Independence & Community (The Purpose of Education)

purposed-badgeSince contributing to the original #500words campaign, my thoughts about the purpose of education have become less cogent. I still want to “bust a hole in the wall”; wishing to place learner independence and preparedness for life long learning at the heart of the debate. However, as I have continued teaching, researching, discussing, debating, I have found that my advocacy for student centred learning is paralleled by a growing belief that schools should be placed at the centre of the community. At times it feels as if these ideas should contradict each other, but I believe that they actually compliment each other. Here, I offer a list of connected (and disconnected) assertions, ideas and questions that are currently resonating with me. I hope that in sharing them, I can begin to form a more coherent thesis.

  • Learning needs to be student centred. Education should offer choice and provide opportunity, not limit it.
  • Schools need to offer a personalised curriculum. One that is adaptive, malleable… designed by learners themselves.
  • There should be parity between subjects. But, should learning be structured in subjects?
  • All learning needs to be encouraged – gaming, exploration, trial & error (when did we decide that getting things wrong was no longer part of learning?). Moreover, I’m concerned that the school system appears to be geared up to remove play, creativity and individuality as learners get older.
  • Schools should be able to acknowledge and accredit all learning (formal and informal). Badges?
  • We need to better prepare young people for the models of learning they will be engaged in after school. This means encouraging learner autonomy as well as co-dependence. The era of ‘sage on the stage’ is dead. It’s time to establish ‘guide on the side’ in all classrooms.
  • We need to stop labelling students; and we need to stop allowing them to label themselves. A learners ability is not genetic; it is not pre-determined by us or anyone else.
  • Education is not about grades or league tables. They are a meaningless, extrinsic motivator; and are detrimental to fostering effective learning.
  • Learning is not linear. Learning is messy!
  • School is not a bubble. Boundaries between learners and the real world need to be removed
  • Libraries should be at the heart of schools and their respective communities. Libraries should be like this one. And in the 21st century, they are about much more than books.
  • Schools need to recognise that Online is ‘now’ NOT the future. Technology should be seamlessly integrated in to the learning experience. There needs to be overlap between physical and virtual spaces – opening up further opportunities for a personalised curriculum.
  • Education needs to be wrestled out of the hands of governments. Communities need to take ownership of learning… freeing education of the fads and whims of politicians. Learning needs to be open/democratised.
  • Schools should be charged by their communities to provide education that is relevant and creative.

This post is my contribution to #500words – Take 2; the latest Purpos/ed campaign, asking the question: What is the purpose of education. Check out purposed.org.uk to see how you can join the debate.

‘Leashes Not Required’ – A Google+ Hangout

Google PlusKevin McLaughlin and I will be hosting a Google+ Hangout at 8pm on Wednesday, 25 April, to discuss our approaches to facilitating independent/personalised learning in our classrooms.

It has been apparent for some time that Kevin and I share a similar set of values with regard to education. Unwilling to be the ‘sage on the stage’, to spoon feed, teach to the test or over plan, we both practice (and advocate) a student-centred approach to learning in our classrooms. Yesterday, on Twitter we found ourselves (not for the first time) sharing our thoughts about what had been happening in our respective classrooms. In that moment we both had the same idea, to compare notes in greater detail. We have decided that the best place to do this would be in a Google+ Hangout. This will allow a few other people to join in with us, and for the conversation to be recorded so that it can be shared more widely afterwards.

Read about Kevin’s experiences, introducing his class to personalised learning, in the following posts:

Read about the research I have been doing into independent learning in the following posts:

If the ideas shared here or in the various posts resonate with you, then please consider tuning in via Google+ on Wednesday at 8pm. The link will be shared publicly on Google+ and via Twitter. We hope that the discussion will be a productive and valuable one.

[Update: Kevin and I were joined by Steve Philp and Spencer Cartwright. Unfortunately, due to some technical issues we were unable to record the Hangout. Nevertheless, we had a thought provoking chat about the approaches that Kevin and I have been employing to facilitate independent learning – culminating in a consideration of the barriers to fostering such approaches more widely.]

Sir Ken Robinson: Leading a Learning Revolution

Closing LWF12, Sir Ken Robinson did much more than draw together the various themes and ideas from the conference. Instead, he used his closing talk to discuss the “revolution” he believes is needed (and is already happening) in education. Echoing the conclusions of his 2006 TED Talk and purpose of his 2010 TED Talk, he referred quickly to the struggle between “whole child” education and the propensity of governments to want to “control” and “test” education.

Robinson created a highly compelling polemic. He went on to address the disconnect between practice, theory and policy, as well as the technological and social changes that are feed into the need for a learning revolution. He outlined what he believes to be the purposes of education and then set about, under the headings: Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, and Assessment, recommending a series of changes needed to improve education. These included:

  • Emphasising personalised (independent) learning;
  • Customising education for communities;
  • A move away from “subjects” to “disciplines”;
  • Encouraging collaborative learning strategies;
  • Shifting the emphasis in assessment away from “judgement” to “description”.

What I found most gratifying about Robinson’s talk was the emphasis he put on teachers and schools. He believes that teaching is at the heart of education, reminding us (the teachers) that we are part of the system and therefore can, if we choose to, change it. He recognised that there were many of us already doing so and continued by saying: “If you’re waiting for a government to start the revolution, I think you’ll be waiting a long time”. In closing he declared that:

We need to be part of the solution for the revolution and not part of the problem

With that sentiment in mind, I invite you to join me (and a host of other educators) on Thursday, March 1, between 8pm and 9pm, for #ukedchat, where we will be addressing the following question:

Are schools (as physical spaces) necessary to facilitate learning in the 21st century

The question is (I hope) a jumping off point for a debate about what schooling should be like in the 21st century. You can read my full provocation, here.

Recommended Reading:

Ken Robinson – Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative
Ken Robinson with Lou Aronica – The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything