Partners in Learning?

Mark Twain said he never let his schooling interfere with his education.
Now I reckon that’s good advice :). Personal experience proves that the messy lessons learned from interacting with the world tend to differ (often drastically) from the nicetidyrows of theory provided in our traditional institutions of learning. We’ve always needed exposure to the real stuff and the right people (at key points along the way) to make the best connections.
And that’s where that old adage comes in … ” it takes a village to raise a child -and a community to educate it”. I believe we should be actively seeking more opportunities for doing just that.

Community Responsibility
Our kids (most of em) need more scaffolded opportunities to become VALUED, ACTIVE and VISIBLE members of our communities – and as communities that’s exactly what we want for them. Responsibility, A Sense of Belonging, Citizenship, Contribution etc. Our schools are asked to teach our students essential values and key competencies . They’re doing their absolute best to do this but surely these essential social ‘skills’ can be taught, applied and reinforced more effectively in a wider social environment.
It is my belief that we need to provide more opportunities for our students to collaborate and learn the ‘important stuff’, with valued community members, by tapping into our people resources and creating conditions that will keep our students safely engaged as they interact and learn.

Partners in Learning
We’ve gathered some great ideas from an online survey we conducted with community members (wider community).We intend to use these ideas and begin exploring possibilities that may help develop effective partnerships.
This video explains what we’re thinking, what we believe we need and why. We would love you to watch it and start talking about HOW we can involve our students as more active community members.We made it to take out to our local industry, businesses, services and the wider community – in the hope that we can provoke discussion and start talking together about becoming REAL partners in learning. The second half of the video is an invitation from our students for our community to join us. Lyrics and actions by students of the College Kapahaka group.
We’d all love some feedback !
(Thanks to Jordan who did a great job of the narration and a huge thanks to Mike Graham, Gerelle Emery and our kids in the College Kapa Haka Group – who make us proud 🙂
Video is about 6 mins.

Video hosted by TATV

Learning@Our Place

Let’s Talk

We won’t involve people effectively in decision making until we’ve helped them become equally well informed SO… as we’ve ALL said before, the first step is to begin informing our communities about what’s happening, and engaging them in discussion about how we can best prepare to meet our children’s needs. How better to do this than to engage our students in an authentic learning task and … make this our student’s project.

Splice Project
I’ve been working with groups of students aged 10 – 17 in my local learning community. Last year I applied for and received funding for the community from the Microsoft Innovative Schools Pilot Project. The funding allowed us to work on an information project with students from the six local schools.
Our objectives were to:
· Inform their community about the changes in schooling needed for 21st century learners,
· To determine how and to what degree the community would like to engage with their schools, and
· To determine how community stakeholders (businesses, services, professions and community members) believe they are able to support school initiatives and learning in authentic contexts … and begin working together to establish partnerships and support for community/ school learning projects.

We call it the SPLICE project.- Supporting Personalised Learning in Interative Community Environments (yep -the world could use another acronym ;). You can see more of the student’s work at our Spliceproject blog.

The following video is a collaborative effort. Year 6 –8 students, representing each school in the area, scripted ,filmed and edited their own videos to convey their ideas. Parts of all their work have been used to build a collaborative video, representing ideas from the whole learning community. It’s intended to use to this video to help inform our community about changes in schooling for our 21st century learners. We’re posting it in our local Community Website and hope to play it in local shops and businesses, as well as at parent meetings and meetings with community members. I think it’s pretty darn good – but then I’m horribly biased 😉 (about 9 mins). What do you think ?

Video hosted by TATV

Community Survey

SPLICE Survey Results – What the Community Think
We’ve been experimenting with community consultation. We put together an online community survey to try and gather information from our extended whanau -members of the community who do not have students presently at school. The response wasn’t high (about 50), but these were 50 people we would not have heard from previously. We had some interesting results; 89% said they cared “a LOT” about education in our community. That’s very encouraging.

