Sunday, March 24, 2013

Finding the New 'Cool'.

One of the great features of the educational landscape today is the focus on creativity.

Many ''future thinking' gurus produce stats about how many jobs adults in tomorrow's society will have, how often they will need to change and adapt and how what is important to teach is not facts but the ability to innovate, problem solve and apply knowledge.

All of which is great - and hard to argue with.

When the conversation falls from the lofty shelf of theory and lands in the dusty floor of practicality there is less clarity about what this actually means.

What are these new skills and more importantly, can they be taught.

There are many people speaking and writing about what these new '21st century' skills are. It seems that there is something of a circuit for people who pose 'the big questions' - "Do schools need timetables?" "Do we really need curriculum?" and other grand ideas. Aside from the fact that asking revolutionary questions is the easy bit, these can be inspiring and thought provoking ideas. But few of these make transformative change in the real world of the classroom, the school and the education systems in which the teachers of today live and work. And the conversation is moving fast. What was acceptable and innovative and interesting as a start to the iPad debate in schools last year or the year before is not enough any more. These new skills we pursue are not novelties

They are not being able to 'do something cool'.
Technology in education always runs the risk of being demonstrated by cool people who do cool things and then categorised in a box where it remains as the domain of the 'cool' task or teacher.

The world has moved on. Take iPad for example. iPads are cool. You can do cool stuff on iPads. Cool teachers do really cool things on iPads. But everyone knows that. What we need to work out is how to make this technology the core of what we do in school and how to adapt our practice to take account of it. Children now have the tools and tech to be creative, handle complex questions and problems, seek advice from world experts and share their education with a global community. These are factors that encourage creativity and which are all increasingly possible now in the environment of an increasing number of 1:1 iPad classrooms.

So let's encourage creativity - but let's not leave it to chance. Let's look at building the potential that new technologies like the iPad offer into the core business of running and operating our schools, as well as the teaching and learning of our children. Let us accept that we need to encourage this innovative and creative approach to education but also ask ourselves the hard questions like 'How do we assess these skills?' and 'Where does creativity fit in the current landscape and how, bit by bit, can we incorporate it?' For the rank and file teacher to be a success in an iPad classroom it must be shown to benefit what we already do. It must allow them to do what they currently do better, quicker and in a more creative way. Otherwise it will be visited at courses and seminars from time to time, smiled at and nodded as teachers say "Cool," and quietly go back to school to do things the way they've always done.

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