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.

National Curriculum – where are we headed?

I went to a briefing last night regarding the National Curriculum and progress that is being made in relation to the major curriculum changes that will be changing the face of education in Australia. It was delivered by Tony Mackay, who is the Deputy Chair of the National Curriculum Board. I’d read the recent ‘Shape of the  Australian Curriculum’ report and felt quite positive about the direction it was taking.

I’m OK with the idea of a National Curriculum. I think the idea of it reflects the kind of country we are. We occupy a vast landscape, but I feel that most people are unified and take pride in calling themselves Australians. (That, of course, is my take and my take only.)  I, for one, don’t mind the fact that they are proposing quite a bit of focus on understanding the history of our country and our Asian counterparts. I do think it important to have a grounding in the history of our country and the region we inhabit.

What was troublesome for me after last night’s meeting was the apparent increase in testing, similar to Naplan testing that exists now,  that is going to result from a shift to a National Curriculum. The message I was receiving suggests that our students are going to be tested in quite a few areas, possibly four, on a regular basis. As a mother of a 10 year old,  who was quite stressed about the recent round of  Naplan testing, I’m not relishing the idea of putting our kids through more of it. Nor am I liking the idea from a teacher’s perspective. The suggestion made by Tony Mackay was that the tests would be cyclical. My reading of that was that we would test kids on differing subjects every second year, effectively meaning that our kids are going to face rounds of Naplan tests every year of their school lives from at least Grade three up. Maybe I’m wrong about that and I’m happy to stand corrected.  

My other concern is just what is going to be done with the data. Will schools be compared regardless of their socioeconomic locale? Will funding be tied to making sure the testing is done? Will schools be economically disadvantaged if they aren’t performing? Will our curriculum lack innovation if we find schools teaching to the tests because they are fearful of underperforming and having the data used against them? 

I used my Livescribe pen last night to record the session. I am seriously impressed with the pen. You need to use special paper to write your notes on and the pen records the audio. You then upload the data from the pen to your computer, both notes and audio. You can then pinpoint any part of the text and the audio will replay from that part of the session. You can do this just using the pen and notebook too. If you upload your recording to Livescribe online you can share the session with friends or share the link. I’m going to link to it below so you can get a feel for what it is. Excuse my messy handwriting and packed page of notes. I wasn’t sure if you needed to stop recording when you started a new page so I stuck to the one. I’ve since found out you don’t have to. (You can get one from IT made simple if you’re interested. And no, I’m not taking commission for that plug!)  

The session was being videoed for upload to a website, so I’m not concerned about linking to it here. If I were at a PD where it wasn’t already being recorded I would think it only fitting that you seek the permission of the speaker before you did so.

Take a listen and see what you think.

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