ULearn VC debate

Last session for Wednesday at ULearn – counterpoint discussion between John Hattie and Rod Oram, chaired by Karen Sewell – Secretary of Education. My notes and jottings below:

John Hattie began with a comment that “Tomorrow’s Schools is yesterday’s solution” He shared concerns expressed over resources, saying “we supply schools with gas, power and water, but no provision for networks and infrastructure”.

John’s other concern is about the career path for teachers, and the lack of opportunities within the profession after year 4/5.

Rod Oram began with how impressed he is by high achievement in NZ ed system, but expressed concern about the long tail. He also expressed concern about the fact that NZ will always be thinly resourced for money and people etc. thus we need to be constantly  recreating and reinventing far faster than happens in other parts of the world

Rod claims we are poised on the edge of astonishing change in technology, economics, values and systems – far more radical than we’ve ever seen before – this will change the world and we need to be able to engage and adapt to that in innovative ways

He also focused on the increasing sense of community in the world, and how our understandings of this are changing – used to be about geographical proximity – now about remote intimacy – now able to reach out and partner with whoever we need where-ever in the world – profoundly changes the nature of community – need the business and social skills to relate. “education has never been more a part of community in a global context – we need education tools, systems and experiences that enable us to engage meaningfully in such a global education context.”

In response to Karen’s question about what we need to do to support the kids who aren’t achieving – and how might ICTs assist us in doing this, John feels strongly that the problem isn’t at the bottom end – key thing is the gap between where they are and where they could/should be. He also thinks that what we mean by curriculum isn’t serving our kids for the digital age – there is a big need for skills of evaluation, but we’re not good at teaching these. Need a curriculum that is attractive to these kids.

Rod’s response focused on the way technology (eg KAREN network) may contribute to providing access to educational opportunities for those on the “other side”, pointing to the fact that this connection was made possible in this way.

Karen asked, “What qualities will school leavers need to be successful?”

Rod’s responses: “Sense of excitement”, and that they “think differently”

John’s response – “Skills of evaluation – skill that many students grapple with – how to go about evaluating the many competing inputs they are immersed in, particularly in a climate of challenge. Kids thrive in a climate of challenge – and without it they are bored. We have too many bored kids in schools!”

Karen asked: “If we are to be successful, what are the skills we should build on, and what should we stop doing?”

Rod: “Schools currently too ‘hermetically sealed’ – very traditional model, same plant, same people… Perhaps need a different type of experience that opens that up – breaks down walls, and distinction between real and virtual etc. Need to balance emotional intelligence, joy with the physicality of life – over intellectual development.”

John: “Seeing start of a revolution in NZ over past 5 years, putting students at the centre of the curriculum – particularly in secondary since the introduction of NCEA. Need to learn from the success of NCEA.

We can’t continue with the model of one teacher with one group of students – cannot expect all teachers to be successful with all kids.”

Karen: “What might schools look like in the future?”

John: “We don’t need to wait for the future – we can see this already in places like Discovery school in CHCH.”

Rod- strong support for NCEA – two grounds (a) teaching and learning style is a great step forward, (b) NZ-ness and NZ-content. Suggesting schools need to go one stage further in terms of engagement with the wider community. Requires more confidence on the part of teachers, parents, community and students. Suspects parents feel ‘distanced’ from schools – so need to find a way for more interaction between parents-teachers-schools.

Karen: What about school-business links

Rod: “Entrepreneur – someone who is a self-starter and begins something in his/her own field and has confidence and skill to create new opportunities etc. Important to create lots of links between entrepreneurs in the outside world with schools. Not sure about the extent to which businesses should be involved in schools – but they do need to more clearly articulate and stipulate what their expectations are of graduates.”

Karen: “Risks we face in moving forward – opportunities offered by ICT?”

John: “Greatest risk comes from external accountability systems being imposed on our system. We need to be much more open and accountable to our systems. Also need a much better career structure – too few opportunities for teachers after years 4-5.”

Rod: “Need for major investment in national infrastructure and bandwidth

Biggest risk is a lack of realism – while we may tend to become overwhelmed by the barriers we face and lose sight of the things we’ve actually achieved. Our biggest opportunity is the remote intimacy offered by the video conferencing”

To lead change into the future we need to be optimists!

Karen’s final word was a quote from one of her favourite authors; “Simply by sailing in a new direction you may enlarge the world” (Alan Curnow)

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