September 13, 2006

Extreme learning in East Lothian - a possibility? Part 1/2

At the moment many students in our schools are not engaged beyond the end of the school day (some of them barely during the school day) and so in East Lothian today around 35 teachers and librarians from the authority and beyond met to see how extreme learning and integrated project work could help turn education inside out. How can their personal passions as a human being be more than something they do outside school, and become something which permeates their whole learning life, no matter when or where they are learning?

What follows is a mashup of Don Ledingham's intro, my thoughts and the following discussions. It's quite suiting really, considering that the whole movement will be co-owned on a wiki in the coming weeks.

Schools are not preparing their youngster for life beyond school. The relevance of school is becoming further from the reality of youngsters’ lives. The way they interact with technology and life is very different from the way they interact with technology and passions outside school (Now I’m going to do Maths, now I’m going to French…) This latter point is  true in students who reach Advanced Higher level and suddenly have to ‘think’, instead of regurgitate learned facts.

Project work is collaborative, it involves parents (how do we explore the partnership between parent and child without saying “his dad dunnit”?). Maybe the issue is more how we define success. Is success a ‘A’? Or is success something deeper than that?

Most of all: kids like project work. Don tells a story of when he was Head at Dunbar Grammar. When he encouraged kids to do a project over the summer holidays, promising he would leave a comment on it in the new term, he expected three or four projects in return. Fifty. Fifty projects got turned in on all sorts of personal passions, including the novels of Sharpe and the architecture of Orkney. Students had decided timescales, focus, length, media… All they needed was the chance and encouragement to do it.

Some project ideas and the curricular areas students might choose to follow:
•    Wallace and Grommit – how do they do it?
IT, animation, storyline, art, modelling.
•    Heather the Weather
Physics, Geo, Media, Maths
•    Why is my gran’s hospital food so bad?
•    Disaffected learners in East Lothian are currently designing skateboard park design – I wonder if they might consider using Google Sketchup or SecondLife to achieve this.

But are these areas too narrowing and will they lead to kids shoehorning subjects in?
How can kids work collaboratively and keep their individuality?

Thankfully Don sees the importance of personalisation in students’ own webspace,  whether that be a blog or something else. He also sees other issues - more on these big questions to follow tomorrow. I'll also be adding more links to make sense of this for non-Scots readers. But time for dinner out with Mrs Edublogger.

Comments

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Great post. I think that the disconnect between what happens in the classroom and the demands of modern life is not just limited to technology. We're entering an era (at least in the post-industrial world) where well-paid work will depend on your ability to create new ideas and implement them in some concrete fashion. I don't see much in the educational system, at least here in Greece, that encourages those skills.

interesting...
and wonder how it has grown over the last few months...?

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is the founder of NoTosh, the no-nonsense company that makes accessible the creative process required to innovate: to find meaningful problems and solve them.

Ewan wrote How To Come Up With Great Ideas and Actually Make Them Happen, a manual that does what is says for education leaders, innovators and people who want to be both.

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School leaders and innovators struggle to make the most of educators' and students' potential. My team at NoTosh cut the time and cost of making significant change in physical spaces, digital and curricular innovation programmes. We work long term to help make that change last, even as educators come and go.

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