I’m always happy when I open my inbox and see the weekly email from Modern Learners (Will Richardson’s newsletter). It challenges my thinking and is an excellent one-stop-shop for new ideas in education. This morning the newsletter didn’t disappoint. It started with a video from BBC about the Altschool. A school with locations in California and New York run by a former Google exec and partially funded by people like Mark Zuckerberg. The aim of the school is to completely personalise learning for each kid. There are as many engineers as teachers at the school. Algorithms are learning along with the kids and helping to redefine their ‘curriculum’ all the time. Does it work? I don’t know, but I’m curious. Is it the way of the future? Is it sustainable? The founder is hoping to offer their system to every school one day. Would schools want it? Would ‘mass production’ wreck it? Is it only for the kids who are really motivated anyway? Lots of questions and certainly good questions for us to be asking as educators as we navigate the way ahead with a goal to radically change the way eduction works. The question Mr. Richardson asks after watching this video is ‘Are we too focused on “education” rather than developing learners?” I would say yes. I’m happy that schools like the AltSchool exist to start pushing boundaries and seeing what works.
Are we too focused on “education” rather than developing learners? -Will Richardson
One of the blog prompts this month was ‘What Would Will Do’ at my school based on his TED talk ‘The Surprising Truth About Learning in Schools.”
It’s a fantastic video which gets to the heart of our broken school systems and the need to radically reform and rethink what it means to learn. If you’ve not watched it, it’s absolutely worth the 16 minutes! He works through the disconnect between what we call the conditions for powerful learning as educators (things like engagement, motivation, relevance, not constrained by time, etc) and the way ‘learning’ actually looks in classrooms. (see Exhibit A from my 7th grade son’s backpack)
So, What Would Will Do (WWWD) at my school? Exactly what he talks about in the video. Establish a clear vision for learning. Ensure this vision is clearly communicated. Then every teacher can work towards educational goals that lead them towards this goal. It should not only impact teaching but also how professional development money is spent and which purchases are made. The vision has to become real, alive, embedded and embodied by everyone. Some may be no where near this vision, but the goal they set will get them one step closer. Some may already be there and their goals too help to bring everyone forward. Celebrating those successes and establishing a support system will help catch the nay sayers and keep forward momentum.
We have a much easier task in many ways as international schools not forever bound to national curriculums and state inspections. We have a bit more freedom to create the school we believe will be the best for our learners.
So, what does the future of teaching look like? Where are you on the continuum of readiness? Does your school have a clearly defined and articulated vision? How are teachers taking that on and is there evidence in their classrooms? In his TED talk Will mentions a few schools he’s seen that really are ‘future schools’. Have you seen or worked at any schools you would label as successful future schools? My last question is one that I hear all too often from DP teachers: What about the DP exams? How will students pass those tests if we don’t jam content into them?
I’m curious to find out!