‘Lifeready’ and ‘Lifeworthy’ Learning: Going Beyond the Traditional

Learning 'beyond' the Traditional

Learning ‘beyond’ the Traditional

“Only in education, never in the life of farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter, does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing” – John Dewey (1916, p. 178).

We see this more than ever before in the digital age, our students question the worth of what is being taught in our classrooms and its relationship to the lives they are likely to live.  Of course, rapid advancements of technology, the emergence of the information society and the reality of information overload are instrumental in providing an even larger gap between traditional schooling and what students will actually need in their world outside of school, as educators struggle to keep up with this ever-changing landscape (Bawden & Robinson, 2012, p.243). But interestingly, we often hear students favour certain subjects such as Physical Education or Home Economics because of their ‘practical’ curriculum, and I’m wondering why this isn’t relevant to all disciplines.    David Christian when he writes about ‘big history’ provides an interesting contrast between humans and other primates.  Unlike creatures such as chimpanzees, humans are the only  beings that aren’t living the same lifestyle they were 100, 000 or even 500 years ago (2004).  Christian asserts that this is because of humans’ ability to learn collectively, or pass on relevant life-learning to others.  If this is the case in the ‘real-world’, why are we still witnessing educational systems that are preparing students to pass exams, yet unprepared to engage and prepare students for their life after school?

Our notions of knowledge and learning are slowly beginning to evolve.  As Starkey suggests, the digital age has lead us to gradually change our teaching and learning practices from focussing on knowledge attainment to more skill-based learning that promotes critical thinking, knowledge creation and learning through connections (2011, p 19).  While zeroing in on the skills necessary for learning in a constantly changing landscape is a positive step, I’m wondering if we need to go beyond this focus in order to ensure that our students are indulging their curiosity when they ask ‘what’s worth learning’, so that they can feel assured their learning in the classroom today is relevant to the future lives they are likely to live.

David Perkins in his book Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World presents 6 ‘Beyonds’ (below) that allow educators to push the boundaries of what is traditionally taught in school and consider the expanding universe of what’s worth learning.

David Perkins envisions the '6 Beyonds'

David Perkins envisions the ‘6 Beyonds’

When examining the 6 ‘Beyonds’ we can see that education in the digital age needs to cater for more than the acquisition of skills and  technology integration.  We must consider what constitutes our learning ecology and ‘go beyond’ the world of traditional education to ensure our students are prepared for learning that is ‘lifeworthy’ – “likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live” (2014, loc 395), and ‘lifeready’ -“ready to pop up on appropriate occasions and help make sense of the world” (2014, loc 694).  This learning will only be possible when we consider learning collectives in networked environments, rather than learning in our traditional hierarchal classrooms.  This concept of ‘going beyond’ through our knowledge networks is one that I intend to consider further in my quest to determine ‘what’s worth learning‘ in the digital age.

Reference List

Bawden, D., & Robinson, L.  (2012).  Information society.  In Introduction to information science (pp. 231-249).  London: Facet.

Christian, D.  (2004).  Maps of time: An introduction to big history. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Dewey, J. (2004). Democracy and education. Courier Corporation. Retrieved from https://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=19ajcXf4MCYC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=democracy+and+education+john+dewey&ots=lHuy9APfA8&sig=sldDeyZPnAOd590fTO02V656F8o#v=onepage&q=democracy%20and%20education%20john%20dewey&f=false

Open white door floating plaster wall, . [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.
http://quest.eb.com/search/165_3338382/1/165_3338382/cite

Perkins, D. (2014).  Future wise: Educating our children for a changing world [Kindle edition].  Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Future-Wise-Educating-Children-Changing/dp/1118844084

Perkins, D.  (2013, July).  The 6 Beyonds [Image].  Paper presented at Future of Learning.  Retrieved from http://futureoflearningpz.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Educating-for-the-unknown-FOL-2013-07.pdf

Starkey, L. (2011). Evaluating learning in the 21st Century: A digital age learning matrix. Technology, Pedagogy And Education, 20(1), 19-39.

What’s Worth Learning?

chromebook

Embracing the new age of search literacy!

What’s worth learning? A big question I realise, and one that continues to perplex me in an age where we can find all of the information we need at the click of a button.  It is easy to see why students are becoming disengaged in the classroom, with teaching practices that stem from our first real educational revolution of the eighteenth century still rife in the twenty-first century. We know the notion of education should change in our modern society, but we are yet to articulate successfully exactly what it takes to produce learners who are ‘future-proof’ and adequately prepared for a life of constant learning and change.

18th Century and Modern Classrooms

Is there a difference between eighteenth century and modern day classrooms?

Crockett, Jukes and Churches articulate the disconnect between school and real life in their book Literacy is Not Enough: 21st Century Fluencies for the Digital Age’ when they mention their experience with a school principal at an international educational conference describing his students who were top performers academically in the TIMS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study) as unable to, “think their way out of a wet paper bag if their life depended upon it.  They’re nothing but highly educated useless people” (2011, loc 155).  This example hits the nail on the head when it comes to describing the students we are creating in our current educational system full of standardised testing and ‘one-size-fits-all’ assessment.  If we are to continue teaching our students to become dependent on knowing only what they need to pass a test, they will continue to struggle when they make the transition from school life to the real world of the twenty-first century where, “their success in work, life, and play will greatly depend on their ability to interpret and apply old information and new alike to new situations, problems and environments” (Crockett, et al., 2011, loc 205).

bookinferior

What concerns me is that the technological age has played a large role in driving the need for change in education, yet we have become complacent in thinking that simply handing students technology will make them twenty-first century learners.  When we give students a device with Internet connection, we give them the possibility of becoming connected, participatory and personalised in their learning.

As is depicted in the picture to the left, the power of learning does not come from the device we are using. It comes when we guide our students in building the skills, understandings, competencies and knowledge they need to use these devices to enhance their learning.

So with this in mind, ‘what is worth learning?’ becomes an important question for us to answer as educators.  What can we teach our students that will prepare them for successful life in the unknown, ever-changing world of infowhelm, where the technology we use and the contexts we work within today will be obsolete tomorrow?  This is one question that started me on my journey in ‘Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age‘ and one that I hope to begin to answer through my learning in the course, so that I can best prepare my students for realistic, ‘future-proof’ learning.

In the video below John Seely Brown introduces the notion of the ‘entrepreneurial learner’ – one that constantly adopts and adapts their practices to learn in a world of change and unlimited possibilities.

Our role as educators is no longer to simply transfer our knowledge to our students, it involves guiding them through learning and knowledge building when they are constantly bombarded with new contexts, ideas, literacies, information, technology and skills. My goal as both a teacher-librarian and classroom teacher is to continue to adopt and adapt what I do for my own professional growth and the guidance of other teachers, and to provide the best learning experiences for students by embracing entrepreneurial learning.

In this course I hope to ‘go beyond’ in my own learning to understand what exactly is worth learning, and consequently worth teaching in the world of infowhelm.  This will enable me to reimagine and reinvent the teaching and learning that happens in my classroom and provide realistic and future-proof experiences for each and every student I teach.

Reference List

Class Room. [Photographer]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.
http://quest.eb.com/search/115_2675695/1/115_2675695/

Crockett, L., Jukes, I., & Churches, A. (2011). Literacy is not enough [Kindle edition]. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Literacy-NOT-Enough-Century-Fluencies-ebook/dp/B00NA1VQ1S/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1426395494

Elementary School Classroom. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.
http://quest.eb.com/search/139_1940125/1/139_1940125/

Elsom, J. [JasonElsom].  (2015, January 31).  Finally.. books have had their time [Tweet].  Retrieved from https://twitter.com/KatSchrav/status/561269413685387265

Galuga, L. [lisegaluga]. (2014, August 12). Embracing the new age of search literacy! [Tweet]. Retrieved from https://twitter.com/KatSchrav/status/499330149884522497

Seely Brown, J. (2012, September 18). The global one room schoolhouse: John Seely Brown (highlights from JSB’s keynote at DML2012 [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiGabUBQEnM#action=share

