School in 2020

Here’s another fascinating article from the Mindshift website, where a regular reader and educator has made his predictions for “what won’t exist” in education by 2020:

Mindshift Article – Education 2020

Of course, a few of the items listed are quite US-centric, though I’m sure we would have our equivalents on the examinations and curriculum fronts. Nevertheless, it’s a very interesting list that really sets a pretty radical ‘change management’ agenda for those of us in the education profession in coming years.

One thing that struck me, reading the list, was how much students themselves should welcome and embrace such an agenda. It takes their learning to a far more personalized level, far more life and work relevant, puts them in far more control (rather than continually controlled). It also appears to join up far better to the concept and expectation that the learning they do in school is just the beginning, that it’s something they will do because they want to and do for the rest of their lives. Of course, for those who see the glass half empty, who believe that young people are inherently irresponsible, lazy, feckless then all this ‘freedom’ to young people, releasing the shackles of control will be seen as something terrible and dangerous. Even for those parents who believe that they can make things happen in their children’s lives, through their drive and will-power (presumably figuring that they’ll hand over control to the child when they’re old enough to take over) some of these changes represent scary unknowns.

The optimist in me says that it will represent a potentially positive and greatly improved future for education. The pessimist in me says when considering the current mismatch between education outputs and society needs we can’t make the situation any worse by working towards some of these goals – so let’s go for it!!

Technology Changing Libraries

It’s very soon going to be impossible to recognize a library as a library, at least in the sense that we have always seen them in the past. This is highlighted in an extreme way through this short article from Mindshift about changes taking place in a couple of public libraries in USA:

Mindshift Article – Libraries

In keeping with this thinking we have been exploring for some time the role and nature of libraries in schools. The conclusions, for me, are that if they remain places filled only with books then they will fail to fulfill the vital role that exists for them. So, the plans are for considerable change over a period of time – and a lot more than just the addition of a few documentary videos and e-books. Especially for older students, I see the library as a place where they can truly take ownership for a part of their own learning in a very personal way. Therefore, it’s vitally important to have a flexible array of resources that support that freedom for the students, whilst also ensuring that they have access to all the guidance they need for how to use those resources effectively.

As we saw from a post I added to the blog a couple of weeks ago, we may think of the digital natives as having all the answers for everything web related. However, when it comes down to it, their search and research skills are often quite limited, they need help and confidence to engage and contribute in real meaningful online discourse on serious topics (getting beyond, ‘hey dude, how ya doin’), they need guidance around netiquette and online safety and security and finally, they do still need to know that there are mechanisms that will hold them accountable so that they use their research time productively.

Especially in respect of the Middle and Senior Schools the school libraries are going to see significant change ……… watch this space.

FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

Fast Company magazine has been publishing a series of reviews of some of the greatest business books of all time, including a number of my favourites. I share this one first as it was only quite recently that I put another article here on the blog about the benefits to an organization of having employees who are “In Flow”.

There are a couple of books in the series and I thoroughly recommend them as a very thought-provoking read:

Fast Company Review – Flow

Technology Etiquette

As technology’s role gets bigger in our lives it’s bringing up uncomfortable challenges in all sorts of places, but not least in the classroom. This is not such an issue at the school level where mobile phones are still not welcomed. However, at a college level it is bringing many changes.

Even in school in the computer lab teachers are finding it more and more challenging to deal with the fact that some students are making choices to explore other things outside the realm of the classroom when they are meant to all be concentrating on something determined by the teacher. Is this really an different to the old days of students gazing out of the classroom window, or playing that game where you give all the outward appearance of being engaged in the lesson but actually are miles away in a world of your own?

When there are Indian schools taking steps to introduce IT in to all aspects of learning, have we got our research right about how it will be used, whether it’s really supporting learning and whether we have effective plans in place to deal with the downside and the risk factors. For example, a prominent school in Mumbai, Podar International, recently requested all parents of the 800 or so pupils to purchase an iPad.

There are some debates that continue to go on about whether wi-fi around young children all day is really a wise thing. Beyond that, have the teachers had the requisite training to ‘control’ how these tablets are being used in the classroom? For the average Indian teacher, until now, learning has been inherently teacher-centric. I can imagine the only way many teachers will be able to ‘police’ the tablet use is to dictate that they are switched off for large parts of the school day.

If you had all the motivation issues addressed in advance, the issues about students wanting to treat the classroom as a place where they are learning, with full trustworthy ownership of their own learning process (without any requirement for duress or ‘extrinsic’ motivation!) then this could all be wonderfully empowering. However, if those issues haven’t been addressed, then i fear this could become a major challenge to effective learning in the classroom.

Here’s a Mindshift article on the issue of technology etiquette in the new wired world:

Mindshift Article

Applying the Concept of ‘Flow’ to Employees

In this interesting article Ken and Scott Blanchard look at employees and their motivation from the perspective of the Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi concept of “Flow”.

Fast Company Article

The first thing I would say is that if anyone hasn’t read any of the books on Flow I would thoroughly recommend them – the holiday season is coming up and the chance to curl up with a really good read! The article challenges every one of us with a role that involves leading others with an interesting question – if an employee is ‘bored’ whose responsibility is it to do something about that? There’s no question that a bored, demotivated employee on your team can certainly hamper the performance potential of the team. Finding the right growth opportunities, stimulation, change and variety whilst also meeting the needs of the organization at the time is perhaps one of the most challenging skills to master for any leader.

The article also, quite rightly, cautions us against the all too natural temptations to give the challenging and stretching tasks always to those most likely to deliver to a high standard. Somewhere, we have to find the right balance between getting tasks done to the highest standard for the organization and delegating tasks in ways that develop people’s skills and abilities to contribute in the future. If in an organization leaders struggle to find people to whom to give tasks for development and growth, feeling the need to always go to the same small group of people then hard questions need to be asked about whether recruitment policies have been right, whether short-termism in the past has made it hard to build people strength for the future or whether some other systemic weakness is affecting the organization.

Professional Development for Free

We all love to get ‘something for free’. When that something happens to be high quality material that we can use for our own professional development then that’s potentially really exciting.

So, here’s a big list collated at ASCD in this month’s edition of ‘Educational Leadership’:

Freebies for Professional Development

If any readers of this blog have others that you use, please share them with us here.

Blowing Away Myths About the Mind

As educators we work at ‘the final frontier’, the human mind, a fascinating enigma that continues to baffle scientists even as the secrets of other areas of science and the universe get unlocked.

One result of this is there’s a lot of rubbish around related to how the human mind works. So, here’s a really worthwhile article that sets out to debunk 9 of the most common myths about the mind.

Lifehacker Article on 9 Brain Myths

Numbers 1, 3 and 8 I was already well aware of from recent books read on the science of the mind (I figure if we’re going to be effective educators we need to keep up with this stuff!). However, some of the others were also really interesting to read, especially considering the offerings of companies who want to ‘sell’ services to schools that are meant to enhance the learning of children. At the end of the day there’s no substitute for the masterful craft of teaching/ facilitating learning.

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