What do children really need to know NOW?

Thank you for the wonderful opportunity to go to the Rural Principals’ Conference last week. I’m so glad we’ve had a long weekend following it because my head was filled to the brim with ‘big picture’ ideas and ways to move forward for our school.

Having started to reflect on where 21 Century Education is going, I’m pleased to say we are already on the journey with the learning experiences we offer our children. This was heartening and affirming. Of course I also became aware of possible next steps to take on this journey and our glorious challenge as a community, as a group of teachers, and for our children is to decide what’s important to us to prepare our children for the ever changing world we find ourselves living in now.

Where We’ve Come From

In order to work out what comes next it’s often useful to see where we’ve come from. In the 19th and 20th centuries education looked very different. The centre of education was the teacher. Children were being prepared to go out into the workforce. Desks would be in rows, similar to a factory setting. Children were expected to work silently or quietly and on their own.

Society needed children to learn to sit for long periods of time, be compliant and unquestioning of authority. As adults, they would likely go into a job and stay in that trade or factory or profession for the whole of their working life. They would not need to learn huge amounts of new skills.

From school to the assembly line – life didn’t change much
childen in a classroomfactory

Where We Are Now

This is not the world our children will face as adults. We are now living in exponentially changing times. In the past 5 years the digital world has grown by 1000%. Many of the jobs in 2015 – social media strategist, user experience specialist – didn’t even exist ten years ago. In America there are already driverless trucks and cars travelling the highways. In Japan there are entirely automated factories.

Many of the jobs our children will work at don’t even exist yet and they’ll use technologies that haven’t been invented. So the old skill sets that were valued and served our communities now longer work for today.

Our children need to be active learners, to question the validity of the information they research, to be creative and to develop problem solving skills when they meet a challenge. The one size fits all approach never worked anyway and it certainly has no place in our schools today.

Working together to solve challenges

Our children need to find joy in working together in small groups. They need to understand the meaning of listening carefully to other opinions and working toward a resolution. They need to learn how to share tasks and recognise and work to the strengths in others.

More than anything I believe we are embracing the essential understanding that we are not just educating the head but also the heart. Emotional intelligence is imperative. Furthermore this is the Knowledge Age. There are no geographical barriers to accessing knowledge. In our digital technology connected world information is readily available in the hands of the learner.

Our challenge as teachers is to empower our children to build the ability to learn, and to go on learning more – and harder – things, without a teacher or other authority figure to help.

Focus on ‘possibility’

The 21st Century – the Knowledge Age – is an age of POSSIBILITY.

20150527_140437Children can choose the best environment for their learning activity

That new potential touches every community, every school, every teacher and every child. We are already on this journey. To move further forward we need to do some serious thinking about how our children learn.

We need to go back to our core values statements set out in our school charter and refresh our memories about what these are. We have to reflect on whether these are still relevant to where we and our community want to take our children.

Where to from here?

The world is rapidly changing. Our challenge now is to make sure our school prepares our children for this new world. Always these changes need to be driven by those values and beliefs at the core of our vision.

  1. So where are we on this journey?
  2. What’s a small step we are prepared to take?
  3. How do we refine what we are doing?

It’s okay to be where we are. It’s not okay to stay where we are!


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