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…

Teaching the teachers – the words of Mark Pesce

If you’re an educator today, and you aren’t reading the words of futurist Mark Pesce, then you ought to rectify that immediately. He presented at a conference in Wollongong today (I know not whom for, but it definitely was connected to education) and I’m sure he made an impact. He made an impact on me, and I didn’t see him deliver the presentation. I read it on his blog, the human network – what happens after we’re all connected? The great thing about Mark Pesce is that he values sharing his thinking and makes it easily accessible. If you want to learn from him, you can. You just need to make the effort to read.

His presentation today was entitled, Helicopter Lessons, his thesis about childhood development and hyperconnectivity. There are lessons here for teachers. Many of them. Lessons we ought to be taking heed of. Mark expressed something I feel about the opportunities being presented to us now with the onset of the proposed Australian Curriculum. (yes people, that is what they are calling it now, forget that National Curriculum terminology. Get with the program!) Here’s what Mark said (but he needs to catch up with the change in name too : ));

We’re very lucky, because just at this moment in time, the Commonwealth has gifted us with the best reason we’re ever likely to receive – the National Curriculum.  Now that every student, everywhere across Australia, is meant to be covering the same materials, we have every reason to connect together – student to student, teacher to teacher, school to school, state to state.  The National Curriculum is thought of as a mandate, but it’s really the architecture of a network.  It describes how we all should connect together around a body of knowledge.  If we know that we should be teaching calculus or Mandarin or the Eureka Stockade rebellion, we have an opportunity to connect together, pool our knowledge and our ignorance, and work together.  We can use our hyperconnectivity to hyperempower our ability to work toward understanding.

This could be a gift, if we can move our teaching community to an understanding that shared knowledge is a very powerful tool. It’s a huge shift for some in the teaching profession, who are too frightened to load their resources into a single site learning management system, let alone share with a community of teacher learners nationwide. But it’s something worth working towards. Hopefully the communities of teacher learners that are forming in networks like Twitter can be the connective and cognitive glue that starts this process moving forward. Wouldn’t it be great if an organisation like DEEWR actually sat up and noticed what is happening at the grassroots level already and supported and encouraged communities of practice like this? Now there’s a revolutionary idea. Someone should run with that one. : )

Make sure you read Mark’s essay. He touches on so much more than the sampling I have shared here. I find his words resonate for days and help me to formulate my own thinking. I’m sure you’ll benefit from the reading.