Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution

An inspiring presentation by  Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution.  He talks about moving from an industrial, a manufacturing  model of education which is based on linearity,  conformity and batching people and moving to a model which is based more on the princples of agriculutre. Where there   recognition that human flourishing is not a mechanical process it is an organic process. He goes on to say that  the outcome of human development cannot be predicted, but the conditons under which they will flourish can be created  so when we talk about at reforming education and transforming it, it is customising and personalising   education for students.  It is about creating a movement in education in which people develop their own solutions but with external support based on a personalized curriculum.  Watch it and be inspired.

Filling the Global Achievement Gap

I listened today to Tony Wagner’s presentation (based on his book: The Global Achievement Gap) about the essential skills required for young people to enter the workforce today.  The seven surivival skills he identified are:

  1. critical thinking and problem solving including asking good questions and engaging in good
  2. ability to collaborate across networks and the ability to lead by influence
  3. adaptability and agility
  4. initiative and sense of entrepreneurship
  5. communication skills: oral and written skills
  6. access and analysing information (information literacy skills)
  7. curiousity and imagination

In his presentation, Tony identifies the disparity that exists between what schools are teaching and what is required by employers. After interviewing a considerable number of employers and observing classes including those in high-performing schools, his observations include passive learning environments preparing students for memorisation tests to meet assessment criteria and little evidence of critical and creative thinking opportunities and effective communications.

For many educators who try to induce change, this is not new information.  Schools are overburdened with assessment criteria to show successful outcomes.  As Tony says, this is at the expense of  kids being prepared for the 21st century of work.  The more we hear about change and what is needed the better!  Only today I was wondering why some schools have a policy that no ipods are allowed – what about the potential of these tools for learning?  Kids are using them out of school, why not utilise their use in school?

Tony has written the Global Achievement Gap: Why Our Kids Don’t Have the Skills They Need for College, Careers, and Citizenship–and What We Can Do About It, to motivate all those interested in education to help young people succeed in the 21st century.  The book includes chapters on The New World of Work, The Old World of School,  Testing, Reinventing Educatioon, Motivating Students: Closing The Gap,

Teachers are discussing the book’s contents at  Classroom 2.0 social network for anyone interested.

Digital Natives Have Their Say

Do kids ever get invited to conferences on the future of education? This is quite strange when you think about it, as Mark Prensky points out, all stakeholders are involved in corporate decisions, yet kids are rarely asked their viewpoints. In his article, Young Minds, Fast Times: The Twenty-First Digital Learner Mark points out:

Today’s kids hate being talked at. Students universally tell us they prefer dealing with questions rather than answers, sharing their opinions, participating in group projects, working with real-world issues and people, and having teachers who talk to them as equals rather than as inferiors.

Nearly two-thirds of secondary school students want to use laptops, cell phones, or other mobile devices at school.

A student in Albany, New York, pleaded the case for using technology in the classroom: “If it’s the way we want to learn, and the way we can learn, you should let us do it.”

One teacher queried, “Do computers cut you off from the world?” Not at all, said an excited student: “We share with others and get help. Technology helps — it strengthens interactions so we can always stay in touch and play with other people. I’ve never gone a day without talking to my friends online.”

One California high school served up a dose of common sense: “Kids grew up around computers. They love them. Their computers are their second teachers at home.” A student in West Virginia offered this nugget: “If I were using simulation in school, that would be the sweetest thing ever!”

