Schools & the Death of the UBER career

Everyone is talking about UBER. There are now sites dedicated to “The UBER for X“. It is a popular analogy for presenters and bloggers because it epitomised modern technological disruption. UBER is a great example of how questioning the status quo and connecting dots between existing ideas can have such significant global impact in just a year or two. A similar thing is happening with telephone operators v.s SIRI type technology.  But for me, it’s the next chapter that most interests me: The death of the UBER career.

UBER timeline-Eduwells

I thought presenters, bloggers, and teachers might find a simple timeline useful. Please feel free to use this but please give me a mention:-)

People? What people?

This article discusses how many of the major car companies, alongside Google and UBER (that’s quite a team!) are lobbying the U.S, government to ensure their driverless cars (it’s not just Google who are making them) can cross state borders and be recognised as ‘legal drivers’. Given the safety, cost-saving and productivity gains offered by driverless cars, I think most people will be surprised at how quickly they embed into society in the developed world.

The UBER story is more about entire new industries being born and dying in the same decade, than it is about the death of old industries. The speed of change is getting faster and this is a new norm that schools must be aware of when discussing their purpose for existing. How quickly people can learn new knowledge and skills is far more important now than any particular knowledge or skill. This needs to have a huge impact on what gets practiced and emphasised in classrooms around the world.

best-apps-of-the-year-uber

The most expensive thing in any industry is it’s people. Most companies are working hard to remove the requirement for employing people. Amazon already have robot organised factories passing products automatically to drones for delivery! Losing your job because it’s cancelled all together is now so common, the U.S has introduce new employment insurance products to help people out.

What does this mean for the classroom?

The classroom is now a place to practice collaborating to learn. The questions that students should be allowed to ask and run with might be:

  • What should I be working on?
  • Who with?
  • What will we need?
  • Who can we call? (Ghostbusters?)

Practicing these questions and improving one’s collaborative productivity is going to be key to surviving the 21st century job market. This will help people continue to remain employable as well as up-skilling them for developing their own careers and businesses in a market where that itself might become a necessity. This does mean that if students in a classroom are currently reliant on a teacher for what to do and how to do it, they’re in big trouble!

Google Classroom in one minute

Here’s a one minute post with a one minute tutorial. I’m busy at the moment encouraging colleagues to start using Google Classroom. The reason I’m pushing it is that for the majority of teachers and especially the less technically inclined, it removes so many of the regular problems with choosing and setting up various apps and platforms for communicating and sharing files in a BYOD school. So here’s my summary poster that explains the key elements of each of a classroom page.

Make BYOD easy with Google Classroom:

  • A class is up and running in 5 minutes – no technician / admin required
  • Classroom automatically organised Drive folders for you
  • No more emailing required
  • Students can submit any file type for an assignment
  • Messaging can happen as a class or privately to one student
  • Multiple teachers can run a class
  • Mainly use assignments as they have the most options
  • Try to get most student work created from within an assignment

Alice Keeler has load more advice on Google Classroom

Here’s my poster:

Google Classroom Pages-eduwells

Cultivating boys that read

I’ll start with my own story to highlight a huge issue with reading that many boys struggle with. I find when people discuss whether they read or not, they tend to assume the discussion is based around fiction. In this sense I never read as a child. This will amaze many but due to a 1980s focus on self-discovery learning in UK elementary schools, I was permitted to not read if it suited me. I managed to avoid reading a whole book for my entire education. I read so little, I can tell you exactly what I managed before the age of eighteen:

  • at 6, I finished my last full ‘reader’ called “Roger red hat”
  • at 13, I fought through a third of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, before putting it down.
  • at 14 I confused myself on holiday with about 30 pages of an apocalyptic fantasy novel
  • at 16 I was forced to read scene from Macbeth to my English class

boysreading-eduwells

An unread college boy

At university (strange that I actually got there in the first place), I specifically chose an american literature elective to force myself to read a whole book. That’s right folks, I was 19 when I completed Catcher in the Rye, my first full book. The key reason for my trouble with reading was that, like many boys, I was always active, showing-off and inclined towards creative and/or physical activity. Books just required too much sitting down. I was never given a justification for dedicating serious time to someone else’s story. I may be nature or nurture, but boys struggle with empathy more than girls and I think it makes it harder for young boys to empathise with characters and really immerse themselves in the story. So what follows are the thoughts of a “non-reader.”

