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The next 20 years in Education...

At the end of last term I pestered my principal into letting me go to Learning@school 2013 in Gisborne.  I'm glad I sent the numerous emails requesting to go as the whole day was full of inspiration and positive energy - my mind has been a whirlwind of activity since then with all the ideas that were triggered by the talks and workshops - i've finally gone through the notes I made on evernote and thought I'd share some of them with staff who were interested but unable to attend.  The most inspirational part of the day was the keynote that was presented by Derek Wenmouth, Director of E-Learning at Core Education.

Derek introduced the talk by glimpsing 20 years into the future by looking at how some of the big thinkers were claiming how our future would be shaped.  The first character that Derek mentioned was Ray Kurzweil who is director of engineering at google.  He claims that biotechnology (reprogramming biology as an information process) would be a huge industry, overall we will be adding more than a year every year to your own remaining life expectancy, which will represent a turning point in life extension - although the ethics behind this are highly debatable I think it is inevitable.  He
states that people will be online all the time in a virtual or augmented reality - google glass is a reality in 3 to 4 years time - prototypes have already been released and tested, search engines won't wait for you to type it in, they will know what you want before you do - 'google now' is getting close to that by using your location and past information by guessing what you might need before you know - people won't be carrying mobile devices they will be connecting with wearables! would be a good read if you are interested in the potential of these ideas.

Derek touched on the thoughts of Oliver Bussmann (CIO for SAP AG, the German multinational software corporation that makes enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations) Who states that in 2033 we will have a ‘born-mobile’ global workforce who will be connected in all aspects of their lives - the structure of organisations would also change and there would be shared leadership, it will be flattened and people will specialise in certain areas of strength - many tasks will be automated, in a school situation I immediately thought of timetables and room allocation, relief cover and so on, each of these tasks needs to have a senior manager paid $90,000 to run and supervise drawing them away from their real talents in front of pupils - the future could see the end of top heavy schools - however if Shantanu Sinha has anything to do with it SMT won't be worrying too much about those admin tasks because there may not be as many physical teaching spaces to manage….

In Education areas of growth will be global access, MOOC (massive open online courses), overseas learning, personalised learning, interactive classrooms and competency based credentials.  An example of how this is happening is with Shantanu Sinha - Khan academy, flipping the classroom and providing lessons and content outside of what we deem to be the traditional classroom - people can learn anywhere at anytime and at any stage in their life - knowledge will be a commodity that people will access when they need it, not when it is forced upon them - teachers have more time with students to discuss ideas, pose challenging questions and encourage challenging questions.

Derek used a good analogy in that "sometimes it's like putting a main highway between 2 cities and giving everyone a skateboard, it's going to take a bit of work to get there - so how do we do it, what has happened in the past and where are we now."  At the moment at our school we have been through the SNUP, and the UFB is available but we haven't got an ISP, definitely feel like we are on skateboards, or even a scooter with a wobbly handlebar.

Derek took us through some slides he had collected to demonstrate how our perceptions of the future have changed over the years….. Starting with 'The Jetsons', the futuristic cartoon of the 60's zooming through their world into the classroom on the pedestal of society, down the tube and into the the classroom - The Jetsons still had desks in rows and a blackboard!!

Looking through the past 25 years with computers in schools
1985: Standalone
1990: Computer room
Evolving into computer pods, 1:1 and BYOD

We then looked through different classrooms and were pointed in the direction of some modern learning environments on the Core Ed website. The following picture is of Albany High school in auckland......

In lots of the examples from the past the class set up was the same - with the teacher at the front, guardian of all knowledge and dominating the classroom, ICT was seen as an add on and usually on the teachers desk, or at the side of the room - at that time the teacher was the owner of the textbooks and the knowledge, but now the students are the owner of the devices with more knowledge than all the textbooks ever written.

