the dawn of learning

By robynjay On January 22nd, 2010

I’d been pondering the skills and capabilities and attributes I think the contemporary education system needs to support in young people today when I came across the following video thanks to a post from Rod Lucier in his The Clever Sheep blog. I first saw it a couple of years ago but it was good to revisit ….

So what do young people need to effectively operate, and be the change agents, in a world that will see substantial change in their lifetimes ….

In his post – Empathy: An Overlooked 21st Century Skill – Christopher D. Sessums reflects on the same.

He refers to the work of Henry Jenkins et al who in 2006 list …
•    Play — the capacity to experiment with one’s surroundings as a form of problem-solving
•    Performance — the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery
•    Simulation — the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real-world processes
•    Appropriation — the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content
•    Multitasking — the ability to scan one’s environment and shift focus as needed to salient details.
•    Distributed Cognition — the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities
•    Collective Intelligence — the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal
•    Judgment — the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources
•    Transmedia Navigation — the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities
•    Networking — the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information
•    Negotiation — the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.

and to Tony Wagner’s seven survival skills:
•    Critical thinking and problem solving
•    Collaboration and leading by influence
•    Agility and adaptability
•    Initiative and entrepreneurial-ism
•    Effective oral and written communication
•    Accessing and analyzing information
•    Curiosity and imagination

To these Christopher himself adds empathy.

So, what’s missing?
Here’s my own additions. I’d like to hear what you would add….

  • creativity and lateral thinking
  • compassion and civility
  • perseverance and persistence
  • the ability to critique and validate
  • the ability to filter and synthesize large amounts of information
  • cultural awareness
  • resilience
  • balance
  • risk-taking
  • the ability to self-promote and manage a virtual identity/ presence and content

The big question is of course, how well does the current education system acknowledge and focus on these?

education needs innovation

By robynjay On January 20th, 2010

In light of my post – Education: right or privilege – this morning I came across the Jan 5 post – Innovation needed now – Education, by Jeffrey Phillips on the Innovate on Purpose blog. It’s interesting to read to further elaborate on the issues at hand. While it focuses on the US, the same issues exist here in Australia.

The post responds to a query re “what product or sector is in most need of innovation” and outlines why the education system should be a focus.

In summary he suggests that:

  • the primary and secondary education system is based on learning models from the 19th century; it is irrelevant to today’s world
  • we aren’t teaching kids relevant skills or how to learn, and we often channel all of kids into a collegiate (university) experience – “  Why do we continue to prepare the students for “knowledge worker” jobs when clearly there are many demands and opportunities, and proclivities for other skills?  We need to resurrect the concept of apprenticeship and place more emphasis and value on learning skills beyond the classroom.  We need better definitions about what kids need to know, and more importantly, we need to teach them how to learn and how to teach themselves and others.”
  • since most educational systems are government monopolies rather than private enterprises, there’s little innovation and little incentive for new entrants
  • the educational system is clearly failing – failing the students, failing the teachers and failing to create people who can join the workforce or create their own companies.  “ At this point we need disruptive innovation – a complete rethinking of the pedagogy, curriculum, technology and intent of education, followed by a restructuring of how education is offered and consumed.”

More on the need for educational change coming…..


cc licensed flickr photo shared by State Library of New South Wales collection

engaging parents

By robynjay On January 19th, 2010

NZ colleague Stephen Harlow recently tweeted a link to an interesting paper this week regarding parent involvement in schools – Beyond the Bake Sale: A Community-
Based Relational Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools
from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

I’ve experienced three different scenarios and from both inside and outside the system. My boys were lucky enough to spend at least some of their primary school years at a one teacher rural school (I hope they agree with that!). The school was in a close-knit community of people from very diverse backgrounds but who generally owned land and were committed to community development, and to each other. The boys teacher also lived in that community. Some parents had educational backgrounds (and interestingly quite a few went on to retrain in education-related fields in later years) but most were farming, parenting, studying or simply escaping from the big-smoke.
The school always welcomed the presence of parents and there were always parents around. Once a week we ran activity afternoons where parents could share their interests and skills (however obscure) with small groups of kids who chose their activity from the offerings for that term. The NSW governance structure ‘School Councils’ came into force at the time and we all did our bit in various roles on that, in addition to P&C fundraising activities. The level of involvement was up to each parent but there was certainly a sense that anyone was welcome.

Larger non-rural schools are a different case.
Even as an educator myself I generally stayed away. Partly this was because I was working and there was little opportunity to do much out of hours. School Councils and P&Cs were cliquey and there was a sense that they were run by a parent ‘elite’. I guess I made a decision that I had done my bit at Afterlee and it was time for others to contribute. IN dealings with teachers, I made a point of not identifying myself as an educator and had some rather interesting interactions with teachers who certainly did their best to treat me as an imbecile, and at best in a patronising manner. I felt like a child entering the domain and was treated as one. There were exceptions of course.

So it’s hardly surprising that many/most parents prefer to stay away. Given that many had negative schooling experience themselves, their child’s attendance is a necessary evil to be done with.

While snippets of the paper resonated on the whole I have to say I found the paper pretty patronising. There was a sense of designing programs to deal with parent inadequacies, of telling parents what they should do. Of the case studies provided I thought the Logan Square Neighborhood Assoc’s ‘Literacy Ambassador program’ totally pompous and uninviting.
Fault for non-engagement was placed on parental low-income .

Schools are a public service and teachers public servants. It is their practices that need to adapt. Services need to be offered that will entice the community in. Night classes designed and run by community members need to be encouraged using the infrastructure. If parents are hesitant to enter the school events and meetings should be taken outside school gates, in the parents comfort zone. Schools need to listen rather than preach. ALL types of contribution need to be respected and applauded – if parents wish to ‘bake’ celebrate that not denigrate it. Find out what the parents’ strengths are and ask if they will share them. Identify the skills of parents and arrange for them to share/teach those skills and interests. Make an ‘open door’ policy and truly welcome parents to enter the classroom. I’ve seen the faces of young children (unfortunately lost in later years LOL) beam at having their parent present. Parents know when they are simply tolerated – they’re not stupid. Just having parents inside the classroom is enough to begin with. Let them get a feel for what goes on before negotiating a task/role. Don’t assume they want to listen to children read. In fact don’t assume they are good readers themselves!

Following on from my last post, we need to rethink the education structures and design. We need movement and overlap between ages and focus. Increasingly we will need to break down the walls and consider online opportunities to enrich the lives of learners and to make full use of the rich pool of resources that is the local, and global, community.


cc licensed flickr photo shared by sean dreilinger