3 Ideas for encouraging boy readers

1. stick to the facts

Someone recently suggested to me that all men are somewhere on the autism spectrum, which from my experience, might be true. This is a more clever way of saying: all boys will obsess or get geeky about something. It might be sports, music, or Star Wars facts but details are everything to boys. A boy who lives near me discusses the facts of Star Wars far more than any narrative it might have. Parents and teachers can encourage this and arrange social groups around non-fiction interests to encourage boys to seek out more information, and thus read. Remember too, that websites and magazines also count as reading. Build a boys reading club around a magazine subscription in their topic of interest.

2. little and often works best

As a boy, I can tell you we like things simple. We’re not complicated animals. We like things to be quickly resolved and so books of short stories, that can be picked up knowing resolution with be arrived at quickly, seem more approachable than the thought of investing deeply in long complicated . Ensure boys have short story collections available so they can complete the narrative quickly but more often.

3. laugher satisfies

Comedy links to my previous idea. Funny situations and jokes are more immediately satisfying that other emotions, that can take longer to cultivate in a story. Comedy has the ability to entertain on each page and so keep a boy with shorter attention span hooked. Again, comedy also requires less deep empathy than love or pain. Find the funniest books you can.

My future? I now read more than ever, but sill not much in the way of fiction. My blogging keeps me reading, my Time magazine subscription keeps me reading, and the Curious Minds podcasts keep me reading.

boy reading

Image credit

_____________________________________________________________

eduwells-profile-drawnAuthor: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12
Leader in a New Zealand High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International Speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

_____________________________________________________________

 

What teachers could learn from startups

I was privileged recently to be invited by New Zealand Education innovator, Chris Clay to a Startup Weekend in Auckland. This was a very strange experience where I knew nothing about startups but my badge said VIP. I decided this stood for very ignorant person.  An opening statement by host Rowan Yeoman (@yeoro) was “realise everything is an assumption.” This was aimed at the participants to encourage them to question everything they held as fact. This might include such things as what they think customers will like, how much it might cost, who the business will need on staff, and what problem their ‘solution’ might solve. Rowen pointed out that a startup often fulfils it’s namesake and acts as a starting point that quickly morphs into a completely unforeseen type of business with a whole new customer base. So, like normal, this made me think of the classroom.

IMG_0459What teachers could learn from startups

The evening made me think about all the assumptions that education lives by. I thought I’d make myself a list of school modus operandi that rarely get questioned. As I pondered this, I realised that my examples came from all areas and aspects of education.

School administrations rarely question such things as:
  • Our results are good so our students are learning
  • Our community don’t want change
  • Our school vision impacts on who we are
  • Which ‘customers’ are catered for by their decisions
Teachers rarely question:
  • the need to organise students’ workload
  • the need to divide the day into manageable lessons
  • the priority of numeracy and literacy
  • if the relevance of their teaching has changed
Students are rarely encouraged to question:
  • the structure of their school day
  • the justifications for what they are offered to learn
  • the format of their assessment

IMG_0456

Let’s start-up questioning in schools

The issue for me is that ingrained assumptions have led the majority of the education sector to build an opposite environment to startups. They not only don’t question their own assumptions enough but many schools have such a prescribed day assigned that they don’t develop genuine questioning habits in their students. It was a little sad to see such an energised learning experience like this startup weekend being organised for adults, when the format of most lessons (assumption alarm) is relatively a closed deal before it starts.

The Startup Weekend was an agile experience where the process of problem finding and solving was allowed to develop naturally during the event. This is something that schools could learn from. To watch such an open-ended environment excite and drive learning was inspiring. I just hope a growing number of educators will realise that they can use such an approach to develop a new type of learner who expects to get teams organised so that goals, academic or practical, are achieved. I’ve done much experimenting with student empowerment in the last 5 years and I can confirm that people of almost any age are capable if teachers are willing to watch them work together to build their own learning successes, even if that’s not “the Uber for schools

Are teachers stealing problems from learners?