What information and where do we want it?
Only 29% said they were satisfied with the information schools were providing to the community. They said their preference was to get information from the local Newspaper, our local Community Website and School sites. They were particularly interested in what we know now about how human beings really learn, what student’s were expected to learn about in the different learning areas, what the ‘Key Competencies” are and how they’re expected to develop these, and more importantly – what projects students/schools were involved in. 70% of them said they would visit school online sites to become better informed about class activities and student progress.

This is interesting …
An overwhelming 94% said representatives of local management industry, businesses, services and community should meet with local education groups and student groups. They said that local schools should come up with projects and approach the community for help. They offered lots of advice and ideas …

So …we’re listening and we’re trying some things differently.
Students from our local schools have collaborated on two information spreads in the local Newspaper. They worked with their learning facilitators, the editor of the Newspaper, a graphic artist and their local Principals (at the local Newspaper Office,to really experience the process of producing work for a large audience.) Both the editor and the graphic artist happily gave up more of their time when they saw the obvious interest and engagement of the students.

So now what…
As a direct result we’ve had emails of support, ideas for community projects, and invitations to come out to local service clubs and community organisations, to give presentations about what’s happening in our schools. Just what we’d hoped for !
We’re also noticing some shifting perceptions….Community members are starting to see changes as being part of an overall process, not just relevant to individual schools. They’re beginning to regard the schools in our area as a combined entity and part of our overall community… and student voice has been the catalyst for this. We need to continue providing relevant information and opportunities for discussion.
Shift Happens – Informing our community about changes to Schooling
Students Newspaper Spread - Shift Happens

Listening to our Community

“Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.” Andre Gide

Effective listening is big. My definition isn’t comprehensive but it sure involves; inviting, hearing, noting , acknowledging (and eventually acting on) the voiced thoughts, concerns, ideas, moans, whines, shy observations, table-thumping-opinions and sane/insane, innovative/regressive suggestions of all parties involved in, and affected by, the system or structure we’re considering making some changes in.

In education we’re always ‘consulting’. Whenever some new ministry document emerges, or we change a word in some school policy, we wave a handful of A4s under parent noses and ‘consult’. We’re expected to and we’ve been doing it that way for years. However, (brace yourselves for a startlingly insightful observation.) here it is:) simply because we attempt to do it often, doesn’t mean we do it well. It doesn’t even mean we attempt to do it well. Unfortunately… effort does not always equate with effectiveness” (a useful report card comment).

Let’s consider a few seat–squirming examples of our common consultation processes …

1.Send out a Survey. Compose a few questions during staff meeting (spend an hour arguing semantics) and attach ‘survey’ to this week’s newsletter.
Survey Rules :
Not too many questions (we don’t want to confuse anyone),
Multiple choice or Tick Boxes (we don’t want to risk getting answers we weren’t expecting).
Yes of course, we’d like some comments (in the 3 cm generously allowed at the bottom of the sheet).
We’ll also provide class checklists, so we know exactly who’s returned their response (and, thus who really cares) or, we make responses anonymous (and then compare handwriting samples – yes, teachers are often so starved for feedback that we need to know who said what).
Results: After daily reminders, thinly veiled threats, and some pleading at assembly 30 -85% of forms are rummaged for, peeled off fridges and returned. Management teams spend hours after school sifting responses into generic piles and decoding eg. “– can’t read this, make it a ‘No”. Someone makes a table and reports results statistically to staff and BOT. Done. File results away until next ERO visit.

2. Hold a Parent Meeting. Popularly Wednesday or Thursday night, just after any Class/Camp meeting. 7 pm start, in the library (optimists tend to use the hall – although the staff toilet is often a large enough venue).
Parent Meeting Rules:
1.Essential to have more staff than parents present (Note: teachers -to- parents ratio is often better than EOTC guidelines).
2. Some kind of powerpoint must be endured.
3. Every syndicate/department leader must say something, whether they have something to say or not.
Parent Meeting Results: A week’s extra work and anxiety for every syndicate/department leader. One parent holds the floor with discomforting questions & a handful of weary parents suffer in saintly silence, comforted by the knowledge that they’re exceedingly virtuous for just turning up, and if they can just wait this out , the kids should be asleep by the time they get home.
The effectiveness of the meeting is often measured in numbers present, or ,when numbers are embarrassingly small, that affirming comment from Mrs Someone who likes what we’re doing. Tick box and breathe sigh of relief.

