My son is currently back in New Zealand for a bit of a holiday. A fair number of our conversations over the last few days have centred on Yuval Noah Harari’s latest book which he is currently reading. Naturally I quickly turned to the section dealing with Education to see what he had to say on the role education needs to play is preparing our children to thrive in an age of bewilderment.
Harari is presenting the global picture centering on how we can ensure that humanity retains the ability to make sense of the world we have created. As an educator this global picture is vital in informing us as to how we structure learning to ensure that we are adequately preparing our children for their futures.
Harari’s key message in the section relating to education is that change is the only constant. The old stories are crumbling and no new story has so far emerged to replace them. Our political structures seem to be creaking, how has democracy given us Trump, how has Communism given us a seemingly super capitalist China?
If we need any convincing about this rate of change we need only look at this video.
The astronomical rise of Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon is a stark reminder of how the way we access information, communicate, and purchase have all been transformed since 2008.
There is no point saying that this is a good thing or a bad thing because it is a real thing and one that we have to be aware if we are going to play our part in preparing our children for a world that changes at the rate highlighted in this video. The same goes for gender fluidity. Whether I understand it, whether I agree with it is not really relevant ,gender fluidity is real, it exists and as adults we have to ensure that we are assisting our young people to come to terms with it because it is their world.
We don’t know what our children’s future will look like so what should we teach them?
We have always been uncertain about the future but until recently [historically speaking] we were always convinced that certain features of human society would not change. We believed with some certainty that we would still need farmers, men would dominate woman, life expectancy would be around 40 so the skills that needed to be passed were almost obvious.
The flow of information was limited and easy to censor and therefore information cramming was relevant. Delivering information was the primary role of any education system, until recently. Now all information, the flow of information, truth and lies are all just a click away. This information could be deep and meaningful knowledge but the same devices, the same search engines can just as easily be used to access funny cat videos and porn.
We need to teach the ability to make sense of this information overload otherwise it will swamp, confuse and drown our children.
In the past if we gave students lots of data and information and a modicum of freedom we were reasonably confident that they would be able to create their pictures of the world and cope with what the world threw at them.
We no longer have this luxury. Our learners will be making decisions in an uncertain and changing world and the decisions made over the next few decades will shape the future of life. The warming of the planet, polluting of the seas, the number of species that are nearing extinction effecting the stability of life on the planet, the movement of people, the tolerance of differences, all of these are going to require immediate and rapid action and the people who will be making these decisions are sitting in our classrooms, They don’t have the luxury of time and nor do we,
We need to realise that predetermined skills are no longer enough. For example we are striving to teach coding in our schools but will AI soon be able to code better than humans? Will Google translate supersede the need to learn a foreign language?
We don’t have the definitive answers but we need to be aware of the possibilities.
Harari explains that the development of skills commonly referred to as the 4 C’s -critical thinking, communication,collaboration, creativity are more important that information cramming. He claims that in an uncertain world we need to develop individuals who have the ability to change, preserve mental balance to learn new things. We need to develop individuals who have the ability to reinvent themselves.
OK so that is the big picture now lets start to zoom in and draw a line connecting that big picture to what international and national educator leaders are saying.
Derek Wenmouth Principal Consultant at CORE Education has recently published a blog titled; ‘It’s better to be on the bus than on the road!’
He starts it off with a quote from Harari’s latest book,
“If you feel overwhelmed and confused by the global predicament, you are on the right track. Global processes have become too complicated for any single person to understand. How then can you know the truth about the world, and avoid falling victim to propaganda and misinformation?”
In this blog he likens change to a bus. it is better to be on the bus than run over by it or being left at the bus stop because it is highly unlikely that the stability or certainty of the past is going to return any time soon. To survive on the bus he argues we need to be resilient, thinking critically, well informed and open to change and challenge. Education can get on the bus, he argues, by understanding and engaging with the ten identified key trends for 2019 as these trends, he claims, will develop the mindset in our learners to thrive. We would see a very close link with these trends and our key drivers at Rolleston College, to develop self, build community and transform futures but more about that later. These trends then are what needs to be developed to enhance the 4C’s detailed by Harari.
