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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Freeing up working lives

As I was sifting through some video clips I came across this one from Greg Whitby in which he talks about the development of 2 schools designed to deliver learning in today's world. It's a few years old now.

About 2:30 minutes into the video Greg states:

What we are actually on about is freeing up the working lives of staff. The current model of schooling actually enslaves teachers I believe. We tell them what time to start and when to finish….

What I'm saying is forget all that. You negotiate all that. I want you to be able to show to me that you've improved the learning outcomes for these kids through your interaction. How you do it, in what time and in what space, I don't care….

If you can do that in a more relaxed environment, that's fine by me. What we're doing is providing them and recognising them as professionals in their own right. Allowing them to make intelligent decisions. And that's been missing for so long. We've actually, through the schooling process, deskilled our teachers for far too long.

In my previous entry on "Does schooling kill creativity?" I wondered with schooling can kill the creativity of teachers to innovate.

As someone who has spent most of his career working at the system level I have been wondering whether, in seeking to deliver on learning in today's world, school systems adopt 19th and 20th Century approaches to professional learning and to managing staff that, in turn, deskills and deprofessionalises the professionals as leaders of learning.

Is there a danger that systems focus on managing the what and how of professional learning in the absence of systems to manage professional knowledge that is created?

Can school systems be as flexible and responsive to contemporary professional learning as is being asked of schools today?

Or have education systems, as we understand them, had their time?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Space for Personalised Learning

There is another FutureLab project that is examining the necessity to re-design schools on the basis of a solid understanding of how learning can be supported.

This project is the Space for Personalised Learning (Space4PL). Space4PL is set within the UK.

"Space4PL is an ambitious project funded by the DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) that will provide schools with tools and support to re-design their spaces according to a clear educational vision, rather than following the superficial appeal of new buildings and resources which court the risk of being disconnected from effective learning."

"They will be talking to pupils, teachers and parents, identifying possibilities and testing actual design solutions to personalise learning. The findings and the tools that will emerge from this project will be communicated to all schools in the country, providing them with help and advice as they are approaching the most delicate phases of their renovation and re-building programmes."

Playing Spaces, Learning Spaces

I love FutureLab! I always enjoying getting their newsletter. The February 2009 Newsletter linked through to a presentation by Tim Rudd (photo left) on Re-imagining the design of outdoor play and learning spaces.

Whilst the presentation is about 43 minutes in length, it is well worth having a look at. The screen shot below is linked to the presentation.

The presentation explores the link between school design and personalisation. The challenge is put forward that school design requires visioning and thinking differently.

I think this is particularly pertinent with the recent announcement (4 February, 2009) by the Australian Government to fund 7,700 primary schools to construct or upgrade buildings.

There is a danger that we set about building the same style of buildings that will not serve us well into the future.

Tim Rudd from FutureLab puts forward the challenge to place children at the centre of the design process and to involve children as co-designers.

In the presentation a number of questions are posed that got me thinking - no answers - just lots of thoughts!
  • Should we be even thinking in terms of "school"?

  • How do you actually think of a school as a learning community?

  • How are children involved in the co-design of learning spaces?

  • Do our environments really constitute areas that really stimulate people and get them to think and relax and play as well?
He argues that in building schools there has been a lack of emphasis on outdoor learning spaces

"because it’s building schools and everybody automatically starts to think about the structure."

He believes that outdoor spaces in schools are often under-utilised and often unimaginative.

In developing outdoor learning spaces he explores the place of technologies (handheld and projection technologies) and the possibilities for developing sensory environments.

FutureLab have also published a handbook, Reimagining outdoor learning spaces which maybe of interest.

How schools kill creativity

As I am presently between work at the moment I have had the opportunity to catch up on some of my podcasts from TEDTalks. One of my favorites is this TED video of Sir Ken Robinson. It is very provocative, insightful and funny.

Certainly one of the areas that I am particularly interested in is the place of creativity within teaching to stimulate and promote innovation to transform schooling and learning. I often wonder to what extent schools kill the creativity and passion of teachers.

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