September 14, 2006

Some big (and not so big) questions about Extreme Learning

In last night's post on Extreme Learning, which John thinks could be a ground-breaking way of modelling the Curriculum for Excellence, I gave Don's outline for what might take place. A participant from outside the authority, Neil, has also given his understanding of the vision. In fairness that's just half the story. He then did a good job in putting forward some of the questions we are all likely to ask about how this can actually be taken forward. Soon, Don will set up a wiki on which we can collaborate to flesh out some answers to these questions before then assigning tasks and timelines, but I thought I would pre-empt some of them here with my comments in italics:

•    How much teacher support is necessary?
•    Do youngsters need additional ICT skills?
•    What about security and safety?
•    Protocols: what is our guidance on web access?
•    Do we enable comments?
All these issues are being worked out at the moment by the ICT Curriculum Team, both in terms of providing tools which require little learning curve and also by providing a road show of training opportunities for those who need some more help.

•    What do participants need to know?
•    How do we invite participants? Open or by invitation?
•    What time commitment is going to be required? Homework is a burden; could be a good trade between no homework in return for a project led piece of work.

•    Do kids need internet access at home? If they do but don’t have it what contributions could librarians and the community make?
•    How do we manage parental concerns? Will they trust ‘extreme learning’?
•    How can parents participate?
•    Is it something which certain sectors (primary or special needs) could run with immediately?
•    What about excluded students?
Might our plans to have a SecondLife virtual school help excluded students feel part of the community and contribute constructively?

•    How do we differentiate between curricular and extra-curricular?
•    What exemplars can we provide? Do we have to provide exemplars since no-one else is restructuring their curriculum in this way?
Again, this is something the revamped online community for East Lothian will go some way to achieving.

•    How do we use data that  can be gleaned?
•    Should layout of projects be structured uniformly? How do we make best use of blogs, podcasts, video…

•    How do we assess? It must be formative.
•    Self-assessment? Parental assessment of kids by involving them in the criteria?
•    Assessment in relation to the four capacities?
•    Assessment using comments in blogs?
•    How do we evaluate the project?
•    What is our baseline data?
•    What information must we collect as we go?

•    Can kids take part in creating and managing this?
•    What would happen when kids get to secondary school?
•    How many projects would children do in their time?
•    Could Teacher Education Institutions get involved?


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Hi Ewan,
Sounds like a brilliant project, the better it is the more questions. Most are too hard for me but:
Do kids need internet access at home? If they do but don’t have it what contributions could librarians and the community make? Is the one I worry about. They closed the local library where I teach a few years back, children need a parent to help get to the nearest one. Maybe schools could open after hours for access to internet, maybe it is time that children have a right to internet access.

At the risk of repeating myself, why does this have to be an after school activity? Why not just free up the timetable to allow pupils access to computers in school so "Extreme Learning" is also a timetabled activity? It does not preclude working on it at home but does address something of the digital divide.

I agree - I think that is key to making this worthwhile. If we're going to make a difference it means getting rid of the constraints under which we work and looking at doing only those things which will increase pupil experience and making learning something they want to come to school to do, not something they do in between seeing friends.

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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.

What does Ewan do?

Module Masterclass

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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