Time out to think about the big picture

“Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it….Richard Gerver”

I am an avid reader of blogs, happy twitter browser, keen participant in educational on-line seminars and an attendee at conferences.    I love being inspired by people who have a vision of where education needs to head in order to fill the needs of the students in our schools.

Recently, I attended “Richard Gerver: Harnessing the potential of the next generation” and it provided a reinforcement of a message that seems to be coming from many other sources.  As is also the case, it also left me wondering how can we translate this message in our schools?

With a little trepidation 350 teachers settled in a large school hall at 9am, knowing we would be there till at least 3pm.   “How could one person captivate an audience for that long and keep us from acknowledging that the chairs were hard and remembering we had other duties beyond the room?”     Well, Richard achieved that with a wonderful combination of humour, anecdotes and challenges.  I did not notice people getting wriggly in their seats until about 2.50pm.   He is a masterful storyteller, commentator and forward thinker: able to pass on a powerful message in a colourful and creative way.   So much so, the likes of Google and Tony Blair’s government have sought his contribution.

Many current educational experts are telling us that the current education system is not qualified to fulfill the needs of our students and their futures.  It was designed for the Industrial age and apparently we are now in the ‘Organic Age’  (must look that up).  I listen and wonder, how much impact can a group of teachers in a small primary school make?  We are working within a system that has a history, has demands from parents, as well as the education system that prescribes many of our behaviours.

“Are we preparing them for their futures?”  Richard pointed out that it is unfair to say that, as “At what point are children allowed to be told that they are living their lives and not preparing for them?”   “Does education make you earn the right to be a person?”   I struggle with this concept as I can hear the argument that says they need skills and knowledge, as they don’t know, what they don’t know.   The argument comes back that successful educational systems are now not content driven but rather competencies and skills based.     They need to learn how to learn, problem solve and think.  “School as broker of education not the deliverer.”   Teachers helping students learn how to seek out information and process it, not deliver it in a preaching format.

Gerver referred to the Harry Jenkins work “Confronting the challenges of participatory Culture: Media education for the 21st Century”. (see below)  On later review, this is a long document with lots of interesting aspects.

Harry Jenkins

Gerver raised a similar point to Sir Ken Robinson when considering how much creativity children loose as they age – as society ‘teaches’ them to conform.    The value of play was again highlighted.   This gives me confidence to continue with some work on Minecraft and other games based learning.  It also reinforces the ‘Developmental learning’ program in the Junior classrooms.

It was very affirming to hear Gerver highlight the need for collaboration – a focus our School Change team has recently identified.    He told the story of the successful “Grangeton project” at a school in UK almost 20 years ago, where they turned around the academic achievements by turning around the curriculum.   Identifying the competencies, using student choices and ideas and creating a curriculum that had great success.   Collaboration – with students, families and the wider community were crucial to the success.

I liked his analysis of teachers as “Experts in human potential” – it affirms the skills that teachers have.

The motto of the school Gerver lead to such great success was  “Live a little, learn a little. Laugh a lot.”    He certainly modeled that and made us think.  As usual, I have more questions than answers.