Saturday, 21 December 2013

What does education look like for your child?

I haven't blogged since October - lots of ideas swirling around and all linked to one big idea - what should education look like in New Zealand?

The most significant reading I have done this year is Supporting Future Oriented Teaching and Learning - A New Zealand Perspective by Rachel Bolstad and Jane Gilbert, with Sue McDowall, Ally Bull, Sally Boyd and Rosemary Hipkins. In October 2012, Curriculum Update 26 summarised the six main themes of future oriented teaching and learning, so all teachers should be familiar with how education will look based on the research done by these researchers.

I say, should be familiar, because sometimes educational concepts are slow to filter through to teachers at the coalface. As I read this blog tonight called "Same Old, Same Old" by Tom Whitby, I reflected on why changes are so slow. Whitby says that "There is no longer a choice as to whether or not educators should incorporate technology tools for learning into education. That boat has sailed, that train left the station, that genie is out of the bottle, and that horse got out of the barn. Time to close that barn door and get on with it. "

He surmises that some teachers are reluctant to learn something new.  Which is pretty ironic, since one of the themes of future oriented teaching and learning is that teachers have a culture of continuous learning.

So is it now time that communities start demanding more of their school leaders?  School leaders need to be putting time and effort into leading changes so that children have the type of education that will allow them to adapt to the future.  As my daughter searches for the "right" school for my granddaughter, I can offer this advice.

The six themes of future oriented teaching and learning are
  • personalised learning
  • new views of equity and diversity
  • a culture of lifelong learning for teachers and educational leaders
  • new partnerships and relationships (with communities)
  • new roles for teachers and learners
  • using knowledge to develop learning power.
These themes are all afforded through the use of technology in learning.  Questions that I would be asking, if I were a parent of a school-aged child, would be around the themes.  For instance,  - How do you ensure that my child is getting personalised learning?  I won't be wanting answers along the lines of - "there just isn't enough time in the school day to give your child personalised learning" - but I suspect I will be getting those responses reasonably regularly.  Technology enables teachers to be able to plan for and construct personalised learning for your child.  The teachers need the time and support to put this possibility into place.  This means learning around using the learning management systems (LMS)  that they have available to them.  And I am sad to say that I haven't seen a lot of use of LMS in my job this year.  Thank goodness Google Apps For Education (GAFE) is starting to take off, at least in primary schools.

If I had a child who was disadvantaged because of a learning disability or a cultural position for instance, I would then be asking what the school is doing to cross the barriers.  Students who have been unable to make progress in the past now have new opportunities to engage and learn. You only have to see an i-pad in the hands of these students to know that assistive technologies will play a huge part in unlocking the potential to become contributing members of our society

The new partnerships that can be forged with the aid of technology are coming from leaders and teachers.  I have seen some teachers make use of Skype to reach people who would not otherwise be able to come to the classroom.  Relationships can be forged across the world, across the ages, across cultures.  In my child's school, I would ask what experiences there are for the child that will be outside the "norms"  of everyday life. 

And finally, I would also be asking about the way that they students learn.  Do they have to do endless worksheets for completion and assessment purposes?  What deliberate acts of teaching are there and are they balanced by inquiry into the unknown where there are no right answers or finite descriptors of learning outcomes but a wealth of knowledge to be gained around my child's interest.  Does this new knowledge spark a thirst to know more?

I urge all parents to start asking questions of the school leaders about these themes.

So, at Christmas, I finish with this lovely little video. Even an old agnostic like me can find it very charming.  I wonder how many schools put together little gems like this?

Have a great break over Christmas and New Year and keep safe!