Aww heck.
The above examples are corny and trite but the bottom line is we can do this better. If we want to gather useful information about the systems we labour within, we need to provoke open and honest dialogue. We need to provide real and rich opportunities to listen to, and confer with, ALL parties affected. That’s everyone –Not just mum and dad, but the entire community ie. everyone in our community that is affected by the outcomes of our education system. Categorise them if you must, but I can’t think of anyone that that doesn’t affect …and accepting embarrassingly small representations of each group doesn’t count as effective.

So … let’s try doing it differently.
Let’s provide richer opportunities for those involved to;
1. Carefully consider the issues involved,
2. Access information relevant to informed discussion about those issues,
3. Convey their honest opinions without fear of censure, or judgment about the perceived quality of their response; their age, education, employment or personal standing in the community,
4. Be heard by those who intend to truly identify, analyse, evaluate and act on their expressed concerns.
5. Be actively involved in the identification, analysis and evaluation of the information.
6. Be actively engaged, as partners in learning, in strategic planning designed to implement ideas.
7. Be actively engaged in ongoing evaluation and review programmes.

If we discount professional arrogance and ‘hidden-agendas’, as reasons for our somewhat superficial consultative processes (although these have been hinted at… ;). What are we left with?
Apathy ? – “Why do we bother, we just get predictable responses from the same ones .
Ignorance? “So what’s the point of asking them anyway?”
Expediency? “Let’s just get it over with quickly, tick the boxes and move on to some kind of action”.

Oh dear. We question the relevance of consultation, struggle with it’s implementation and criticize the appropriateness of it’s outcomes. But … done well, effective consultation can lead to more community ownership, commitment to vision and implementation, and sustained involvement over time – which is exactly what we’re after !

We need to develop “a strategic, integrated and more personally involving approach to consultation and participation”. The best models seem to come from local government, and although schools can’t afford to pay for consultants, we can certainly begin to experiment and follow more widely accepted principles of community consultation.

MS Innovative Teacher’s Conference

Below is the Video made for the Student Forum (Takingitglobal) at the Innovative Teachers Conference (Kuala Lumpur) last month. <br /><a href="" target="_new" title="Student Statements">Video: Student Statements</a>

I was lucky enough to attend the conference as a teacher/ observer accompanying our NZ student representative – Marcus Gibbs. Marcus was our NZ student representative in the Student Forum running alongside the Conference, and an excellent ambassador. I may be a little biased because Marcus is part of a group of wonderful students (aged 10 -17 ) that I’ve been working with over the past 2 years ,and lately as part of a group working with the MS PIL Innovative Schools Pilot Project. The opportunity to participate at Kuala Lumpur has been ‘icing on the cake for us’ and I can’t thanks Pete Sommerville, Annick Jansen , Heurisko and Microsoft enough for facilitating the opportunity.

A large part of our MS PIL project objectives have focused on sharing Student Voice about necessary changes to schooling and the needs of 21st Century learners. Particularly the growing need for students to work purposefully on authentic learning tasks, with their peers, their teachers and their communities (local and global), as more effective partners in learning. Participation in the initial Takingitglobal student forum offered a perfect opportunity to involve some of the project’s senior students in discussion around these topics with students from all over the Asia Pacific region. Five of my students took part and ALL became engaged and made thoughtful and relevant contributions to the ongoing discussion. They all commented about the changed perspectives they have gained from making connections with students from such a range of backgrounds, and differing life experiences, (students were aged 16 -22). We had many group discussions, which included the younger students, about the way schooling was approached elsewhere ie. how their lives were surprisingly similar and how different. One deep discussion arose from the struggle many students faced around the chance to receive a ‘good’ education. How it is not a right, but a privilege, to be offered rich opportunities for learning and facilitation by innovative and effective teachers. The students are still in contact with people across Asia Pacific that they have met through Takingitglobal and some are building strong friendships as a result of the connections they have made.