My school’s team of counsellors invited a speaker to provide professional development on the introduction of our student mediation program. Some students were going to receive training on how to become mediators of their peers’ problems. The training focused on the types of questions you ask as a mediator and the difficulties people found in not automatically trying to solve the problems they were listening to.

Owning Problems

The speaker asked the teachers to roleplay a mediation situation and discuss a problem that a teacher was having at the time. The aim was to become better listeners and through the example mediation questions, empower the problem-owner by letting them realise their own solution. In discussion afterwards, there seemed general agreement that it was:

  • Important to let the person work it through themselves as otherwise we might not truly solve the problem
  • Interrupting with suggested solutions would switch ownership of the problem from the victim to the mediator, disenfranchising the victim from the solution.

A parallel with teaching

My simple conclusion at the end of the session was that the relationship between teacher and learner should be exactly the same. Teachers should pullback from providing solutions in classrooms as this means that learners never own the challenge. This itself is a challenging proposition as I am suggesting that once students see a teacher trying to provide solutions, they understandably struggle to truly engage in the experience.

This does question:

  • Worksheets
  • Lecturing
  • Flipped Teaching
  • Lesson plans around content
  • Textbooks (The answers at the back!)
  • etc.

It’s time for teachers to build their practice around prompting questions and not guiding solutions. This makes for a better and more meaningful journey for the learners.

A matter of context?

The strange thing from me is that some teachers have their practice of teaching content and solutions so ingrained that the struggle or refuse to see this parallel. Where they have some faith that young people might be able to solve their own personal and social problems, they still maintain a notion that without a teacher, few learning solutions would ever eventuate. This of course is the common issue of relinquishing one’s power base and stepping down from one’s stage. It is as human to want a sense of power and especially an ego boosting ‘stage’ in the classroom, as it is for anyone to interrupt mediation with solutions to people’s personal problems.

It’s time for teachers to shift their practice to one of mediating learning. Plan and structure the learning environment and questioning, not the paths that learners must follow to arrive at predetermined solutions as this reduces the depth of the learning experience.

Grow your career like a rockstar

There is ongoing development in New Zealand of our “Teaching as inquiry” model. It was added to our new national curriculum in 2007 as an expectation that teachers formally record inquiries into aspects of their practice which they felt required challenge, research and improvement. This was quite a new mindset for the any profession to realise. Self-development is often an alien concept to generations brought up on formal education where learning is delivered at you. I’ve lost count of how many teachers have uttered the words “When will we get PD on this?” The information age is also new and so the world now expects people to rely less on face-to-face contact with experts. The self-driven learning mindset also matches New Zealand’s preferred inquiry-based learning model for students. But the understanding that one drives one’s own learning is crucial for another reason.

Employment Gigs

Employment “Gigs”

Gig: noun; plural noun: gigs
a live performance by a musician or group playing popular or jazz music.
a task or assignment.
“working on the sea and spotting whales seemed like a great gig”

I was listening to the excellent Curious Minds podcast by Galye Allen and she was interviewing Karie Willyerd on how to future proof your career. Karie used the term “gig” when referring to a job to emphasise how people were now viewing employment roles. This struck me as an excellent term to use with my students.

“It’s important to picture your future career as a set of music gigs. The current average means that each Gig (job) will last less than 4 years and will require a particular set of songs (skills). Like a musician, it is critical to write and learn new songs and instruments to ensure you stay fresh for future gigs. Like a rock star, you need to learn how to work with others and adapt / improvise during each gig. 
Develop this mindset and you’ll shine a rock star!” – @EDUWELLS

Job satisfaction & technology

I’ve blogged before on discussing careers with students in the plural and not singular tense. It is well documented that the job market now is increasingly fluid. This is for two reasons:

  1. People of all ages (Karie was quick to discourage the myth that it’s only millennials) now expect more satisfaction from work and often move on when it’s not forthcoming,
  2. Technology now significantly changes the employment landscape every year, predominantly with a lessening of available posts.

