New Year…New Mindset?

In her blog post 18 Predications for Educational Trends in 2012, Barbara Bray posits that education has become a completely different beast to that seen prowling the corridors of educational institutions several years ago – and certainly very different to the model I for one was brought up with.  Her principal point is that there has been a massive ‘power’ shift: no longer do teachers, formerly regarded as the gatekeepers of all knowledge, stand in front of row upon row of empty vessels didactically filling each student’s brain.   As Barbara states: ‘Students are taking responsibility for learning how to do this or that on their own… (and) mostly outside of school.’  She claims that today’s learners are a different breed, wanting to learn wherever they are, ‘whenever’ they are and in ways that work for them. 

I certainly agree that this change is happening – indeed HAS happened – but there are some pretty big hurdles to be overcome if this new way of learning is encouraged, supported and built upon by those working in education.  Here’s what I think may get in the way:

Mindsets

Teachers need to be aware of the ways that today’s students manage their learning, and of the tools they use to do this. Many teachers remain unbending, believing that their way is the best way, even if this means standing in front of a whiteboard with an overhead projector, confiscating mobile phones and other gadgets at the start of the lesson, dictating ream after ream of notes and reciting, parrot fashion, seemingly endless tranches of facts. Though this is a dying breed, there are still those who need the time and the support needed for a mindset shift, allowing them to move away from the old and becoming less the sage on the stage, more the guide on the side. 

Staff Development

Many staff development sessions do not focus on the ‘frontline’ skills teaching staff want or need, instead being driven by Human Resources departments, national targets and the need to secure funding.  Harking back to my first point, I would hazard a guess that for every teacher stuck in the didactic paradigm, there are three who want to learn how to use web 2.0 tools, improve their mastery of VLEs , learn how to use iPads with students or simply make their PowerPoint presentations more dynamic and interactive.  Were teachers able to request the training they wanted or needed, rather than being told what they need to do by non-teaching management teams, the aforementioned mindset shift may be more easily implemented and managed?

IT Services

IT teams in educational establishments are often Windows trained, so cannot fix non-Microsoft equipment.  With entire arts and media departments reliant on iMacs and MacBooks (as machines better suited to graphics and music-based programmes) and an ever-increasing number of students using Android and iOS-enabled devices, this needs to change immediately.  Students have to be able to access their devices…and teachers need to be familiar enough with these devices to use them in their teaching!  (I feel like making an anology about mechanics who will only fix Renaults or something, but that may be driving the message home with somethinhg akin to a sledgehammer!)

So, here are Barbara’s predictions for education in 2012.  I think she’s absolutely spot on…but do have have two niggling concerns.  Firstly: why is this a prediction for 2012? Students have been building their own personalised learning environments for years now, so this shouldn’t be new!  Secondly: while institutional mangers with little or no knowledge of ‘life on the shop floor’ dictate what is best for teachers (based on targets and funding) and IT Services departments dictate what teachers and students can and can’t tap into based on their own preferences and training, teaching will remain a didactic, technology-free practice, with students effectively stepping back in time for 8 hours a day.

Now I’m starting to rant…so here are Barbara’s predictions in full.

1.     Teachers understand how each student learns. They use different methods of assessing how each student learns best and along with each learner keep track of their learning.

2.     Assessment is ongoing since learning is not a constant. Learners are collecting evidence of their learning and reflecting on their learning.

3.     Teachers collaborate with teachers that teach the same subject or grade to design or adapt instruction that is individualized. This means instruction is paced to the learning needs of their students so students can pace through the content at different levels based on their learning needs.

4.     Teachers share content and lessons online and realize that it’s not that important to reinvent the wheel or keep content to themselves anymore.

5.     Teachers are no longer the hardest working people in the classroom. They are appreciated as a facilitator or “guide on the side” instead of the only content expert. Teachers are more like a coach encouraging students to find their strengths and go with them.

6.     Learners determine their strengths and weaknesses and share their expertise with other students and teachers.

7.     More instruction is flipped where teachers and/or students find or create and upload lessons as videos or on websites to the Internet so learners learn the content out of school and then do the real work in the classroom.

8.     The classroom can be anywhere at anytime. Learning can happen anywhere. Everyone is a learner and a teacher. More learning is mobile and on mobile devices.

9.     Students have access to what they need when they need it. If a school or district does not have the resources, the learner brings their own device to school. The school represents the real-world and all devices are allowed. Everyone is responsible and trusted.

10.  Homework is different. Learners watch videos and lessons, learn about content, and learn from each other out of school. They take more control of their learning. No more busywork.

11.  Forward thinking IT departments allow YouTube Education, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media so students can use real-world tools in school.

12.  Schools and universities accept prior knowledge, realize that experience matters and students are open to challenge a course or test.

13.  Assessment is not just about test scores. Learners collect and reflect on evidence of learning. Assessment is ongoing and everyone is part of a feedback loop and supporting each other.

14.  Teachers are not evaluated by test scores. They have a coach or mentor and are part of a team that supports each other. Teachers collect evidence of learning in their classroom as an ePortfolio.

15.  Students lead parent conferences with their teachers. They own how they are learning and ask for feedback and help in monitoring their progress.

16.  Teachers, parents, and other learners are part of each learner’s learning team.

17.  Professional development involves more collaboration and support for teachers based on their own needs. Coaching teachers and students involves designing assessment strategies, facilitating collaborative planning sessions and redesigning learning environments, guiding student experts who flip the classroom and create websites for the classroom, and helping behind the scenes with ePortfolio design.

18.  Learning is personalized. Creativity and curiosity is back in the classroom. Learning is passion-driven and joy matters. Learners drive and own their learning.

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