Saturday, 22 July 2017

Today's environment could be a catalyst

Today this article came up on my facebook feed.

Which is quite an old article, but talks about how Finnish schools are phasing out subjects, to value contextual learning, and learning through projects.

When we examine the New Zealand Curriculum, we normally skip straight to the back, where individual subjects look like they dominate, and have major priority (indeed it was the first thing I was taught to look at.)

But if we look at the front we see a very different story. We see quotes like this:
While the learning areas are presented as distinct, this should not limit the ways in which schools structure the learning experiences offered to students. All learning should make use of the natural connections that exist between learning areas and that link learning areas to the values and key competencies. 
-New Zealand Curriculum pp16
 And this:
Schools may, for example, decide to organise their curriculum around one of these three aspects (values, key competencies, or learning areas) and deliberately weave the other two through their programmes. Alternatively, they may decide to organise their curriculum around central themes, integrating values, key competencies, knowledge, and skills across a number of learning areas. Or they may use another approach or a combination of approaches.
-New Zealand Curriculum pp 37 
The structure of New Zealand's schools, (especially High Schools, but still some Primary) of students walking from subject to subject, or classrooms going through reading, writing and maths time is built on a model which is out-dated, inadequate, and one take on a Curriculum that is broad and agile.

Finland has lead the way to show schools how to integrate and make learning more meaningful for their students. Schools around the country need to think about the why of what they are doing, and to challenge themselves to ask "is this really the best thing for these children?" Because it is not the curriculum that restricts you from changing - it is your mindset, it is the "way it has always been done" which is not the same as "the way it should be done."

There are schools all over the country who are starting to explore integration, and starting to challenge the traditional model. Usually these are ones who are remodelled into innovative spaces, or new builds that take advantage of the change, but it doesn't need to be. This kind of learning can be done anywhere, from an old school, to a new one, from a barn in someone's back yard, to an empty field.

The buildings don't make the learning, you do.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Explore deeper the values of Modern Pedagogy

Much research around the terms 'modern' or '21st century' or 'future focused' learning have placed several values at it's centre. Learners having a choice in what they do, and teachers creating activities that are authentic to their students are two of these such values that we hear discussed in the education sector.

I believe that educators need to explore deeper than these values.

Giving students choice about which activities they complete is no longer enough. To ask them to complete a list of "must do's and can do's" or choose from a "learning menu" is not going to prepare learners for their future well enough for them to thrive in a technology-driven world.

We need to grow their thinking by scaffolding them to actually own and drive their own learning, which means students need to be in control of their learning from the beginning of the planning process, to the outcome of the learning. As long as adults are planning learning for students instead of planning with students, teachers cannot say they have relinquished control.

For students to explore learning that is deemed authentic by adults needs to be challenged. Authenticity is too broad a term, and can be interpreted in too many ways across the education community. Teachers need to explore how they can support students to have a positive affect on, and make change within their world. Opening learners' minds to the possibilities, problems, excitements and challenges that the world poses for them.

Upon hearing this, parents and teachers lament. What is the teachers' role if students are designing their own learning in order to change the world?

To broaden. Learners are not adults. They "do not know what they do not know." A teachers' job is to expand students' interests and expose them to new passions and ideals. To open their minds up to the possibilities in the world when institutionalised borders are removed.

To challenge. To make students comfortable with being challenged, to explore ways students can deal with challenge. To help students refine and develop their ideas in ways that are meaningful and helpful to the world.

To deepen. To use the flexibility of the New Zealand Curriculum to explore how students can take their learning deeper, and make it more sophisticated. How they can explore multiple subjects through their learning concepts and grasp the idea that Mathematics, Science, English, and Art don't stand alone, but rely on each other to function together.

To connect. To use experts in our communities who can share their knowledge with learners. To connect students with agencies and community groups who can help them make their ideas and dreams a reality. Teachers do not need to be the experts, indeed cannot be experts in everything, but they need to know how to facilitate connections with outside experts.

What is required of the modern teacher is not to be an expert in a subject, but to be an expert in learning and in learners. 

Monday, 21 November 2016


Knowledge. What is it?

The oxford dictionary states it as "The sum of what is known."

School's job historically has been to impart knowledge to it's students. To continue to build on humanities' knowledge by understanding what has gone on before.

  • Until around the 1900's, the sum of human knowledge was doubling every century. 
  • After the first world war, knowledge was doubling every 25 years. 
  • Now knowledge doubles every 18 months, and IBM predicts in the future to double every 12 hours.


The curve is exponential, and shows no sign of slowing down.

So now education stands at crisis point. 

We have two options going forward. Either
1. We keep teaching the small portion of knowledge that we can in the 13 years we have students for, whilst letting them miss out on the huge array of knowledge that presides before them,
2. We offer students the skills and resources to (guided by teachers) seek knowledge out for themselves, with the aim to make them life long knowledge seekers, so that they can continue to explore the exponential amount of knowledge out there after they leave school.

The options seem pretty clear.

It's time that we as a nation come to understand this. School needs to change what it looks like, and what it's priorities are if we are to keep up with the rate of innovation, and the rate of change in knowledge in the world.