Marcus was chosen as our NZ student representative and was fortunate to meet face to face with 15 students from the Asia Pacific Region (selected from the forum) supported by 5 mentors as well as Michael Furdyk amd Katherine Walraven. The connections had already been made online, and the friendships appeared instantly. By Tuesday morning we were sitting in the Hotel foyer fiddling with my ‘broken’ brand new laptop and going over Anh’s detailed project proposal (Ahn was Marcus’ roommate from Vietnam, studying in Japan). We were joined by Anwar from Bangladesh and went exploring the markets together for the afternoon – Anwar turned out to be a great bargainer. We did our bit to support the Global economy and met up with Shobanna from Malaysia (Marcus had arranged to meet her) and Michael Furdyk on our return to the hotel.

Michael and Katherine played an impressive role as excellent hosts and mentors. Throughout the conference the students talked enthusiastically about their projects, their plans to make a difference in education and in the WORLD!!! All felt hugely grateful for the opportunity to meet together and more importantly – they felt affirmed, enthused and supported in their plans. Throughout the conference I was delighted by their interactions with each other. The students greeted each other like old and valued friends, and were extremely curious and tolerant about each other’s backgrounds, eccentricities and life experiences.

The student forum ran separately to the Teacher conference but both came together for a question and answer session at the beginning of the conference and the student presentations concluded the conference. Marcus was one of three students chosen to participate in a daunting Q & A session with the full conference delegates and Malaysian dignitaries – he did a great job and made everyone in the NZ contingent proud !

Before leaving NZ Marcus and I worked on a short video with the senior students from the Splice project, to present to the student forum. The other students in our MS PIL Project (SPLICE) had indignantly pointed out that “you didn’t have to be 17 to have an opinion”!!!! Consequently they were very keen to have their voices heard at the student forum. So, several students worked on written statements and Marcus filmed them expressing their opinions. We threw an explanatory introduction in with Powerpoint and Marcus experimented with MS ‘Marvin’ to add a speaking character linking the bits together. Marcus organized an informal haka from the boys at the end as a challenge to “challenge our respected teachers”.

The video was so well received by the student group that after their project presentations to the conference delegates, the video was used to close the conference (and so, much to the delight of the Australian teachers, … we finished with a Haka LOL).

1. I’ve had several emails from students I met and worked with in KL, who would like to keep in touch and continue sharing their work . This is a great feeling and it makes me wonder about other possibilities. Anyone recommend any working examples or sites (other than TIG) where students can link up with teachers ???
2. During the teacher conference we all had a great time collaborating on an inquiry project in mixed teams. I was very fortunate to work with 4 innovative and dedicated educators (it was an Innovative Teachers conference, duh, so no surprises there) ; Terry from Singapore, Sutima from Thailand, Amanda from Canada and Jin from Korea. We enjoyed working together immensely and were very pleased with the unit of work and resources produced, so as a result we’d discussed collaborating again on a future project of some sort. At this stage some of us have connected up through Facebook, so it will be interesting to see what we can share from this point.
3. A highlight of the conference had to be getting to know our NZ contingent: the 4 innovative Teachers chosen to represent their colleagues globally. Deirdre, Jo, Michael and Michelle. As part of the conference each country’s teacher representatives were judged to select one teacher to represent their nation at the world conference in Brazil. The judging consisted of a brief interview and examination of a poster explaining their work. There was plenty of competition among other contingents but, as far as our team was concerned, the prize was in being selected to attend at Kuala Lumpur. These guys were equally special educators and should be sharing their ideas and expertise around nationally! As a follow-up I’m hopeful we can organise a Waikato workshop to showcase their work and inspire a few more of our colleagues !

Stirring Stuff

Samwise’s inspirational speech to Frodo, um, about the overwhelming changes we’re presently experiencing as educators and the reasons why we must continue to support each other,and persevere, despite the exhaustion, the despair, and the almost insurmountable obstacles we’re facing etc. Yep, one day all this angst will be just another story.

Can’t be certain, but I think Samwise teaches Year 6 – 8 and (going by his state of exhaustion), Mr Frodo is either Year 10 or New Entrants.

