No, this is not a seasonal reference (Happy Christmas, by the way).
So, here’s how I spent my Christmas: writing a pamphlet, marking the end of the Development and Research phase of Learning Futures (coming to a download near you in February). Sad, I know, but it was either that, or watch Australian TV re-run BBC’s Christmas of 2010 (didn’t like it first time around).
Trying to make sense of an intense, innovative and (sometimes) radical journey has been challenging, but I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday. And, since it was replayed today, I thought I’d share it with you.
Our conceptual model for Learning Futures has, thanks to schools constantly challenging the project team, been evolving significantly over the past two years. Essentially, we believe that students are only ever going to be engaged by attending an ‘engaging school’. What is an engaging school, I hear you ask? Well, basically a school that integrates head and hands, knowledge and skills, through project-based learning. A school that sees ‘school’ as merely the basecamp for learning, not the destination. A school that believes that we need a diverse range of learning relationships to replace the teacher-student FM/AM model. All of this should be underpinned by a culture which we describe as the ‘learning commons’: a belief that schools should be open, shared spaces where parents, communities and buisnesses should have a stake in, and a say in, what goes on there. Most schools are ‘enclosures’ – closed, regimented, spaces and schedules, governed by the concept of ‘subjects’ and, of course, testing. So teachers teach the exam first, the subject second and the child third. A learning commons culture might teach the child first, support the community second, and involve the parents third. (Yes, I know, you’d worry about test scores with that culture, but every school that I know with a learning commons culture has exemplary test scores).
It’s a radically different model of pedagogy to the exisitng norm, but what we’ve also learned is that you can’t change pedagogy without changing the school – especially the learning culture of the school. So, the question we’ve been grappling with is this: how do schools respond to the professional imperative to change their cultures, structures and spaces through (and I’m really sorry for using this word) andragogy? To save you looking it up, andragogy = learning strategies focused on adults (at least that’s how Wikipedia defines it, so it must be right).
And then it hit me. We do it, by doing exactly what we think is best for our kids, to ourselves. Applying the Learning Futures pedagogical approaches (Project-Based Learning, School as Basecamp & Extending Learning Relationships) to ourselves, results in teachers building a learning community, with the school as the project; the learning to be found outside of the school, and the range of ‘teachers’ widened to include mentors, coaches and educational experts.
I sketched these ideas up into a handy infographic (‘slides’ are so 2011..) which you can cut out and keep:
Long story short: it’s a fractal model of professional development. What works for kids, works for us, too. So far, so theoretical. And then, today, I saw a really great post from the people at Playducation, who had recently visited the inspirational educators at Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney. They included a short video which brings my little infographic to life, not to mention, actual practice:
So, then I knew it wasn’t because I’d been at the cooking sherry, it was because I was right all along. Look, don’t take my word for it, just have a gander at Stephen Harris talking in the video (do you see what I did there? Good for the goose, etc?)
Happy New Year, folks – may all your schools be transformed into learning commons in 2012.