NOTHING stays the same it seems, yet education follows familiar annual cycles. There are signals of change in Australia and schools will see a flood tide of new technologies and values appear in classrooms in 2010/11. These are likely to be tampered by continued frustration around filters, opaque policy, premium-economy schools, inequity in funding, new curriculum, league tables and professional development. We are all somewhere on the continuum between ‘nothing will change’ and ‘everything could change’ from in-active observers to critics, enthusiasts, explorers, followers and leaders.
In 1963, Dylan sang about not “standing in doorways and blocking the halls” but today the Hill Top Hoods urge us to “stand tall above ridiculous under-achievers and constant non-believers”.
Woodstock was a signal of social change 40 years ago; and today it is signaled by the rise of YouTube; remixing; gaming and social networks. Parents and students are increasingly interested in more post-modern if not post-materialist attributes. We want our children to value social commitments, digital citizenship, environment and safety as well as academic attainment. We know that school can only only one part and place of learning if all it offers is a formal activity driven by provision of required formal qualifications. We know that we are more than ever involved in informal learning and networks online – and this represents a change in social values. What happens when qualifications are no longer the predominant indicators of creativity, potential and employability? What will drive the change that makes your LinkedIn profile more important that your graduate exam scores? What were the drivers that placed Bored of Studies as being more important to students than Board of Studies?
Right now, to me, it matters little that one teacher is solely active in exploring ‘read/write technology in a community of in-actives. What matters is that they spend time looking up into the cloud noticing signals and patterns with their students. That is the skill I hope my kids are able to activate through education. Not all the time; as novices I want them to feel comfortable with learning under-pinning knowledge, but also hope their teacher will take the time to engage them though shared exploration of alternative scenarios.
“What if I tried to use a game and not another Ning”, “What if I spend a week teaching outside with no technology”, “what if I make that phone call to ask why that site is blocked”. Being able to conceptualize and explore ‘what if’ scenarios to me is a key student attribute. Rather than “what if it doesn’t work”, explore more “what if it did?”. What if students who feel unsafe in school can learn in an online school that is entirely safe. What if un-engaged kids can learn social commitments from Lily Allen videos. What if the text books is wrong, what if project based learning is not the best solution for everyone, what if I am wrong … what if no one agrees with me.
In planning the school year; it is well worth exploring the continuum of ‘what if’ scenarious with staff at the outset. What if you explored new possibilities as a community before you explore new tools?