This week I attended a conference. I even presented at this conference. This, of course, means I’ve made it. I’m now officially a ‘grown-up’.
Rewind 30 years. If you’d ask me what I wanted to be when I grow up in 1978, I would have said something like ‘fireman’, or ‘astronaut’ or ‘policeman’ or one of those types of professions. It has taken me nearly 40 years to get to this point, but, I am there. I have arrived. I am a grown-up.
The conference presented at is called Ulearn08 – a conference aimed at teachers (of which, I am one) who are into information and communication technologies (ICT). There are a myriad of people here in Christchurch from all around New Zealand (and the world for that matter) all looking at and predicting what will happen in the future of education in this great little nation, and the world.
So what is happening to the world. In one word: LOTS. Three things will define us (and when I say “us”, I’m talking about the WHOLE of humanity – which is heaps, man) over the coming 10 years. Technology, sustainability, and community. These aren’t in any order of importance AND they are all interconnected – intrinsically linked by children.
Children hold the key to our future. Those kids currently going through the education system on the crest of a gigantic wave… They have been born into a world of skype, facebook, mobile phones, blogs, txt, i-things and e-things. Any child exiting the womb in the last 10 years has no idea what life is like without these wonderful new inventions/applications. Parents no longer need to lie awake in bed waiting for their youngster to come in from wherever, just a sly text can placate any feelings of angst.
What does this mean? Education has to change. The very nature of classrooms, bricks and mortar based schooling, is redundant. What’s the point of getting kids to come to school if they can video conference with anyone in the world they like using skype. What is the point of teaching kids multiply fractions – something that is taught so often in schools, yet used so little in the read world (don’t get me started on differential calculus – this I did through until my second year at university) – when they can just type ‘how do you multiply fractions’ into google if they ever need to do so. We must teach them HOW to learn not WHAT. Education needs to focus now on creating life-long learners who can adapt and change to any situation they find themselves.
How does sustainability fall into this argument? It is linked to my comment about fractions and/or differential calculus – sustainability is a real world problem. Consumption has outstripped resources – this is the current model of the world in which we live. Fair enough – but things run out eventually. The earth and what is has to offer is a finite resource. If we aim to teach through real world problems such as sustainability, students will find their education far more relevant to the real world.
How can they do this – through the idea of community. Creating links with the community within a school, the community the school is in, and the wider community – which now consists of the whole world thanks to the Internet.
My ideal classroom will have morning news that includes hooking up with at least one international class overseas via skype. Children would work together to solve real-life, realtime problems within the school, the local community and even around the world. This would make their education far more useful to them in the real world.