It is time for teachers to realise why both “teaching as inquiry” and growth mindset are so important but also why it is critical we pass on this approach to our students, who arguably need it more than we do!

Factory education fails everyone

Reminding teachers of what it’s really like to be a student in school is one of my favourite professional pass times. I was presenting at a conference recently and at 3pm, many teachers were talking about being overloaded with information and how tired they were. I highlighted that this was exactly what it’s like to be at school except they had not even been asked for any outcomes or work and would not have to do this for the following 200 days! They all agreed this was good news for them. But what about our students?

Thanks to my friend Danielle Myburgh for telling me to get on with producing a Factory Education poster!

Factory Education-EduWells

 

IS School is still a burden?

My presentation (Slides below) was on Learner agency: the purpose, control and ownership students do or don’t feel they have over their learning. I started with a 1957 Chuck Berry line: ““Soon as three o’clock rolls around, you finally lay your burden down” I highlighted how 40 years of almost zero development had led Bart Simpson in the 1990s to share the common joy of : “woo hoo! Snow Day!” I asked the audience of about 50 teachers to fill out 2 Google form questions to confirm if they thought the school day was still a “burden.” Even with a massive majority of elementary school teachers, there was still a 50% agreement that it was. I’m sure this figure would have been higher with high school teachers.

Top students hide their grievances

3 examples I gave of academically successful students not rating the school expericene as positive, regardless of being able to comply with it, were:

  1. A top grade 7 student regularly achieving a top 3 in class tests and projects, excelling at two sports and working as a library assistant, expressing most mornings how she did not want to go to school due to it being “really boring!” This was the last student her teachers would expect to have this attitude towards school. What must the less engaged be saying?
  2. The head girl and head boy in a high school both starting the respective ‘high achievers’ speeches with implications that their success was in spite of school not because of it. The top female student highlighted that she had been a well supported high achiever from day one and school had been a great opportunity to show how her already positive approach to challenges could yield great results. The male top student semi-joked that making his bed every morning had started his day with a sense of pride and achievement meaning his self-worth would approach the required compliance in school more positively.

Employers and Universities share their GRIEVANCES

  1. “teenagers are leaving school lacking basic skills” – UK (Source)
  2. “School leavers are not meeting the needs of the New Zealand workplace, according to an employer survey.” – NZ (Source)
  3. “… despite being fully eligible to attend college, they are not ready for postsecondary studies” – US (Source)

My presentation also included 3 examples of the 100s of articles and reports you can find to show employers, universities and even parents are commonly under impressed or disappointed by the motivation and skill set held by school leavers. I highlighted that Malcolm Gladwell’s Ten thousand hour rule, would expect that after 12 or 13 years of 5 hours a day experience, students would be extremely motivated and skilled to make significant impact on the world. The fact that they are commonly unmotivated and lacking confident to tackle situations without significant guidance and scaffolding, means we have them practicing the wrong things.

Tackle Deja Vu with “VuJa de!”

I came across “Vuja De” when a friend of mine, Steve Mouldey introduced me to the Curious Minds Podcast interview with Adam grant.

‘Vuja De’ definition: “The vuja de mentality is the ability to keep shifting opinion and perception. It can mean reversing assumptions about cause and effect, or what matters most versus least. It means not traveling through life on automatic pilot.” – Bob Sutton – ‘Scaling Up for Excellence’

It is time for all school leaders to question every aspect of deja vu within their professional life. This is best explained in the way that comedians take a seemingly fresh look at everyday occurrences and by highlighting them, make us laugh out loud. This type of perspective is required if school leaders are to ever see that what they think is being successful within their factory school model is not serving either the children or their future.

Here are my slides:

Does your classroom put the cart before the horse?

Most people assume formal education is a process of individual development from being heavily assisted at the age of 5, moving on to only requiring guidance and eventually achieving full independence and confidence to tackle one’s own learning and growth. The sad truth is that most teachers of 18-year-olds will tell you that their students remain heavily dependent on constant guidance and support. I produced the following graphic to sum up the three aforementioned stages and I wonder which one best depicts the average teenager in your education system.