Instructions for Effective Viewing: Shoulders back, head up, suck that stomach in (more), affect a noble stance, gaze bravely into the distance, and hold the hair drier at arms length to get that heroic, windblown look.
Note: Video is 2.17mins

Video Reflections

Some video footage of students planning and reflecting on their work whilst making their “You’ve Got A Message” video. Raw- ish footage gathered during the one-day-workshop, and after completing most filming .
Interesting to Note ;
The way these initial ideas were transferred into their video work.
The way the older students included, affirmed and guided the younger ones – this created an effective working atmosphere with a comfortable family feel to all group work. The older students felt empowered and focused well on task responsibilites and leadership, especially learning to listen to all group contributions. Overall, this had a powerful effect on the confidence of all students, the most obvious effect being the difference between younger students infrequent/tentative suggestions at the beginning of the week, and the increased frequency and depth of thought displayed in their contributions by the end. Quite a case for planned project collaboration across age groups. Don’t scoff – they did ALL offer something of worth to their groups and all commented on how much they enjoyed working together. They’re thirsty for more !

Note Video is about 8 mins.
“The Making of .. You’ve Got A Message”

Teacher Responses
The following is a nice, narcissistic ‘warm fuzzy’ – 3 mins of teacher’s responses immediately after watching the student’s video, finishing with an affirming 3 min interview with Eric Frangeheim – who offers some great insight and further challenges for the students.
Note Video is about 6 mins

We’ve got a message !

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.” Shel Silverstein (1930 –1999)

Are we listening ?
To make sane and informed changes in our systems and practice, we need to gather detailed, and ongoing feedback from those most affected ; our students, our teachers, our parents, our wider community. If you want accurate and current information about our weather – step outside. If you want accurate and current information about our learning, and teaching practices – step into our own classrooms, listen to the parents, listen to the teachers and for goodness sake – listen to the students.
Student Voice
While there’s no doubt (in my mind) that it’s beneficial to gather student insight about teaching and learning, gathering student voice is a relatively newish concept, and it’s important to reflect on how well we do it. Consider what we usually do when we want to find out information about student’s thoughts and feelings – we tend to ask the adults around them. And when we want to find out student’s thoughts and feelings about their schooling experiences – we ask the student leaders ie. those that are succeeding brilliantly at school, and presumably enjoying the experience. We seldom hear directly from the muttering masses, as Adam Fletcher explains in his blog.

However, providing opportunities for as many as possible to offer their thoughts, observations, suggestions, opinions and experiences etc about a process whilst they’re immersed in it must be regarded as beneficial to both those intending to improve the process, and to those experiencing it .
How can we fail to gather this wealth of rich and authentic information – and act on it ?
Let’s acknowledge that;
1.) Students have their own unique and valuable perspectives on learning and teaching (and school in general),
2.) Acknowledging, evaluating and acting on student insights and suggestions is beneficial to the process, and
3.) Students benefit from the opportunity to become more actively involved in shaping their learning environment – they have more ownership of it and therefore should become more engaged with it.

Over the years plenty of student voice has been gathered worldwide (just check out You Tube). All information is useful, but being parochial creatures, we tend to pay more attention to information affecting us by the immediacy of it’s location eg. A close-up shot of water lapping against our french doors has more of an emotional impact than an aerial shot of the flooded plains we’re living on – and it tends to provoke a more immediate response.
“Crikey !” We think. “Time to roll our sleeves up and move about with some urgency!”

Our Student Voice Project (Some of the nitty-gritty details)

With the above thoughts in mind (and after an insightful cafe conversation with Dr Sharon Friesen – who affirmed thoughts about student voice and shared some work senior Canadian students had done), I proposed a project to the Principal’s group in our Learning Community. Over the course of a week in May I worked with 27 students representing the local College, the Intermediate and four contributing Primary schools (14 students from Years 9 –13, and 13 from Years 6 –8).

We’d begun the work the previous year with a full workshop day; getting to know each other, working in mixed groups and becoming used to sharing ideas in a comfortable atmosphere. This preparation was essential as students were largely unknown to each other and ages ranged from 10 to 17 years. The students then participated in activities designed to provoke discussion around their values and beliefs about learning and teaching (used some excellent ideas from Dr Julia Atkin’s work – which I’d used previously with teacher work groups).