Mark states that the best part of the student panels is always hearing the kids’ answers to his final question. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” Great responses:

I ask about their experience that day and whether their soapbox proved useful. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” I ask. I truly love their answers:
“I like the fact that we become equals. Students do not get the opportunity that often to share their ideas. If students and teachers could collaborate, a lot more would get done.” (Anaheim, California)

“A lot of students care — you just don’t realize it.” (Poway, California)

“Most of the time, the teachers are talking and I want to go to sleep. But now my brain is exploding.” (Poway, California)

“Don’t let this be a onetime thing.” (Poway, California)

“I think it’s important that you take time to see what we feel.” (West Virginia)

“Now you know what we think and how we feel. Hopefully, that will go to the heart.” (Texas)

“I waited twelve years for this.” (Texas)

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it!” (Texas)

“As a general rule, you don’t hear from kids unless they’ve gotten into trouble.” (Anaheim, California)

“Both groups [teachers and students] can learn from each other.” (Anaheim, California)

“If you don’t talk to us, you have no idea what we’re thinking.” (Hawaii)

Clearly, the kids find it valuable to share with their educators their opinions on how they want to learn. Although skeptical, they hope those teachers and administrators who are trying to improve their education think so, too, and listen carefully to what the students have to say.

Are Underprivileged Students Better Off Without Computers?

 We take it for granted that computers have tremendous potential to transform education. According to new research that focused on computer adoption among the poor in one Eastern European country, computers at home can actually help to lower the grade point averages of students, distract students from homework, and potentially contribute to behavioral issues.

 We find evidence indicating that children who won a voucher (to gain a computer) had lower school grades.

In the case of  the Romanian program, subsidies were provided for the purchase of home computers. The Ministry of Education did provide access to educational software. According to the researchers, few children installed educational software on their computers, and fewer still reported actually using that educational software.

The possibility that home computer use might displace more valuable developmental activities is a real concern. The researchers concluded that the role of the parent in “shaping the impact of home computer use on child and adolescent outcomes” is an important factor that needs to be addressed in programs aimed at bringing technology to underprivileged youth.

“Thus, our findings suggest caution regarding the broader impact of home computers on child outcomes. They also raise questions about the usefulness of recent large-scale efforts to increase computer access for disadvantaged children around the world without paying sufficient attention to how parental oversight affects a child’s computer use.”

Is this  something that needs to be considered in light of the one laptop per child  program?

I am sure that many educators would agree they would rather see children with computers than without.  Using the tools to gain in learning is the goal.  Liaison between school and parents, and using the tools effectively at school will assist in ensuring that they are not misused in the home environment.

Any comments?

Getting started with Web 2.0 tools

It can seem a little overwhelming knowing where to start with facilitating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom for teachers who are trying to embrace 21st century learning. I was so captured by this wiki: Webtools4u2se that I thought it would be a great tool to introduce teachers to cool tools and what is great about the wiki is that it gives lots of ideas for using the tools. Designed for school library media specialists, it is an ideal starting place for all educators.  It is very informative with a bright inviting home page (this is created using Glogster). It also has a page dedicated to Why Web 2.0 tools? Tools include:

  • audio and podcasting
  • blogs
  • calendars, task management and to do lists
  • drawing, charting and mapping tools
  • portal and web page starting tools
  • photo and photo sharing tools
  • presentation tools
  • quiz and polling tools
  • news feeds and aggregators
  • social networks
  • video tools and video sharing
  • wikis
  • productivity tools


Another great starting place for teachers wanting to know how to start or where, is Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch’s project and wiki for laying the foundations for using Web 2.0 technologies for teaching and learning. Visit their wiki at: Laying the e-planks for a Web 2.0 school. Anne and Jess are embracing 21st century literacies at their Hawkesdale P-12 College (a small rural p12 school, educating 5 – 18 year old students om Victoria, Australia) and are documenting what they have achieved as well as their goals on the wiki.

In the Planks page, they have resources to important issues related to Web 2.0 use, such as cybersafety, digital media and copyright, joining networks and creating an online space. To follow their journey you can subscribe to their eplanks podcasts.

Here is a great  wiki, 23 Things introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers. It is a 10 week course for teachers. Although it cannot be joined it gives a list of resources that are to be covered in the course. If you are interested in learning more about the course, participating in a future course session, facilitating the course at your own school or adapting the content under Creative Commons, please email Shelley Paul @