Horse & Cart-EduWells

Whether, as a teacher, you are tackling a prescribed set of content, have the luxury of devising your own, or even better, are negotiating the tasks and content with your students, it is worth considering who is doing most of the work. You can’t develop a top footballer without allowing them to practice, try, fail, and try again. The same goes for what we want from our students. Most classrooms are so busy avoiding wrong answers they maintain and develop dependent learners who check with teacher before making any step forward.

Where do ‘good’ students come from?

The top students in any school, through family, sporting or performance experiences, are normally high achievers in spite of school and not because of it. They have arrived at the school having regularly experienced situations where their decision-making mattered, they were or remain responsible for for the success of activities, and the possibility of failure was common. This is exactly the conditions that the average school classroom avoids and thus does not develop the average student into a genuinely motivated, confident citizen. At school, I was very much an average student and can confirm that any motivation and responsible decision making was left until after university. I was kept safe from such matters by the education system I went through and spent my twenties working out how to perform effectively in teams and get projects completed on time. 

STAR_WARS2 _ EDUWELLS.017

“…But they get the grades”

Please don’t confuse success in exams and grade acquisition for genuine achievement. Many, if not most top grades around the world are achieved through targeted teacher coaching. Coaching only tuned for the specific prescribed challenges of the assessment at hand. This only results in what universities and employers report as school leavers lacking initiative, motivation and professional skills. This is not educational success by any stretch of the imagination. You will still get your grades if you devote time in early years to letting learners experience managing their own learning as a norm and not spoon feeding content to them. This will develop people who have their own coping mechanisms when it comes to exams later.

The Classroom is for developing people

The habits of many schools hand the responsibility of growing the person to extra-curricular activities and not the classroom where the students spend most of their time. The number of times I’ve heard the words ‘all-round education’ in discussion of sports or cultural events and at the same time the classroom is reduced to only a place in which information is passed from teacher to student. Many adults make the mistake of thinking “I went to school and turned out alright.” But when challenged they will conclude that any confidence or initiative they have has been developed post-school not during. This I feel is a massive missed opportunity that many non-high achievers miss out on.

It’s time to make the classroom as challenging as the sports field or theatre stage. Make the students more accountable for what takes place and whether or not it succeeds. Shift the responsibility from teacher to student for organising how the current challenges get tackled.  It may go wrong initially by like football players, they’ll get better and better until they are ready to face their final school challenges independently.

Play safe and start early

This does not happen overnight. What I propose here is a vision for your school in 5 years time, not tomorrow. Don’t dismiss this because you can’t picture your more senior students handling the responsibility of devising their own plans for learning. If they haven’t had the prior practice they’re not going to take charge tomorrow. You have to build the expectations and competencies over a 5 year process. Rethink the learning environments that your school’s youngest learners experience and let the current students live out the teacher-directed education they were introduced to as much as they need to. Focus on what your school will offer the next intake and how it will develop them to tackle the content without it being spoon fed from day 1.

Helping boys learn

As a high school student in the early 90s, I was already aware that teacher expectations for my school success were less because I was a boy. Ever since the developed world in general made the compulsory schooling opportunities the same for both sexes, the girls have increasingly extended their dominance over boys in most areas of educational achievement.

Fortunately for a post that’s trying to stay under 500 words, my scope here does not include why this is the case. I could talk about maturity, social awareness, societal pressures on girls, the changing role of men, and even computer gaming, but I won’t. Let’s look at what some teachers are doing to better cater for boys and thus level results.

Helping boys learn-eduwells

HEY TEACHER, STOP TALKING

IMG_0024A number of variables impact on boys’ relative ability to cope socially, or be productive in groups. This includes the classroom. They are often more productive and positive when they are able to study independently, i.e. the learning resources are available on demand and students can expected to go at their own pace. The average boy also responds better to one-to-one support from teachers, rather than having to publicly interact in whole class discussion. Numerous colleagues and educators I’ve worked with around the world have all shared positive correlations between them stepping away from the front of class delivery and boys results. This is achieved through systems such as flipped teaching or project-based learning. This is connected to boys needing to be doing rather receiving. Most boys need to be active learners.

