Do yourself a favour…

and read this.

Why our kids need a powerful disposition to be self-managing learners when they finish their schooling, why they are unlikely to have it, and what we can do about it.

Erica McWilliam is Author in Residence at Brisbane Girls Grammar School for 2012. She and Professor Peter Taylor penned this piece, inspired in part by their visit to Zurich International School’s ‘innovateZIS Think Tank‘ conference held in March this year. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to Erica speak on a couple of occasions now and find her insightful, with a no nonsense approach to the challenges facing education today. I’d highly recommend you read, The Creative Workforce: How to launch young people into high flying futures, her 2008 publication. I read it a couple of years ago and it helped shape my thinking about what we as educators need to be doing to help our young people succeed in what is a vastly different workforce compared to the one many of us entered 20 or so years ago.

I applaud Brisbane Girls Grammar School for publishing this piece on their site. There’s more than a hint of bravery in publishing a piece for your community that begins with the following two paragraphs;

For some time now it has been obvious that middle class kids are becoming more vulnerable. This is so despite the fact that they may be living in nice homes with supportive parents and attending well resourced schools and having comforts that their Third World counterparts can only dream of. They are vulnerable because learning is not personally significant to them. Kids who learn to avoid the discomfort of unfamiliar ideas, who do not welcome the instructive complications of error, who think learning is a boring necessity because it is basically about preparing for tests, who are reliant on parents and teachers to tell them what to do, or to do it for them, who expect university degrees to be passports to employability and financial security – such kids are now in real trouble.

We are not suggesting that there is any intention on the part of the caring adults in their lives to do kids out of a rich and rewarding future – indeed, the contrary is much more likely to be true. The problem is that global transformations have made a nonsense of the scripts we still invest in to prepare young people for their living, learning and earning futures. There is no point in preparing them for a twentieth century future by relying on the rules for social advancement that worked for us back then. Put bluntly, it is not just unhelpful – it is downright dangerous.

If that opening doesn’t make you want to read on, I don’t know what will. Like I said, do yourself a favour…

Want to get inspired – listen to Erica McWilliam

(This post exists on Storify, but it seems impossible to embed it here on this WordPress blog, so I’ve copied most of it here. To see it on Storify, follow the link.)

Below is my Twitter stream while I was listening to keynote speaker, Erica McWilliam, present at the SLAV conference here in Melbourne last Friday. The theme of the conference was ‘Creating collaborative learning spaces: Future school library scenarios’. Erica’s talk was entitled, The e-shift: What does it mean for 21st century literacy and learning?
Erica is a woman worth listening to – if you ever get the opportunity, leap at it.

So refreshing to hear a learned woman speak at a conference, given the fact that so many keynotes are delivered by men.

Lyn Hay, from Charles Sturt University, also presented a thought provoking presentation about the role of Teacher-Librarians and libraries as physical spaces as we move into an increasingly digital world. Lyn’s presentation has been uploaded to Slideshare and I’d encourage you to take a look at it.

On the day, there were very few of us using Twitter to push the ideas out to the wider world. In fact, most were taking notes using the pen and paper model. Hardly a laptop or iPad in sight. Maybe people were using their phones, but I didn’t see much of anything like that happening around me. In 2011, I’d expect a Teacher-Librarian audience to be wired up and sharing ideas in collaborative spaces. If we are to respond to the ideas presented by Erica, then we better see our profession rise to the challenges of our age. We need more networked Teacher-Librarians to model for our staff and students how we self direct our own learning, and how we can seek out opportunities to make the learning experiences in our schools today reflective of the connected era we are living in.

Erica McWilliam – PD to savour

I had the pleasure of attending a session run by Professor Erica McWilliam last week. How refreshing to listen to a no nonsense presenter state some home truths about our education system and challenge us to think of what it is we need to do to make it better. Erica talked of our schools offering mandated learning for routine work. Not lifelong learning. Not teaching them skills that will make them successful in a 21st Century workforce.

Erica talked of us needing to reinforce that it’s the pleasure of the rigour of the work that is what we should be on about when we work with students. We should be ensuring that this is part of the Australian Curriculum, not the ADHD Curriculum we are being presented with where we have lots of content ensuring that most of it will be narrowly misunderstood. The fundamental skill of the 21st Century as far as Erica is concerned is knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. How many of our students would be stagnant when faced with open-ended tasks expecting them to direct their own learning? Plenty, I’m sure. I found myself nodding in agreement as Erica articulated the concerns I have about the direction of our education system today.

What was most refreshing for me was Erica’s understanding of the role of the Teacher-Librarian in today’s schools. She described Librarians as existing in a hybrid space – a space where we have an invading species present. We as librarians, are often the first to  wrangle with new technologies and figure out how to colonise the new landscape.  As such, we serve the purpose of being the borderland force that can understand how we work in new learning spaces; spaces that often challenge the existing set up employed in many of today’s classrooms.

The difficulty many of us face (me included, as one who feels that she is a hybrid Teacher- Librarian, largely misunderstod by those hanging onto the old model) is that while we may have changed our mindset and are prepared and willing to charter the new landscape with our students, we are hampered by those who have yet to adopt the new way of thinking. How we overcome this is the challenge we face. We need the support of our administrations; we need those in positions whereby they can enact change, to appreciate our new skill set, and assist us in moving our colleagues with us. If that means mandated change to curriculum then so be it. I’m tired of offering to work with others but finding very few prepared to work in a co-teaching capacity. We don’t pose a threat; we pose an opportunity. An opportunity to expose our students to new ideas and open their eyes to what is possible.

If you’d like to read more of what Erica has to say, access her monograph ‘Schooling the Yuk/Wow Generation‘ from ACER. 30 minutes well spent in my opinion.