After much discussion (reviewed at our second workshop day) 10 questions and ideas were chosen – which the students wished to explore further. Students shared ideas on each of these (by then they’d become fairly confident and comfortable with each other) and then sorted themselves into mixed age groups to focus on a particular question/idea. They fed their ideas back to the group at regular intervals and at some stage we discussed how they’d like to use their ideas to make a difference.

There was real excitement (and some cynicism), at the thought of actually doing something that could make a difference. Not surprisingly, almost as soon as they had a clear purpose, we had motivated and purposeful action ! By the end of the day scripts were being planned, film schedules were organized (and signed off) and they were organizing when and where to meet each other (txts exchanged etc). My role became purely facilitator ( organizing venues, booking interviews, providing taxi services with rostered on Principals, charging cameras, guiding research, facilitating discussion, suggesting shots, supporting, nudging, affirming, questioning and critiquing etc).
The process itself confirms for me that whenever we provide purposeful and authentic contexts and opportunities for learning, we’ve got students hooked. When we provide plenty of encouragement, affirmation and sensible &timely feedback, as a natural part of the process, we get so much more from our students. In fact, they surprise themselves.

In this case, over four days students wrote the song at the start, wrote and performed their own skits, wrote scripts, arranged costumes, conducted surveys, researched facts, constructed graphs (oops- we know LOL), made powerpoints, developed and applied technical skills, collaborated, negotiated, problem-solved, filmed to a tight schedule, did voice overs, contributed to the editing process and applied every key competency. Students completed work after school and in the weekend – because they wanted to.

The student’s intention was for their work to spark discussion about effective teaching practice and they believe they’ve succeeded. The video has already been viewed by 170 teachers as part of our local Teacher’s Professional Development Day, links to it are posted in the National “Time for Innovation” Online Conference and in our local community TV site . They’ve written to the local paper to encourage their community to watch it, and we recently planned and presented the first lecture of the semester to the 2nd Year intake of ‘teacher trainees’ at Waikato University, as part of their Professional Practice paper. Others viewed the video and discussed it in online classes.
We’d be very pleased for you to use it to provoke discussion in your own learning communities. So, help yourself 🙂 – we simply ask that you acknowledge the source and the work involved.
😀 DM Dyet, June 2008.

😀Highlights for me😀
The song at the start – written and sung by students.
Editing hours of very dodgy film footage – and finding some real gems.
Working with Dave Owen – Director of Wavelength Media – Who contributed so much of his own time , accompanied with liberal helpings of technical advice, expertise, some unexpectedly late nights and immense patience.
Anton explaining what we need from teachers and the CIA. Grant working beautifully with a 9 month old baby. Christina and Lexie in period costume. Tamara’s group powerpoint. An hour’s footage from the Old Folks home. The mixing bowl. The goldfish. Patrick and Chicayla explaining how we need to become apprentices and work in the community. Liza’s consistently insightful comments. Each student’s individual contributions. The amazing off-camera conversations. The senior students interactions with the junior students. Purangataua and Marcus’ txt messages.The song at the end by Pekerau school’s choir – chokes me up every time. All in all – great fun (which is learning as it should be).
Note – the Video is just under 30 mins.
“I think teachers should really listen to what we have to say…” Nicholas aged 10.

Ohhh Damn !

My most humble and sincere apologies to all people who have been kind enough to add their comments to posts in the last 4 weeks (time since I’ve been posting). With a click of a button I accidently deleted ALL COMMENTS while trying to remove the first wordpress one – aaargh – and apparently they’re irretrievable … That’s everything on any post in here. All welcoming, insightful, challenging (insert any number of ingratiating descriptions) carefully composed contributions – gone. Dammit – my ego is suffering dreadfully, I’ve been collecting them like merit certificates. “Pride goeth etc”. I may sulk for some time.