Keep learning active

Boys also respond well to learning environments that allow for movement. Teachers I have worked with on modern learning environments have often expressed how boys have responded positively to having choice regarding where and how they learn in a classroom. I have had conversations with boys about them enjoying the variety and allowance to change how they physically place themselves to work. This can include standing desks, couches, beanbags or the floor. One’s not necessarily better than another, it’s the freedom the choose and change during a lesson that’s key. For similar environmental reasons, headphones can also help boys who are clear on objectives to shield themselves from other distractions to ensure they get something done.

Maintaining focus on the game

IMG_0025This is a much discussed topic but possibly due to typical social habits, many teachers feel boys do get distracted more easily in a classroom of 30 people. This is where gamification does have a role to play in keeping boys productive. Any parent will tell you that distracting a child away from a game is difficult. This is because there are multiple elements added to games to maintain focus. The two most common gaming tools to employ in a classroom for the benefit of boys are timers and progress charts. Once boys know where they are at in the learning and how long they have to complete a step, they respond accordingly. Boys enjoy challenges that are visually clear. They do not respond well to ambiguous learning targets as they are less likely to use their social skills to fill in the gaps, such as asking the teacher or friends.

No such thing as “a boy”

I am not assuming that all boys are the same and will respond to these ideas but in my experience working with educators, they will help many boys achieve better in your classroom.

_____________________________________________________________

EduWells2015Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters)
and an International Speaker.
Twitter :  @EduWells

This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edu-bloggers.

_____________________________________________________________

Here’s an extra resource on the impact and use for Game-based learning and Gamification of classroom activity.

The Gamification of Education
Source: Online-Education-Degrees.net

What is Student-Centred Learning?

A recent job vacancy for a leading position in a New Zealand school asked for a focus on genuine student-centred learning. What fascinated me was their use of the word ‘genuine’. My experience shows me that confusion, misinterpretation, and a lack of exposure to relevant examples, means that too many educators do not understand true student-centric learning. Many schools feel under pressure to be implementing such models but often only change surface level elements whilst proclaiming they have achieved it.

What is student centred learning-eduwells

Why being student-centric matters

Let’s cut to the chase. This matters because we all know that young people (including ourselves many moons ago) would rather stay at home than go to school. If students tell people that they like school, what they’re often picturing as they say it are things such as hangin’ with friends, music productions or the sports events. When students are asked what their favourite part of school is, they rarely mention anything that takes place in a classroom. I recently asked 3 boys, who had moved from elementary to junior high, what was positive about the change. They actually agreed on “moving between rooms” as the first improvement that sprung to mind. That’s right folks, their best part of the daily school experience is the brief time spent in the corridors! All you have to do is endure an hour with one teacher and then you get a break for 5 minutes before the next.

The New Zealand education review office that runs quality assurance checks on schools’ practice recently reported on 68 schools that :

“Students in all schools were experiencing an assessment- driven curriculum and assessment anxiety. In many schools the only people who understood the overall curriculum and the competing demands on them were the students.” – ERO “Success in secondary school

The constant amongst most schools that drives this pessimistic view held by students is that they rarely control any significant part of their day. As an example of how common this view is, I can even use teachers to prove my point. I’ve worked in four schools that have all held teacher training days. During a number of those days, sessions have been prearranged to showcase tools or pedagogies and staff have moved from one session to another. Many of these days have received feedback that they were not very useful. A recent example I experienced broke the trend and offered longer sessions of self-directed time for colleagues from the same department to work on their own material. The feedback included:

“Best staff training days so far, we got to work on our own stuff and had time to get things done. It was great to work with other departments” – Teachers

Many teachers agree that student-directed learning makes sense when it comes to their own learning but this rarely translates to their approach to teaching.  Releasing control is always difficult, so I thought I’d do my best to outline some practical questions and advice from my own experience that will hopefully make some teachers reconsider their need for absolute control of when, what and how learning takes place.

