Thursday, January 17, 2013

The future of education - it's up to us

UPDATE:  The original host for the wiki had advertising that some found intrusive, and was unreliable.  The wiki has been moved to wikieducator, which is a friendly neighbourhood, with related content material.

This is the third, and last in a series of posts about the Parliamentary Inquiry into 21st century learning  environments and digital literacy.  I was thinking how a national discussion on the topic, which I think is critical to our social, economic and cultural future, could be encouraged.  Exchanges of views on blog posts, emails and discussions lists are all useful in their own way, but they are all transient.

Then I realised that a wiki is the ideal tool to build discussion and gather views on the report - the importance and priority of different recommendations, the timing and progress that is being made, and the gathering of input from the wide range of stakeholders that have an interest.

So I took the report, and placed it on a wiki here.** I chose mediawiki because it is familiar to people through their use of wikipedia. I have protected the pages that contain the actual content of the report, to maintain the integrity of the document tabled in Parliament. Each chapter of the report is on a separate page, and the discussion tab can be used to gather ideas and comments.

I guess this is a bit of an experiment in education policy development for New Zealand, which could become a focal point for discussion on the impact of the digital world on our education system; maybe it could be the base of a project for a school in 2013?

Disclosure:  I was engaged by the Select Committee as an expert advisor to the Inquiry.

** I chose to use a free hosting service, and it worked fine while I put the pages together, but appears to be down at the moment, so if you do not connect straight away, please keep trying. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The World into the Classroom - the Classroom into the World

The report from the parliamentary inquiry into 21st century learning contains 48 recommendations; this is an indication of the breadth of  the inquiry, which covered the full range of issues that arise from considering the impact of digital on education.In this post I discuss five areas that, in my view, are the most important for change to occur: devices, community, workforce, equity and leadership.

Devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones are the foundation of future learning. They fulfil two main functions - to provide access to information and as a tool for creativity and learning. They are embedded in educational practice at leading schools -- not as a special tool, but simply as "the way we do things round here". My personal belief is that every child should have exclusive access to their own device, which they use at school and at home. There are a small number of children whose families cannot afford to provide such a device, but schools have always found options to respond to children who are excluded from activities because of financial pressure. Once devices become "the way we do things round here", affordability barriers can be overcome.

We know that children's achievement is significantly affected by the extent to which their families and caregivers are engaged with their education. As education becomes more digital, it is essential that families, as well as children, are confident in the digital world. This will require a significant investment in digital literacy, but will also mean that parents and caregivers will improve their skills for participation in the digital economy.
Community connections are not only local, but regional and global as well.

We also know that the most important influence on children's educational achievement is the quality of teaching and leadership within the school. It is essential that everyone involved in the delivery of education is digitally competent.
This will require a substantial increase in investment in in-service training and also a major overhaul of initial teacher training to ensure that the future workforce have the skills and confidence to lead and support children's learning. This change much is more than a five day training course - it is actually a complete reboot of the profession to introduce new pedagogy and practices based on a model of continuous learning and collaboration.

The New Zealand education system is world leading; however we have a long tail of underachievement, in particular Maori and Pasifika students and in rural areas.
Digital education provides both an opportunity and a risk:digital tools can be used to personalise education and there is some evidence that this is effective in creating better engagement and maintaining connections with children; however financial and economic pressures may exclude the disadvantaged from participation both at school and at home. This is clearly an area for government investment and intervention to ensure equity of access and a future inclusive community.

The digital tsunami has deconstructed many industries over the last 20 years. Education is entering a period of transformational change that will affect every aspect of learning. We know that the biggest factor in achieving successful transformational change is leadership - having a common vision, a structured programme of change and sufficient investment to achieve the future state.
There needs to be a shift from competition to collaboration across the whole education sector - including the national provision and funding of internet and core services, to enable schools to focus on areas where innovation is important. Chapter 11 of the report outlines the importance of leadership and urges the government to ensure that the institutional arrangements are in place to provide effective leadership. This is probably the most important change to New Zealand in the next 20 years and we must get it right.

Disclosure:  I was engaged by the Select Committee as an expert advisor to the Inquiry.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

21st century learning and the digital tsunami

The changes in education as a result of the digital tsunami cannot be underestimated – it is the largest, and arguably most important, transformation that will happen in New Zealand in our lifetime.  2,500 schools and 4,500 early childhood education (ECE) centres, nearly 100,000 registered teachers, 750,000 students at school and 190,000 at ECE centres, and more than four million stakeholders .

The Select Committee for Education and Science completed an inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy, and submitted the report to the House in December 2012  The text of the report gives some indications of the nature of the inquiry.  In this post, I use the top 10 most frequently used words in the report to illustrate some general themes relating to the future of education; my next post will discuss the key recommendations from the report. 

Education is about learning, but "learning" is not just what children do at school.  Learning happens everywhere, and learning happens for everyone - teachers, students, families and care givers.  Technology creates a platform of almost limitless opportunities for better learning . 

The focus of the inquiry was the impact of technology on schools; there was general agreement on the changes that are needed to the school environment - it needs to support flexible, adaptive and collaborative learning within the school and through connections with other schools. 

There were 90 written submissions to the inquiry, and 55 oral submissions; this involved a lot of listening to a wide range of well informed advice.  From this listening, there emerged a clear consensus - in the future, education will use innovation and collaboration to create a unique personalised learning experience for every child. 

It's not the technology that will make a difference, but the fact that all resources, whether used by or created by the student, are digital and reusable.  The technology will continue to change, so skills will be needed to ensure that the technology is continually put to best use. 

Universal access to digital tools is fundamental to a high quality education system - this includes device and internet access at school, at home and in the community, for all participants - learners, teachers, parents and caregivers. 

The voices of the students who made submissions to the inquiry were illuminating; they have grown  up in a digital world, where information and connections are instantly available, and they will drive future innovation. 

New Zealand
The digital tsunami is changing education in every country in the world; it is essential that New Zealand culture, language and values are at the core of our education system. No-one else will nurture these unique assets, and we have a responsibility to develop and maintain Maori and Pasifika content. 

21st Century
The changes in the first 13 years of the 21st century have been huge - for example, in 2000 there was no broadband, Gmail, Facebook, or iTunes.  Changes in technology will continue to accelerate over the remaining 87 years of the century; the shift to digital needs to be adaptive to continuous technology change. 

The teaching profession is at the front-line of responding to the challenges and opportunities of digital education.  Significantly increased investment is needed to ensure that our teachers have the skills and confidence to act as guides for future generations.

Disclosure:  I was engaged by the Select Committee as an expert advisor to the Inquiry.