Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rattling the ideological framework

Last week while I was at the SGIS Conference, I discovered that another great opportunity for professional development was being offered by one of our local schools, ZIS.  This Innovate ZIS Think Tank was entitled Learning 2030:  Schools Out? and asked the question:  will schools as we know them be needed in 2030?  ZIS brought together an exciting collection of keynote speakers to address this question including Sir Ken Robinson, Erica McWilliam and Scott McLeod.  Peter Mott, the Director of ZIS, compared the changes sweeping through education to the way digital photography changed and eventually led to the bankruptcy of the Polaroid Corporation.  Technology allows access to information and knowledge anywhere and anytime, not just in schools.  Are schools now "dangerously irrelevant" asked Scott McLeod, are schools that are based on standardization and conformity doomed to fail, asked Sir Ken.

Thoughts from Sir Ken Robinson
Sir Ken talked about the fact that, though estimates vary, there have probably been about 80 billion people alive on Earth throughout history, and that considering that, about 10% of the entire human population that has ever lived is now alive on the planet.  He questioned how many people the world can sustain - obviously it depends on the amount of resources each person is consuming.    If everyone in the world consumed at the same rate as people living in North America, the world would only have enough resources to sustain 1.2 billion people.  Clearly, since we have billions more people on Earth today, this shows a massive inequality in the distribution of resources.  Sir Ken talked about the fact that we are connected and so have to rethink about and develop creative solutions to how we distribute resources.

He talked about the role of education in this.  He said there are three roles for education:  economic (more educated people contribute more to economic development, however education was developed to drive industrial development), culture (in our interconnected world it's vital to understand other cultures) and personal (education is a personal development, yet schools are increasingly trying to force students into a conforming, standardized mould).  Sir Ken said education should be based on diversity because we thrive on difference:  for economic, social and cultural growth we need to be different.

He talked about how education should encourage creativity and community and that it will be enhanced by technology because technology allows us to personalize education.  He said revolution is happening and it is starting with the students - all revolutions start at the bottom.  Some people are immovable, some are moveable and some move:  work with the willing.  The benefits outweigh the risks.  We may not be able predict the future but may be able to bring about a future that we want to live in.

Thoughts from Erica McWilliam
Professor Erica McWilliam talked about unlearning education - she said it is our knowledge that stops us taking risks not our ignorance.  She talked about how the key centuries for learning are the 19th and 21st centuries.  The 19th century gave us the disciplines and it also gave us travel - it allowed us to find diversity and there was a ruthless curiosity and a challenge to ideas.  People were willing to tolerate the discomfort in order to experience the unfamiliar.

However in the 21st century the traditional disciplines are insufficient for solving global problems.  Although our possibilities for travel have expanded, we travel looking for the familiar (she talked about how you have have the same hotel experience anywhere, how Australians travel looking for vegemite etc.)  She said that the virtual possibilities have democratized us as we use the internet - but asked are we still getting our views challenged?

Referring to the tradition of "salon" learning she said that the cafe, not the school, is the proper antecedent of lifelong learning.  People chose to go to the cafe to learn, salons validated impressionist art - they were places of powerful learning and knowledge production.  Schooling, however, is more important but less relevant than ever - employers are needing to look beyond the credentials because everyone is coming out of schools with the same qualifications - she said our highest achievers may not be our best learners and yet learning matters more than knowing as knowing gets increasingly overturned.  Better questions, therefore, are more important than correct answers.

She talked about distractibility being a boon to learning and not a mental illness - she said online work is an ecology of interruption - we can help young people to use that distractibility because effective pedagogy exploits the productive tension between intentionality and distractibility.  She challenged us to enter the world of "post-Gulliver" teaching.  We are no long a big person among the little people!

Photo Credit:  Gary Hamel:  Open source is one of the greatest management innovations of the 21st century by Opensourceway AttributionShare Alike 

1 comment:

  1. "She talked about distractibility being a boon to learning and not a mental illness - she said online work is an ecology of interruption - we can help young people to use that distractibility because effective pedagogy exploits the productive tension between intentionality and distractibility."

    This is a powerful statement, I think. Many parents I've worked with have been frustrated with their child(ren) being 'distracted' by on-line collaboration and refused to help them practice these skills. Hopefully they'll recognise the importance of them sooner rather than later. I've seen students create some amazing things together with the assistance of collaborative tools.