The Winds of Change

“The winds of change blow through our minds,
They call to kith and kin and kind,
To gather strength and linger where,
Our visions, hopes and dreams adhere
To conscious thought and weighty plans
That tilt the platforms where we stand
And skew aged vantage points to view
The stirring landscape of the new.”

Welcome to the threshold of the 21st Century – “The stirring landscape of the new”. A blank canvas for writers of Science Fiction and a much vaunted destination for futurists. It’s a place of promise, of great change and new beginnings, but more substantially, it is the evolving environment our children must grow to maturity in.

We accept that advances in technology are immense catalysts for societal change, (ask any sci-fi reader), and we are, without doubt, experiencing exponential change on a global level. Great news for all techie help-desk personal, but what implications does it have for people in the business of education? Well, for starters it means we’ve reached a place where we need to step out of the classroom for a moment and confer. We need to consider our present position, to examine emerging opportunities ,and ultimately, to re-consider our direction. It’s time to stop and think, and ask a few questions – and we are. In fact, many of us are throwing our arms and eyes heavenward fairly regularly .

The Shift
If I could choose just one question from the exhaustive list , it would be;
“How can we possibly prepare our students to thrive in a world that is changing so fast we barely recognize it?”
The question itself tells us something about our discomfort, it hints at powerlessness. We are accepting that our society is changing dramatically, but also presupposing that we have no part in this change, that the whole thing is totally out of our control. That it will happen to us and not as a result of us. We’re even fearfully assuming some kind of apolcalyptic change when we could be planning for a welcome re-genesis. In short, change scares us.

So, let’s consider shifting our vantage points. Couldn’t we simply be asking how we can manage this change to our best advantage? We’ve already recognized the increasingly urgent need for change in our present system of education, so what if we decided to use this opportunity to take control of the process and become active designers of a newish and more effective version of an education ‘system’?

Well, we have exactly that opportunity. The advent of the new New Zealand Curriculum provides a chance to examine our traditional practices, to examine context and content, to discuss what applications we would keep from earlier systems and what we could sensibly discard. Here’s an opportunity for our profession, as a whole (rather than as pockets of isolated educators within random timeframes), to examine what evidence we presently have about learners and effective learning environments, and use current pedogical understandings as an informed basis for change in our communities. We have an opportunity to establish ‘systems’ that don’t simply pay lip-service to popular phrases such as ‘seamless education ‘and (that old favourite) ‘lifelong learners’.

Old World Metaphor
For tailors & seamstresses; this is a chance to bravely unpick stitches, re- measure the fit and re-cut the pattern accordingly – with the realization that the finished garment may be fundamentally different to the original and will , without doubt, need ongoing alterations.

New World Metaphor
For techie geeks; this is a chance to run a new system on another platform – something that better recognizes and serves the needs of today’s users. A platform that considers the opportunities brought by emerging technologies , one that recognizes and addresses the needs of people living in an information-rich society and coping with such things as flexible specialisation in the workforce and changing social roles.

Sowing it up

We need to plan this carefully. It would be so easy to place patches over our existing systems and processes without examining their present, and future, functions and effects. It would be equally easy to rush at this and establish rapid changes without due consideration and effective consultation.

We must consider that everyone has an interest in sewing this up. We’ve always known that it takes a village to raise a well-balanced child and we recognize that both educators and communities know what is best for their students. It is obvious that our communities are increasingly aware of the need for 21st century change and are just as concerned about the future of their children as those whose business is education. We need to make time to listen to them, and to listen most carefully to those who are truly effected by any proposed change ; our students, their families and our teachers. Equally, we must nurture and encourage the innovative dreamers, planners, designers, developers and implementors abounding within our profession.

If we do, we have a wonderful opportunity to build something special for future generations : to plan, design, develop, and implement a more seamless system of educational policies and processes within and between our learning communities. ‘Systems’ which use available technology sensibly to support effective communication, on-going developments, day-to-day operations and collaborative programs, and ultimately : to support the development of an integrated framework effectively linking our individual learning institutions (schools), and our wider learning community ie. REAL learning communities. Communities where learning is truly celebrated and supported for all individuals.

😀 DM Dyet May, 2008.