Thursday 14 June 2012

The death of education, the dawn of learning.


The death of education, the dawn of learning.

Matt Richards
eLearning Leader

“It’s a very exciting time for learning. It’s the death of education, but the dawn of learning.” S.Heppell.

Stirring words by Prof. Stephen Heppell that were met with thoughtful silence at our recent Techie Brekkie for staff. The technological changes happening in the world around us seem exponential. Technology pervades most aspects of our modern life and our capacity to communicate, collaborate, create and innovate has arguably never been greater.

Ironically, it seems that education is one of the the last industries to the technological learning party. Industry being the operative word according to Greg Whitby (Director of Schools, CEO Parramatta Diocese) who believes that “for the last 100 years we have used an ‘industrial narrative’. Schools are like factories. It’s an administrative process, it’s about control and order”.
Sir Ken Robinson (world-renowned education and creativity expert) agrees that we have been stuck in an industrial education model, and to meet the needs of 21st century learners we need to change educational paradigms. Great! So how do we do that? The problem with paradigms is that they are the widely accepted and largely unchallenged ‘truths’ of our era.
We now have generations of teachers trained in the industrial education model. To make things even more challenging contemporary learning models seem on first appraisal to be the polar opposite of current teaching practices. “The flipped classroom” model involves students watching teacher prepared lectures and materials at home, researching, forming and emailing questions and then participating in grouped workshops at school. This indeed is a ‘flip’ on the old chalk and talk or ‘sage on a stage’ models that have pervaded the education system for the last 100 years. A lot of these ‘contemporary learning’ ideas are not new. Some innovative and creative teaching models have been utilised over the years but it seems that now we have the tools to do them justice. Teachers no longer need to be the keepers and disseminators of knowledge. The internet can provide any fact you care to investigate.

Students today are the first generation to have instant access to the collective knowledge of mankind. So where does this leave teachers? Kwok-Wing Lai in his article Teachers as Facilitators in a Computer‐supported Learning Environment posits that teachers now need to be guides and facilitators of learning. We need to show students how to find reputable sources of information and how to curate that information. Curate indeed! The amount of information online can be overwhelming. Luckily, the net seems to be evolving to meet this need. New services like Pinterest and Scoopit curate internet content and package it in personalised and easily digestible chunks.
Being a ‘facilitator’ can sound a little empty after ‘expert’. Teachers who were previously deemed experts in a certain field can now find themselves little fish in a much larger pond. This can be a frightening or inspiring experience depending on the teacher. Sir Ken Robinson’s quote “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original” seems to speak to this issue. Being a lifelong learner is a handy attribute these days. With contemporary tools constantly changing and ‘upgrading’, a capacity for change perhaps is the greatest skill of all. Thankfully teachers are no longer alone. The internet has not only provided information but a heightened capacity for communication. Teachers can now network with their peers all over the world. Resources are shared. Wheels are not reinvented. Learning networks are forming in dynamic ways. This phenomenon is not limited to teachers. Social media is bringing people together in all industries and walks of life.
We seem to be going full circle. Teachers are becoming learners.

In times of rapid change learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

Question: What do we call a class with no ‘teacher’ but full of ‘learners’?
Answer: A learning community.

The boundaries of the learning community are not defined by brick walls. Parents, the wider community, international friends, all can participate in the learning community. Video conferencing is now smooth enough to beam experts into the classroom from all over the world. Classes separated by oceans can sit and talk through the magic mirror of an interactive whiteboard. Student learning can have a real and immediate impact in the world. And with the state of the world today real world solutions are needed. Let us make school a place where the innovators, collaborators and leaders of this brave new world are supported and inspired.


Kwok‐Wing Lai Teachers as Facilitators in a Computer‐supported Learning Environment
Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education Volume 2, Issue 2, 1993

Eric Hoffer- Quote -  Available: