Opening up thinking about education today for tomorrow - Imagining possibilities and solutions

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The death of education ... the dawn of learning

This is a wonderful and inspiring clip (sponsored by the Pearson Foundation for CosN) that is doing the rounds at the moment.
It opens up thinking about what is and what could be and should be in education, schooling and learning.

At the 2008 ICSEI conference, Susan Rona, a Hungarian-born Canadian who has worked on a project to achieve basic educational opportunities for the Roma (gypsy) children in four countries in Central Europe, put forward the proposition that education is important, but also put the question as to whether school is important.

Stephen Heppell was stronger in the clip in saying, "It's the death of education but the dawn of learning; and that makes me very happy!"

Imagine if schools were the "nearly now spaces".
Imagine if we did view schools as community sytems rather than a classroom systems.
Imagine if teachers had opportunities for global connecting.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Imaginings to develop innovation through networked learning

I'm excited because I have been able to organise David Jackson to come and spend a day working with colleagues.
In 2006 as part of my Churchill Fellowship I spent a day with David Jackson at the Networked Learning Group of the NCSL. The conversations and learnings from this day were significant.
It was from this day that I was introduced the the Three Fields of Knowledge.

From Networked Learning Communities: Learning about learning networks.

David, in my conversation with him in 2006, described the model of learning as follows:

In a learning activity there are three fields of knowledge and they should be represented in roughly equal proportions.

One of those fields is the knowledge that practitioners bring to the table. And that is where we should start, just as we do in the classroom with children. We build on prior knowledge. So we should honour, respect and build from the knowledge of practitioners.

Practitioners’ knowledge has two dimensions to it. One is their practitioner knowledge. The other is their context knowledge. The second one is really important because no one else has it. The knowledge of how to do it in our school is really a very important thing to bring to the table.

The second field of knowledge is the publicly available knowledge which we define as theory, research and the best practice elsewhere.

The third field of knowledge, which is where the whole construct of networking comes, is the new knowledge that we create together through collaborative, inquiry-based practices by building from the first two fields.

- David Jackson, Director, Network Learning Group, National College of School Leadership (meeting: 09/06/2006)

There is much that interests me about Networked Learning Communities in supporting innovation. The concepts of networking, learning, and communities when brought together can be quite powerful - as well as complex.

New concepts and learnings emerge from Networked Learning, Learning Networks, Networked Communities, Learning Communities, Networked Learning Communities.

I had this notion in my head that even if we had this holy grail of knowledge in our hand, if we had the knowledge that could transform the system, the system wouldn’t change because it isn’t orientated towards learning.

- David Jackson (meeting: 09/06/2006)

There are several things that I would like to follow up with David. These include:

  • Orientating systems towards learning
  • Working with the Three fields of knowledge to build system capacity
  • Designing and learning from networked learning communities
  • Identifying some of the pitfalls, danger spots and road blocks in working with large scale networks
  • Working with next practice thinking around professional learning, system learning and school improvement
  • Imagining a system where amazing practice was made visible and readily transferred to other sites
  • Imagining a system where the learning is transferred laterally across the system
  • Reskilling/reorientating the profession to networked learning and innovation.

At the heart is a focus on learning!

Probably the most powerful thing in our work is our model of learning. One of the points we make to people is that everyone is talking about learning, but what are the constructs in our heads when we use the word. Unless we all share a construct and understand what the disciplines are of the learning work we’re talking about then we are actually not going to go forward.

- David Jackson (meeting 09/06/2006)

One thing we know is that ‘top down’, outside-in change approaches are not working well in the medium to long term. School reforms have not succeeded in closing the gap in educational achievement between the most and least advantaged. Part of the solution lies within the profession, working within specific contexts. How are the insights and imaginations of practitioners and users to be employed in powerful and generative ways to develop innovation?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Designing Learning Spaces

It's funny how things sort of converge! Today I was in a meeting discussing the design of staff spaces to support teacher learning and collaboration. The regulations seemed to dominate the thinking as to why things couldn't be done differently.

Upon getting home I opened up my email to find an email from Futurelab,
a UK non-profit organisation that explores innovation in education. The email indicated that in January 2008 Futurelab conducted a workshop in which particpants explored personalising learning and school design.


The workshop explored

  • The biggest barriers
  • Principles of personalisation
  • Technologies and future learning opportunities
  • Student voice
  • Generated a set of outcomes of the workshop.

The summary document of the workshop, Learning spaces and personalisation workshop outcomes, makes for an interesting read.

Further information about this workshop can be found at the Themes section on learning spaces at Futurelab.

Futurelab has also produced a more comprehensive report on learning spaces, Opening education: What if … re-imagining learning spaces.

In addition, the blog FLUX is running a themed week this week (9-16 May 2008) on Learning Spaces. Entries include:

  • Tomorrow's schools more than just learning spaces
  • Personalising space and school redesign
  • A 'practical tool' for redesigning learning spaces?

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Design on Learning - Design for Learning

Moving beyond school design that is limited to removing walls between classrooms deserves some serious considerations.

How the spaces for learning are conceptualised requires some thinking about the possibilities in schools for learning in the 21st Century. So often those involved in the design process look at other schools which, more often than not, are bounded by existing concepts of school and schooling.

What if …

  • Our concept of school was bounded by a view of the school as a studio rather than the factory?

  • Those involved in the design process visited other sites of learning, such as museums, art galleries, workshops, studios and kept away from schools?

  • Students were actively engaged in the design process and conceptualising what spaces designed for learning might look like?

  • Our school sites were conceptualised as villages of learning?

  • Students worked with designers in exploring the challenges of designing spaces, developing concepts and engaging in following-up on the development of the learning spaces?

Some interesting work has been occurring in England by the Sorrell Foundation through a project called joinedupdesignforschools.

These following links from TeacherTV are worth checking out.

Series on joinedupdesignforschools

This series features six schools which have successfully participated in the Joinedupdesignforschools project. Pupils have the major say in how an aspect of their school's environment is improved.
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Video: joinedupdesignforschools - a place to chill

Architect Phin Manasseh works with pupils at Mounts Bay School in Cornwall to create an inspirational space with a social purpose but where learning takes place too.

Involving pupils in this way is a key part of the Joinedupdesignforschools project.
The brainchild of The Sorrell Foundation, the project gives pupils a major say in how an aspect of their school's environment is improved. The pupils are the clients, briefing designers who produce designs for their approval.

Phin Manasseh spoke of the success of the project. He said: "If all clients were like this, we?d have very different results."

The Joinedupdesignforschools project follows a four stage pattern:

  • The challenge
  • The brief
  • The conversation
  • The concept

A follow-up then looks at the school's success in finding the money to turn the creative designs into reality.
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