April 15, 2007

Active Learning, the DS Lite and what our schools should look like

There's a lot of talk about Schools of the Future and, like I've said before, I don't think "dreaming of spires" (when the spires might not be built for a long time) is necessarily the most realistic and beneficial way to move forward. It may be better to look at things appearing under our very noses at the same time.

Take, for example, the most recent report out from the Scottish Executive on Building the Curriculum, with its website my colleagues at LTS have just launched.

The report covers another way to build our Curriculum for Excellence, called Active Learning, where play is valued as learning, not something we do after learning has happened. Unfortunately, Active Learning and the Building the Curriculum 2 report is parked firmly at the door of Early Years practitioners, teaching our youngest learners aged 3-6.

However, I think points from the report and from the Active Learning projects being pioneered in East Lothian are raising exactly the same questions as dear old Dr Kawashima. For example, where is the place in the average secondary classroom classroom for:

  • Both spontaneous and planned purposeful play?
  • For exploring and investigating a tangent, which might end up being a dead end lead, but which reflect the students' personal interests, not the interests expressed in some textbook or curriculum?
  • Linking back to kids' own experiences or real-life situations?
  • Kids to take part in making decisions?

The sections on use of space in the school are particularly relevant to what I've been thinking about this week:

"Space should be arranged to provide opportunities for children to learn through social, sensory, creative, constructive and dramatic activities. Children’s responses to these different contexts will depend upon their interests and stage of development. With the active learning approach, space will be needed for children to work alone, for children to work together in pairs or groups and for them to rest and be quiet."

The research points out that "there is no long-term advantage to children when there is an over-emphasis on systematic teaching before 6 or 7 years of age", and so the same might not be said for older kids. However, there is much of this which does have a place somewhere in the early secondary curriculum at least. Our Extreme Learning examples hint towards this direction and maybe Active Learning from Early Years could offer some of the leverage we've been looking for to put this into action.

Now I'd just love our Active Learning specialists to start blogging their experiences so we could learn even more. In the meantime, the reflection questions in the LTS document make a good starting point and the examples on the LTS website will help make better sense of what's possible.


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Hay i teach in the states i work with
at risk and at need children.
I use a ds lite with them and it works it has grate programs all be it hard to find but they work would love to compare notes some time . good day

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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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