Student Goal Setting – Make your goals SMILE

As educators we know that it is essential for us to encourage our students to set goals at the start of the year so that they are motivated in their learning and consider the effort they to need put into their study to achieve the outcomes they want.  At the beginning of last year, I asked my year eight class to create their own goals for their first year of secondary school and we revisited these goals in the middle of the year and again at the end of the year.  While it was great for the students to see how well they had achieved their goals at the end of the year and reflect on their mistakes and successes,  I believe we missed some crucial steps along the way.  I may have been successful in making the students aware of their short-term goals, however I completely missed the bigger picture. While short-term goals are important, if we are encouraging future-proof and life-long learning, our short term-goals must work in tessellation with long-term goals. Often, we cut ourselves short by only setting short-term or year-long goals, without considering how we will further these goals once they have been achieved. My moment of realisation came when, on the first day of year nine, I asked the same class to remember the goals  they had set at the beginning of year eight – I saw the sea of blank faces in front of me; of course, the students couldn’t remember their goals from the previous year. I resolved that this year, instead of setting three goals to work on over the course of the year, we would consider the big-picture first and then narrow our goals into achievable steps.

SMILEgoals

I asked the students to consider five important factors when setting their new goals:

Specific – goals must be specific.  Setting the goal that they are going to be a better student will be hard to measure and achieve because it isn’t specific enough. By making it more specific, for example, to  study more effectively or, become more organised with school and study habits, students are to be explicit with themselves about what they want to achieve.

Measurable – how are their goals measurable? There is no point in setting a goal if it can’t be measured.  Students need to consider how they will know when they were on track to achieving their goal.  What would they use to measure their success? Who/what would they use to keep themselves accountable for their goals? Some people like to tell others their goals to help them be accountable, others like to keep goals to themselves.  Whatever a student chooses is fine, as long as they know  how they can measure the success of their goals.

Incremental – can they achieve their goals in increments or step-by-step? For example, if one of their goals was to move from achieving a ‘C’ in a subject to achieving an ‘A’, what are the realistic steps they will to take  to be successful? If the steps are hard to define, this is a sign that the goal needs to be refined.

Long-Term – how will the goal help them in the long-term?  This involves students looking at the bigger picture and starting to consider what they want to achieve in their life during and after school (for example, the subjects and skills and they will need to work on to achieve university entrance).

Easy to achieve – goals won’t always to be easy to achieve however, they need to be realistic. Ask the student to consider if  the goal will be easy for THEM to achieve.  An individual who has never ice skated setting a goal that involves them becoming an olympic ice skater in a year, will find this is not easy (or realistic) for them to achieve.  Similarly, if the student is not passionate about their goals, there is a good chance they’ll become disinterested or unmotivated along the way.

Once the students have planned out their goals, ask them to upload them to their Professional Learning Blog/Site or document them somewhere so that you  can see how you can assist them in achieving their goals. I also think it’s important for you to model this process to your students.  Document your goals for the year on your class LMS or website so that students can see you have direction in your own learning.  Whatever you do, ensure that students aren’t documenting their goals in a notebook that will be thrown out at the end of the year – I have definitely learnt from that mistake 🙂

Why do teachers like to collaborate about practice but teach in private?

Education: turning mirrors into windows

I have been wanting to start blogging about my professional practice and ideas for a while now, however, was unsure of my exact purpose and direction.  As a future-forward educator I absolutely love the ability we have in the twenty-first century to remove the walls of the classroom and consider learning as something we can do in any location, at any time.  What I have been struggling with for a while is the question of why there are so many educators who don’t get excited about this notion?  I attended the Middle Years of Schooling (MYSA) conference last week and one of the speakers touched on the topic of vulnerability and how it can affect many educators.  This really hit home for me. Why, as teachers, are we so excited about collaboration, yet too scared to actually open up our classroom to others? There are so many reasons why teachers could feel threatened about removing the walls of their classroom, including feeling judged, scared, threatened and so on.  However, if we are going to be educators of the twenty-first century, we need to be transparent in our practice as well as being collaborative.  It’s no longer realistic to expect that teaching will open happen inside the four walls of our classroom.  If we are providing our students with learning experiences and skills that will prepare them for an unknown future, we need to embrace the notion that learning happens beyond our physical environment.  This helps me to articulate to the purpose of my blog, I can preach about transcending the walls of the classroom all I want, but nothing will change unless I provide ideas and examples on how this can happen.  Hopefully, this will assist us in changing the mindset that what happens in the classroom is private.

Most days I wake up and want to change the world of education in one foul swoop, but today I know it has to be with one small step at a time.  Watch this space to see how exactly how educators can begin to remove the walls of their classroom.. one brick at a time. Welcome to the future of learning.