1. TIME(TABLE) TO LEARN

Timetabling the day has more impact than you think. As the teachers highlighted above, how the day is divided often shapes it’s potential to engage people in learning. A comment by a New Zealand principal has confused many educators I’ve shown it to:

“The timetabling I’ve grown to love is that which subjugates the timetable to its role of representing the vision and values of the school and bringing life to the curriculum design principles that emerge from the vision and values – a timetable that is flexible and responsive with the needs of the learner firmly at the centre.” – Mauri Abraham (NZ Principal)

The idea of a timetable representing the vision for the school confuses many. The way you allocate time indicates your school’s priorities and thus your values. This is because teachers who are used to a day centred on the their needs don’t view the timetable as an enabler for students to learn but as another mechanism for managing them.

One major requirement for learning is reflection. Hardly any schools timetable for it.

“We do not learn from experience… we learn from reflecting on experience.”
― John Dewey

Students are normally given no time to reflect on recent learning before they are thrown into another unrelated lesson (High school) or topic (elementary).

2. RELEASE CONTROL

If your timetable is focused on the needs of the learners rather than teachers then you’ll be free to let the students shape a great deal of your teachers’ day. One issue that both restricts student experience and makes it less engaging  is that the whole day is often prearanged by the teachers for the teachers. Where to be, what to look at and what to aim for has been predicted and so actually demands less challenge. Learning happens when best when the learner is immersed in the experience. To truly immerse, a learner must have input into that experience.

Compliance is not learning, even if it results in good grades. Teachers should arrive at work wondering how they will be needed, not how students will conform to their pre-arrangements. I’ve always thought that the prescribed experience of school that teachers experienced in the 20th century is to blame for so many not taking ownership of their own professional development. Many are still waiting for the imaginary PD timetable and activities to be written for them. I wouldn’t want to think we were breeding another generation of people who wait for learning to be arranged.

3. allow technology to reach its potential

Technology is not essential, but it helps. A large number of schools are now using technology but teachers’ prearranged learning and goals restrict the experience for students in what potential there is to explore and discover with technology and the internet. Rather than learn, they are asked to use technology to achieve prearranged targets. This does not allow them to experience the same real learning process that people do outside classrooms.

Most young people are used to exploring and contributing to online discussion and events in their personal life. Many schools don’t make the most of this and create an abstract environment where study material has already been sorted and the path a discussion will follow is already well trodden by previous classes. Access to technology should be an empowering opportunity and I hope teachers ask students to surprise them with what the can achieve rather restrict expectations with rigidly structured tasks.

4. Students owning their assessment

Involving students in the design of assessment is both crucial to engagement and exactly what any learning involves when people outside schools undertake a challenge. If adults attempt to learn anything they start by setting criteria for how they will know they’ve reached their goal, be it piano or a google chrome extension. This is also something we generally deny students in schools. They are normally adhering to someone else’s idea of success. In doing this, teachers and schools remove an important personal connection to the learning experience.

I have experimented much in the last 3 years by challenging students to consider what marks success within each task they undertake. I have been surprised by how engaging this activity is for my students. It might be because it’s a novelty in relation to other learning they do but one group, for example, extended the assessment design to a full week of lessons without any encouragement from me!

Even if you are working in a high school and assessments set by high authorities. Ensure your students have time to review the course demands and construct their own list of requirements. To some teachers, this will seems like a waste of time, when they have already done it for them. But again, I stress that it is part of true learning and to remove this step only creates an environment of compliance and the skill of learning is not developed by the students.

Like reflection, considering one’s own success criteria is an important part of the learning process and schools should reintroduce this if learning is ever to be considered as authentic and meaningful.

Don’t just state your vision but be it

Many schools will state that they want students to be independent, responsible and confident. But if your students are walking into a school environment where every aspect is prearranged, you remove the need to be independent, responsible and confident about anything significant. We say practice makes progress, well let’s start allowing students to practice what we want them to become.