October 13, 2006

Learning is what you do in school and fun happens outside. Discuss

Learning is what you do in school and fun happens outside.

A quote from an eight year old cited by by Martin Ripley at the beginning of his openner this morning. It's tragic. Martin's not going to talk so much about the technical innovations we heard about yesterday. None of what he had yesterday running through (some of) our minds: "how many schools does this actually concern at the moment?"

The problem with effecting change lies, in a large part, in the messages given by politics and politicians. In England they've just banned course work. Apparently the kids could cheat, so rather than finding out what is wrong with a curriculum where kids don't have to think but remember to make the grade, they just threw the whole thing out.

Do we really want the Secretary to find out about handheld learning? What is his/her policy on handheld mobile learning?

The press take the depreciation model of evaluating learning through the screen. Toxic Childhood type arguments polarise the issues, see black and white with no grey, see anything coming through the screen as something from which children should be protected rather than something which they should learn to exploit. (Take a look at the forthcoming Connected No. 16 magazine to see my reply). These arguments tend to be the ones that are being heard by parents and politicians, so what can we do to articulate our arguments better?

One thing is to look at innovation and teaching and work out what is going to bring the biggest return. Martin reckons we need systemic and radical innovation, technology enabled, and not the isolated innovation we see at the moment. It needs to be personalised where learners access information and thinking on their own terms, not those of the teacher, the school (the curriculum?).

Head Teachers should not be asked about their strategic plans for ICT in their schools - if innovation is radical and proactive (or reactive in the moments after others' innovation) it cannot be planned. Innovators must be head teachers themselves, lead from the front, with the risk-taking they are going through being rewarded, not chastised.

Technologists, Martin argues, have not delivered a message of how their technology can improve education. It's been educators who have driven educational use of technology. Just taking a look at the apparent lack of understanding of learning from yesterday's panel would seem to back that up.

There's nothing new in this and I think Martin is preaching to the choir a little bit. The people who really need to hear this are Head Teachers and Heads of Education. In East Lothian I think the attitudes suggested by Martin do exist or are being adopted at a rapid pace with a lot of thinking through the whys and hows, too. And they are being shouted out. But there are pockets of indifference and there are swathes of ignorance across the country/continent/planet* (delete as applicable).

So I guess the question is: what are you going to do today to help get that thinking happening in your immediate circle? If it's not you, it won't be anyone else...

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About Ewan

Ewan McIntosh is a teacher, speaker and investor, regarded as one of Europe’s foremost experts in digital media for public services.

His company, NoTosh Limited, invests in tech startups and film on behalf of public and private investors, works with those companies to build their creative businesses, and takes the lessons learnt from the way these people work back into schools and universities across the world.

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