So there is a link that can be made between the global picture and education trends. Let us narrow further.
Spotswood College in Taranaki featured in a news item over the weekend.
This year, the 800 Year 9-13 students enrolled at the high school will be part of a fundamental change in the way they learn, as it moves towards a future-focused approach in education, based on best pedagogical practice and the tenets of innovation, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration.
Principal Nicola Ngarewa says the intention of the entire process is to put the student at its centre, the community at its heart and for the school to be at the forefront of delivering what is considered to be cutting edge educational practice
A subject example is Crime Bytes, where students learn and use science, psychology, technology and mathematics skills to investigate patterns of criminal behaviour and solve real crimes.
The maths component could take place in a cooking class for instance, she says, where number and measurement skills are still tested but there is a chance to pick up know-how in other areas.
A student interviewed stated that “you’re doing it in a way that’s hands-on and really suits what you want to do.”
Spotswood’s curriculum delivery providing authentic, integrated learning experiences is how schools in New Zealand are working to develop the 4C’s and prepare learners for their future worlds.
The link between Spotswood and the ten trends outlined by Core and then to Harari is very clear. The direct links with Rolleston College now starts to emerge. Rolleston and Spotswood are both part of DisruptED NZ, six New Zealand schools who form a professional learning group around leading future focused learning: Hobsonville Point Secondary School, Albany Senior High School, Hamilton’s Rototuna High Schools, Rolleston College and Haeata Community Campus in Aranui, Christchurch.
Global perspective to education trends to national alliances lets zoom in further to Christchurch. Principal of our near neighbours, Hornby High School, Robin Sutton also blogs,
His most recent blog looks at early progress in providing authentic, connected learning experiences similar to those being implemented at Spotswood.
Amongst other things, children have been undertaking ‘Connect’ activities as diverse as experimenting with the colour wheel, and learning some simply coding with Spheros.
Staff have captured our ‘Learn Create Share’ pedagogy in their own work. Activating prior knowledge, and coming up with new and innovative approaches to how to cause learning are becoming more obvious. Thinking and progress is shared by staff as they operate in a more collaborative environment.
We are getting close to home so lets now complete the zooming in process. Global to Education trends to National Alliances to our region and finally to our school, Rolleston College.
Matt Nicholl is a foundation teacher here and our resident SOLO guru. In his latest blogs he explains how we are ensuring our innovative ‘on the bus’ curriculum delivery fits comfortably with NCEA and how we are managing our growth. Matt explains how we are also developing the 4C’s whilst still being making sure that we are providing frequent relevant and rich opportunities for summative assessment.
For two years, we have used SOLO Taxonomy to guide the learning at Rolleston College. The verbs have become synonymous with the level of thinking expected; the rubrics have helped learners identify where they are at, and “Where to next?”; the graphic organisers have helped learners communicate a higher level of understanding than they gave themselves credit for; and teachers have scaffolded and chunked tasks better to empower learners to succeed.
We have learning that is around putting on a “magic show”, using knowledge and skills from Chemistry, Mathematics and a touch of Performing Arts. No NCEA grade can measure that. A SOLO rubric can, though. Within this big task, there is the opportunity to explore rates of reaction, and this can be assessed. We can use an assessment from the Science domain and we can use an assessment from the Mathematics domain. The assessments will happen within the learning task, because learners need the skills being assessed by these Achievement Standards to succeed in the real task: putting on a magic show, getting their timings etc. correct.
We are in full flight at Rolleston College. We have welcomed a large intake of amazing new colleagues. We now have three Year Groups (Years 9-11). This means staying true to our vision while also accepting that NCEA is part of our world now. We have learned from things we implemented in the last two years, and made the place even better than before. But, most of all, we are BUSY!
What I have wanted to show in this blog is how our everyday life at Rolleston College is innovative but closely linked to our region, national alliances, identified trends in Education and global concerns. We do not exist in isolation we are connected and part of a bigger picture.
This then is the bus we are on.
Global issues, changes and trends in society
Global and National trends in education