ongoing basis.
 

What About You?

So that is me, that is what inspired me this year. What about you? What has inspired you? Was it a particular event? Is it something that somebody did? Was it a piece of art? Was it a place? I would love to know, please share below.

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