“Most of today’s classrooms are designed with the teacher at the centre ...” Rick Dewar

The main point from these slides was that the existence of ICTs does not transform teacher practices in and of itself, you can't expect to put a computer, or even a set of 1:1 iPads in a class and expect things to be 'better' just because it is all shiny and new…..

Derek highlighted that effective teaching and learning occurs when...
Giving students autonomy and initiative is accepted and encouraged
Teacher asks open ended questions
Students engage in dialogue

So, after summarising those main points Derek pulled it all together and saw that the main trends that are emerging are…..

#1 Ubiquity - any time, any place learning

-Mobile trends, any place, any time learning 24/7 - snack learning, immediate learning, leading onto google glass in 2-3yrs time, again, the always online concept is a reality now.

#2 Agency - Disintermediation and the rise of the free agent learner! Agency is the key, students are aware and in control.

“Cutting out the middle man”

We live in a personalised world
My watchlist
My banking
My portfolio

Free agent characteristics;

Self directed learning
Un-tethered to traditional institution
Expert at personal data aggregation
Power of connections

#3. Connectedness

Networked learning

The way that networks learn is the way that individuals learn - personalised learning network and a Virtual Learning Network - all over the world, contact the specialists and speak directly to them in real time,….
Groups versus PLN - teachers no longer have superiority anymore, the student can potentially know as much as the teacher on the subject.

How do these two groups work together? Co-exist etc

At the end Derek asked some key questions;

Have we grasped how significantly access to technology has changed their expectations as learners?

Do our learners have to adapt to our way of doing things, or do we adapt to theirs?

Are we focused on delivery- or on the learning experience?

Are we throwing the ball to where the learner is, or to where they are going?

Here is a link of Derek explaining it in more detail..

Thinking about these questions really inspired me to consider where we are going in education.  I am extremely interested in it from a professional point of view but also as a father to two boys.  My eldest son has a very inquisitive mind and often goes off on tangents that I can't even answer for him (he is 4 and a half!) and it is only through google image search or youtube that I can immediately satisfy his thirst for knowledge and show him what the inside of a volcano looks like or why there are earthquakes - I can imagine that he is going to struggle in the current education system that has been passed down generation after generation, a system that was originally designed to create soldiers and then later, workers in industry - it hasn't changed too radically since.  We now have the tools and capabilities to take a different approach that can be more tailored to the learner.  My son is not going to cope with being processed in a class of 30 other students for 50 minutes at a time, who may or may not be able to learn the same way as him or have the same questions or differences as him, by teaching individuals as large groups we are isolating a huge number of them.  I want him to develop thinking skills and problem solving, as well as interaction with groups his age and ability as well as beyond those boundaries - transferable skills that will be useful in the real world.  I don't want his intrigue to be quashed or limited by a textbook and a teacher who might not know the answers or be able to inspire his questioning to go to the next level and think outside the box, I'd like him to be pushed to solve problems that haven't yet been solved, rather than memorise the answer to things that people have solved already.  I'm not saying that the current education system doesn't enable any of these things to happen but it is isolating many of the children who have greater potential than the current system allows.  After going over some of the questions that Derek asked at the end of his talk I can really see the possibilities of an individualised and learner centric approach, utilising the technology we have available to us to create an education system that the students and teachers will be passionate about.

At teaching college I looked deeply into different learning styles - Currently in each lesson I teach, I think about different ways of presenting the information so it covers as many of the students that can be caught under the net of kinaesthetic, visual, verbal, or aural learning etc. In mixed ability physical education classes it is very rare that I am going to be able to cater for or target all the pupils. Realistically, I'm likely to be engaging only a proportion of the class (the literacy levels for one of my classes range from 2b to 5p) - Why can't we help the students decide which way they learn best, and let them learn in their desired way all of the time, engaging them and allowing them to direct where they want to go in areas that they are excited about - surely this will produce the greatest results imaginable.  I am really excited about the next 20 years in education and can see it as a period of positive evolution for the education system - If people are willing to adopt change.


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