There's a great deal of 'play' at this year's Scottish Learning Festival, with LTS's Consolarium Challenge stretching over both days, pitching student gamers from across Scotland against each other for the ultimate accolades (and loads of free gaming kit for their school). I'll also be doing a seminar on the crossover between gaming, social media and learning, as well as leading a band of innovative educators at the Discovery Hour on Wednesday and, maybe, Thursday - come and find out how teachers have been making superb uses of Second Life, robots and new media in the classroom.
However, as always, there's at least one keynote I feel might not have the pulling power on the masses who, by the last day of the Festival, are seeking some easy takeaways for their schools and the latest classroom innovations, a keynote that promises to have several profound messages for our school leaders and curriculum designers. In fact, if the audience were not 2000 but more like 200 of Scotland's ICT coordinators, Directors of Education, Head Teachers and policy wonks I'd be quite happy. This is my appeal for you to attend or watch the video stream of Charles Leadbeater's keynote on the future of education.
To leave you in no doubt as to the thought he's given this issue, let me direct you to a paper he published about the evolution of the city. I normally abhor those who ask "What does School 2.0 look like" but, by kings, he's pretty damned close. In Remixing Cities he manages to succinctly outline what 'school' might look like. It's more like Schools, in the best tradition of Malcolm Gladwell's Pepsis and Spaghetti Sauces, because, in the future (well, the sooner the better really) there will no longer be a school that we go to, but rather schools that we go to. And, yes, play features heavily throughout. Here is a lengthy citation from his superb manifesto:
If a city addresse learning from the vantage point of these social web models, what could it offer? The outer circle would be:
An eBay for learning: a city-wide learning exchange to match learners to those with the skills to teach but who are not teachers. For example, if someone needed a tutorial in using garage band software, they could ﬁnd someone with the skills who may not be a school teacher.
The Learning Game: more learning opportunities modeled on large scale, multi-player games in which players discover challenges and acquire the tools and skills to overcome them together. For example, a city-wide sustainability challenge using maths and science skills.
YouLearn: using the power of user-created video to provide learning opportunities complete with user ratings and comments.
Wiki-learning: a city based resource of facts, ﬁgures, information and insight, created by and for the city’s citizens for its curriculum.
Social search for learning: using tools such as tagging, folksonomies and social book marking to allow more structured peer-to-peer learning, so that one generation of learners can follow in the footsteps of others.
These mainly digital tools would be augmented by enhanced opportunities to learn outside schools in businesses, libraries, galleries or in settings relevant to what is being learned—the city as a classroom.
The middle circle would focus on families, learning and social networks. That might include:
Social networking for learning: peer-to-peer networks on MySpace, Facebook and other networks to link people in learning clubs to learn with and from their peers, including adults and parents, online and ofﬂine, in coffee shops and homes.
Enhanced parental involvement in schools: development of family learning centers; parents as teaching assistants.
Get Started: Increased investment in early years provision for disadvantaged families and linking them earlier to schools that prepare them for learning.
NetMoms: Using social networks to promote mothers’ clubs to support informal learning and employment.
Personal trainers for learning: Local learning support workers who would work door-to-door, similar to health visitors.
Schools would still be vital, but they would be designed to maximize the value of the wider platform. For instance:
Parents and adults might learn in the same building as children.
Schools could be productive enterprises, centers for small business clusters, in which children run real money-making businesses.
Teaching by discovery and doing to instill social skills alongside cognitive skills would be much more central.
Schools would be open longer, more ﬂexible hours, with schedules that suit the different paces that children learn and the times that parents work.
There would be more, smaller, studio-style schools, akin to cafes or drop-in centers suited for more virtual learning communities and particularly for disaffected teenagers.
Alongside teachers would be more para-professionals, teaching assistants, business people, environmentalists and artists.
Children would learn from one another with the creation of a new generation of lead learners.
Every child would have a self-directed learning support plan to shape what they learn and from whom, in and outside school.