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
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.

Community
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.

Workforce
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.

Equity
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.

Leadership
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.

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    this will be an interesting challenge especially if the "complete reboot of the profession to introduce new pedagogy and practices based on a model of continuous learning and collaboration" came from teachers and students.
    With the average 11 year old being more digitally savvy than most teachers this will need a complete reversal of roles - ako?
    A shift from competition to collaboration - totally!

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