FutureSchools – March, 2016

I’ve been at the National Future Schools conference for the last few days in Sydney.  It was much smaller than Edutech and my immediate reaction was to feel more comfortable in the intimate atmosphere that this created for the attendees.    I was presenting in the Young Learners strand of this conference – about Supporting Young Innovators of the Future:

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My school was also facilitating a round table discussion on the Advancing Education agenda in QLD and the CodingCounts initiative within this – the Government’s plan to fast-track the Digital Technologies curriculum in its State Schools in QLD.   Additionally, my principal was a member of panel discussing the same topic.  It was an amazing opportunity for our school and I have to admit that I only realised this post conference, when my presentation nerves were gone, all was done and I had regained some much needed sleep.

A video I saw in Peggy Sheehy’s session on gaming in the classroom is a nice way to start this blog entry:

Peggy’s session started brilliantly well and I enjoyed the passion, enthusiasm and the provocative nature of many of her messages.  She also shared this lovely poem by Carol Tomlinson.   Peggy uses World of Warcraft in her teaching and other games and is considered a pioneer in the use of commercial games for education.  She brought up something I have been wondering lately – ever since Microsoft bought Minecraft – and that is about what happens when we take hold of games for educational reasons and we ‘edufy’ them – is this a good thing or a bad thing?    Will Microsoft take Minecraft and ‘tweak’ it to the point where it no longer grabs kids’ souls, imaginations and interest?   Should we, rather,  be taking the commercial games, as they are and simply trying to understand what it is that makes them so beguiling to children and then to try to harness that for learning……instead of taking them and trying to control them and shape them so that we are the experts and so that we are ultimately in control?

I always like to summarise the key take-aways for me in terms of what I learned and to keep these to about 3 or 4.  Here they are:

  1.  The power of collaboration between teachers and particularly teachers who are on different year levels, with different skills and areas of expertise.     Larry Rosenstock for example, spoke about the amazing things he sees on a daily basis when he supports a pairing like a physics teacher and an art teacher.
  2. The schools who are doing really innovative, student centred things are the schools that recognise that ‘silos’ of curriculum aren’t the most effective way of preparing our students for tomorrow’s world.  The ‘Fuse’ program by Surf Coast Secondary College is a great example of this.  This school involves their students in ‘Fuse’ for just under half their time at school.

    The school increased flexibility and choice in the curriculum, increased student-centred activities, problem-solving and creativity by fusing subjects together and teaching students in open spaces. This has led to integrated and in-depth learning and flexibility of involvement. Technology is important with everything online and lessons focused on meaningful discussions and collaboration

    3. The MakerSpace mentality is one that should infuse into teacher mindsets and student mindsets.  It is also one that directly supports the implementation of the Digital Technology curriculum.  This is a great video about this alignment:

4.  Design Thinking is absolutely the right thing for us to be doing.

5.  We are absolutely on the right path in terms of what we are doing with the DigiTech curriculum and we need to maintain this momentum as we move forward.

Things I’m wondering:

  • How might we give more agency to teachers wanting to trial really innovative practice?     This may include a trial of hexagonal thinking in a year level to lead to the ‘de-silofication’ of curriculum.  Does everyone have to wait until they have done a whole year of practitioner inquiry?
  • How might we tweak the MakerSpace so that students are doing more than tinkering and sharing?  And how can more of this mindset be supported in classrooms?

Links to summarise on other sessions – already nicely done by others, are  below:

Claire Amos  on Jane Hunter http://www.teachingandelearning.com/2016/03/dr-jane-hunter-turning-high-possibility.html

Claire on her own presentation http://www.teachingandelearning.com/

Claire on partnerships between schools and corporations: http://www.teachingandelearning.com/2016/03/ayesha-khanna-externships-why.html

Claire on Makerspaces – a talk by Stephen Lethbridge

Claire on Darren Cox and a culture of learning

A summary by  Michael Eggenhuizen | Director ICT, of sessions I saw:

Larry Rosenstock – CEO of High Tech High – laments the fact that schools are not keeping up with a changing world. He begins his keynote with a Socrates quote, “I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”. He asks the audience to think about their school education and who were those teachers that had passion that drew students into the subject and made them think – we should thank these teachers! Rosenstock spoke of the ‘old education paradigm’ that still exists in schools today, sitting in rows, facing the front, compartmentalised subjects, teacher-led lessons, measuring student success on knowledge. He says that schools need to break these old molds and move with a changing world! Rosenstock gives us a glimpse of what takes place at High Tech High, a school where students are chosen by zip code rather than on ability. He draws on a quote from Dewey, “understanding derives from activity”. At High Tech High students learn through activity. Project-based learning replaces compartmentalised subjects. Students work in collaborative groups in open spaces that on the surface appear to be disorganised. Students work on real-world problems and solve them using realworld tools. Student work is displayed in public exhibitions and around the school. He relayed a story about how Year 5 students at High Tech High, wanting to eradicate rats and mice from school classrooms, researched the problem and, wanting to steer away from traps, chemicals and dangerous predators, came up with a solution to use barn owls. Barn owls eat approximately 2000 rats and mice a year! So the solution was to build a number of barn owl habitats around the school – problem solved! Read Claire Amos’ summary of keynote. Watch this High Tech High video created by students

Erin Weightman – Assistant Principal – Surf Coast Secondary College – says engagement & collaboration are key to learning. She quotes Newman who says “student engagement occurs when students make a psychological investment in learning”. Schools should invent the future rather than fixing the past. She quotes Ken Robinson in saying that humans are different and diverse, inherently creative and that curiosity is the engine of achievement. Weightman says the same old same old approach to teaching and learning in schools is often the result of an “it’s all too hard” frame of mind. Excuses like, we need to teach the curriculum, what about NAPLAN, the students will be too hard to control, we can’t change the timetable, the principal won’t let us do that, stifle creativity, engagement and collaboration in schools. To overcome these barriers at Surf Coast Secondary College, Weightman says that they needed to educate the students, teachers and parents about what the school was doing and why they were doing it this way. The school increased flexibility and choice in the curriculum, increased student-centred activities, problem-solving and creativity by fusing subjects together and teaching students in open spaces. This has led to integrated and in-depth learning and flexibility of involvement. Technology is important with everything online and lessons focused on meaningful discussions and collaboration. Claire Amos’ summary.