Rising to the Challenge

We are constantly challenged to remain current in the fast changing educational landscape. Leveraging knowledge of others is crucial and much of what we have been able to achieve has been as a result of interaction with the broader educational community. This is a landscape where the possibilities offered by technology are outstripping pedagogical practices.This statement by Thornburg in 2004, surprisingly, still holds currency.

“The notion of educational practice as the impartation of a (largely decontextualised) body of information to be regurgitated on examinations is dead. It has been dead for a long time, although vestiges of it seem to have survived. But consider this: this model of education is experiencing its own demise simply because it is inadequate for the educational needs of young people entering a dynamic workforce where lifelong learning and creativity are among the few certainties for success.” (Expectations, 2004, Thornburg Center)
  
Exploration of literature makes it abundantly clear that some systems are harnessing technology and pedagogy with greater success. Certainly we are seeing innovation occurring in Asia and Scandinavia. If we take PISA assessments as a litmus we must believe that some systems are working more effectively than others. 

“An in-depth report by the Grattan Institute on the successes of four of the top five territories—Hong Kong, Shanghai, South Korea and Singapore—found that the success of the East Asian ‘tiger’ countries in PISA is likely to be connected to reforms that have developed the capacity of teachers.”(Ben Jensen, Catching Up: Learning from the Best School Systems in East Asia (Melbourne: Grattan Institute, 2012)

“No education system in East Asia that participates in international tests ranks below the international average. Such outstanding performance has led to the perception that East Asian education systems, particularly Shanghai, Hong Kong, Korea, and Singapore, exemplify practices and policies worthy of emulation worldwide”(Jensen, 2012) (OECD, 2011, 2014; Tucker, 2014, 2011) (Miao & Reynolds, 2014). (Ref: Zhao, Y. (2015). Lessons that matter: What should we learn from Asia?, Mitchell Institute discussion and policy paper No. 04/2015.)

There is a strong perception that the strength of these systems, and I must include Finland here, is that these systems are actively evolving to embrace pedagogical practices which better prepare students for a 21st Century World. To continue our evolution we should look beyond the traditional conferences and courses. We need to look at regions that are innovating differently and importantly are perceived to be succeeding. We should see what can be learned from the innovators in Asia.

“Outside observers have largely neglected or misunderstood these reform efforts, either failing to address why and how East Asian education systems have engaged in continuous reform over the past three decades or mistakenly treating some of these reform efforts as reasons for outstanding performance on international assessments. As a result, many of the popularly promoted lessons drawn by outside observers relate at best to the recent past of education in East Asia, while these systems have been actively working to create an education of the future.” (Ref: Zhao, Y. (2015). Lessons that matter: What should we learn from Asia?, Mitchell Institute discussion and policy paper No. 04/2015.)

And finally this comment, while reflecting on the UK system, is relevant here too. 

“Success will go to those individuals and nations that are swift to adapt, slow to complain and open to change. The task for UK policymakers is to help its citizens rise to this challenge.” (Andreas Schleicher is deputy director for education and special adviser on education policy to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Secretary General.)

Here I have included links to a couple of conferences occurring in Singapore and Hong Kong later this year which look worthwhile opportunities. (Wish list items)

https://asia.bettshow.com

http://www.ltexpo.com.hk/expo/who-will-visit/

Readings:

http://www.mitchellinstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Lessons_that_matter_what_should_we_learn_from_Asias_school_systems.pdf

http://grattan.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/129_report_learning_from_the_best_main.pdf

https://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6301764

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/28/finland-education-overhaul_n_6958786.html

Journeying in a Sandbox: Learning Spaces

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For some time we have been considering how schools can innovate their learning spaces. I must stress here that while we are talking here about changing our spaces what we are really talking about is changing, or adapting, our pedagogy to the changing needs of students, teachers and the community in general.
This was my blog entry in May 2013: A Different Direction – Thinking about learning spaces.
https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/a-different-direction-thinking-about-learning-spaces/

When I attended the Edutech Conference in June this year I had the pleasure of listening to a couple of educators talking about how their school had started to think about innovating their learning spaces.

“A couple of the leadership team from Margaret River Primary School told a compelling story. Their presentation started with a parody which set the mood for their entertaining presentation. The learning environment that they have created, at Margaret River, was really engaging and exciting. Their simple incorporation of Caves, Waterholes, Campfires and Mountain Tops as a natural part of the learning environment was impressive. Some great ideas from these inspired educators.”
From my earlier blog entry: Two Days in Brisbane – Edutech 2014 https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/two-days-in-brisbane-edutech-2014/

Also visit Margaret River Primary here: http://mriverps.wa.edu.au

We have also been very interested in the work of Stephen Harris (Northern Beaches Christian School). https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/29167837/Edutech%20Brisbane%202013_Harris.pdf

https://rhp123.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/16ce0-stephen-harris_virtual-pedagogical-physical-space-21st-century.pdf

Additionally we have had the opportunity to visit a number of schools to look at learning spaces. Some of these were independent visits and others via http://cefpi.org.au.

These visits inspired this post: Two Different Learning Space Concepts
https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2014/06/19/two-different-learning-space-concepts/
And also Exploring Spaces – Lite: https://rhp123.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/exploring-spaces-lite/

We have also met regularly throughout the last couple of years with a small group from our school community to discuss innovation. We had discussed the idea of sandboxing a space / spaces ahead of a more general redesign / building program. The basic rationale for this is described below.

“A sandbox is a place where you have the power and control to quickly iterate and gather feedback that you can use to grow your established business. A familiar concept to software developers, it’s an isolated environment that you can update quickly and where you don’t have to worry about breaking anything. Beyond merely a test framework on top of your existing site, this is a completely separate space that might share content and functionality with your main site but which can be experimented with and run independently from your main site, with you and your marketing team in charge. It might look a little different and it might work a little different, but it’s still your business underneath. You get to dictate the priorities, you get to dictate the pace and you get to fail fast.”
(Ref: http://www.wizecommerce.com/thinking-lean-marketing-team-sandbox/#sthash.2L27dX5V.dpuf )
In many ways this isn’t a new concept we have used the idea before in our initial iPad trial where we tested the iPad in our environment and then resolved issues prior to a much wider application.

All of this has culminated in a meeting with a company – Furnware
http://www.furnwareaus.com.au/furnware%20showcase

We intend trialling some furniture in both an Infant and Primary classroom to see how we can innovate our learning spaces. We recognise that different age groups require different environments so we have elected to trial in Year K and Year 6. Furnware will help us in the process of design. We have asked Furnware to look at the two spaces (double classrooms) and suggest ideas based on their experience. We will then use these ideas to help formulate our own design in consultation with teachers. In the case of the space for the Primary invention involving the children in the design process will also be important.
In the spirit of the ‘Sandbox’ we accept that some things will work really well and that others won’t and we hope that we will invent spaces in the future which will reflect this learning.