Beginning in Birmingham on the 4th of June this year, The Guardian in partnership with Zurich Municipal are organising their first-ever roadshow centred on 'Planning for your school's future'. The venue will also take place in London, Cheltenham and Liverpool in the following days.
Expert speakers, school leaders and business managers will all come together to share insight and provide advice on the best methods of practice and strategic planning, while also allowing a large scope for discussion and questions.
Key speakers include the charismatic educational thinker Sir Tim Brighhouse who, before retiring in 2007, has held fundamental positions in the educational landscape including Chief Education Officer for both Oxfordshire and Birmingham and Chief Adviser for London Schools, where he figure-headed the turnaround of performance in schools in the lowest performing boroughs.
Every day we come across a multitude of acronyms which can be confusing and, at times, impossible to understand. Do you know your LAN from your WAN or your MDM from your CMS?
Acronyms are familiar only to individuals in their specific field and can often mean different things in different professions. They are widely used in the workplace and increasingly in the technological world. Keeping up with the fast pace of technology can be an arduous task, so I have attempted to explain the meaning of some of the more common acronyms used on a daily basis.
What are we educating our children for?
"Just in the past couple years, we've seen digital tools display skills and abilities that … eat deeply into what we human beings do for a living.” (Andrew McAfee)
"Are droids taking our jobs?" is a very powerful presentation by Andrew McAfee which looks at the great changes in civilisation. One change trumps them all: the technological advances that led to the industrial revolution. For the first time, humans were no longer restricted by the power of muscles, with machines replacing horses, and manufacturing on a mass scale replacing skilled craftspeople.
We are now experiencing another great revolution: the digital revolution that, if anything, will have a more profound effect on the world. We are seeing developments like the cognitive IBM computer Watson able to make decisions, and personal assistants like Apple’s Siri that can act as an interface between humans and machines. Linking these two would give us something capable of making better decisions than the vast majority of humans. This is not the future, this is the capability now; if Moore's Law is followed, in six years’ time, these are likely to be sixteen times as powerful. So we will no longer be restricted by the limitations of human brain power. This begs the question: what is the role of human beings going to be in the future and, more importantly, how will we equip our young people with the skills to cope with this new world where the only certainty is uncertainty?
In my last post, we talked about “digital citizens”, the modern student who lives in two worlds. One he can touch with his hands, the other only with his mind. It’s this latter one that has revolutionised education, provided opportunities for students to talk to experts on astronomy, walk through the ancient ruins of Stonehenge, and dissect a frog without touching a scalpel. This world is scintillating, but challenging, demanding students to be risk-takers and inquirers.
Inquiry and education
That last inquiry has changed the K-12 classroom from what many experienced just a decade ago, for students cannot be inquirers without being risk-takers. They take responsibility for their own learning by following practical strategies for uncovering information despite the billions (literally) of places to look. Consider this: If you Google 'space', you get over 4 billion hits. That much information is worthless. Digital citizens develop practical strategies for refining this list to a specific need.
Isn't it curious that all of you and and all of your students use the internet daily but none of you exploit its potential for teaching, learning and creativity? Isn't it curious that schools force their students to inhabit this alternative reality for six or seven hours every day where the internet doesn't exist?
Earlier this week I led a seminar for PGCE students at Nottingham University on the use of the internet and its potential for encouraging pupils’ creativity. To start, I asked those present to put their hands up if they used the internet daily. All hands went up. I then asked them to keep their hands up if their pupils used the internet on a daily basis. After a moment’s thought, all hands stayed up.
However, when I asked the PGCE students – who had all finished their first teaching placement – to keep their hands up if they planned or been encouraged to plan lessons, sequences of lessons or homework that required the use of the internet, all hands went down. Isn’t it curious, I asked them, that all of you and and all of your students use the internet daily but none of you exploit its potential for teaching, learning and creativity? Isn’t it curious that schools force their students to inhabit this alternative reality for six or seven hours every day where the internet doesn’t exist?
With the advances in technology hitting our classrooms on such a regular basis, we sometimes forget that the old ways are sometimes the best ways. You can have all the technology in the world, but sometimes being creative with what you've got can be a lot more powerful.
I stumbled across a fantastically creative, but amazingly simple, website a few months ago called Dear Photograph. Although the website is not intended to be an educational tool, with a bit of creative thinking, you'll find that the idea can be used to promote learning across a range of subjects.
I spent some time in a local school this week talking to some members of staff about implementing educational technology. It made me realise that I haven’t talked nearly enough here about how to do that successfully. It’s simultaneously straightforward and painfully difficult.
Let me explain.
Technically, pretty much anything is possible. Short of thought-transfer and teleporting to the moon, we live in a world with endless possibilities on the technical front. Whatever it is you want to do is probably possible.
Sucessfully implementing technology in your organisation is therefore not a technology issue. Yes, it’s important to get right. But no, if you just focus on that your technology implementation will not work.
Here’s some advice for those seeking to introduce a new technology into their organisation.
Photo credit: Veribatim
Let’s face it, there is little doubt that tomorrow is going to be electronic, and that's an exciting thought… or at least it should be! For this very reason, many educators are striving to embrace technology. Their students are growing up in an ever-changing technological world and, as educators, we need to keep ahead, be innovative, and integrate technology effectively and securely into the curriculum. Technology helps to motivate our students, keep them engaged, aids communication and creativity, and helps them to develop the skills to work collaboratively. Whilst the less enthusiastic are yet to fully embrace technology, it is time to recognise that technology has become more than registration, planning, e-mailing or other administrative tasks.
Trying to change the mind-set of teachers, parents and governors, who are yet to come on-board, may well be seen as an arduous task but they do need to start thinking differently. The real challenge is that young people think differently and, quite simply, the educational and technological worlds are coming together and accommodating their needs whether we like it or not. Young people need to be equipped with both technological and social skills to take them into the future and ready for the world of work.
Have you noticed what's happening in your child's school? Technology. There's rarely a lesson taught, be it math or science or health, that doesn't include some form of technology to enhance its message, increase its reach, improve its communication. If you haven't been in the classroom lately, drop by this week when you pick up your wonderful student. There's likely to be a Smartboard (or some sort of interactive screen) on the wall, a pod of computers (if not 1:1 laptops) overflowing from a corner, maybe iPads on desktops or in a mobile cart, a digital camera and microphones to record events, streaming video from Discovery Channel. Those ubiquitous samples of student work that traditionally clutter the walls now include many created with computers.
Today's education happens by standing on the shoulders of technology innovation.
Have you ever been to a lecture that was so interesting that you hadn't noticed that an hour had gone by? There are some very talented individuals who can engage students purely on their skill as on orator. I stand back and admire the skill of these people and their gift. However, as a visual learner I would find this hard to sustain for a long period.
With an aging population we find that there are many teachers who may retire in the next 5-10 years. With the fast pace of technology, how can older teachers and new teachers keep up with the changes when for many years the same methods have worked? This is a question I find myself often engaging in with teachers and I am always met with a variety of responses.