By Daniel Groenewald
Having your finger just close to the education pulse is like standing next to a waterfall. It’s frightful and sublime. No doubt we are living through some Cambrian-esque explosion in learning where data, connectivity, creativity and invention are metamorphosing before our eyes. Who knows what will follow but that fantasised future we read about is already part of the present. Reality, for most of us, is augmented. Artificial intelligence is in our pockets. And just think, with the right intent, what can’t you learn?
Why not take a free course online in abstract algebra or computer science from Harvard, or brush up on your stats with Salman at the Khan Academy? Enhance your problem solving by completing online activities that diagnose and target your neurological strengths and weaknesses. Forgotten how to tie that dependable Windsor knot? You know what to do.
The way we learn has fundamentally changed and the rate at which we are expected to learn is speeding up.
There has never been a better and more equitable time to learn in human history. Expertise and engaging content are just a fingertip away. Schools, then, must be a hotbed of excitement as old textbooks make way for digital resources and curricula is shared among peers and schools, freeing up teachers to focus on their craft. But realistically, the portrait of learning across the nation is much more complex and challenging and roadblocks do take their toll.
Schools have always prepared students for the economies of the future – that’s why compliance and social hierarchies were such important features of 19th and early 20th century education. They taught students the right skills to succeed the world of factories and organisations. But the present, and even more so, the future, requires much more than compliance and linear thinking. Most futurists and economists agree that creativity and innovation, critical thinking problem solving, and information and media technology skills, are key 21st century skills.
What they need to be complimented by, however, are 21st century teachers. It’s a mobius strip – you can’t have one without the other. However, shifting schools from the 20th to the 21st century requires serious investment in infrastructure and an even greater investment in teacher training. Recall too that the rapidly aging teacher workforce, by and large, were not trained for the digital age. It’s only relatively new graduates that have been reeducated for this brave new world and they make up a small minority of a profession dominated by baby boomers.
The complexity does not end there either. At the very same time it’s becoming increasingly urgent to invest in teachers 21st century capabilities; schools, and therefore teachers, are being measured by the results of older forms of numeracy and literacy – high-stakes tests such as NAPLAN, and pen and paper written senior exams for university entrance. This dancing bear called schooling is being pulled simultaneously in different directions. You can feel the stress and confusion in its bones.
We need a clearer direction for education that prepares them for the 21st century. We want our kids to create and communicate with the tools of their culture, tools that may solve the problems we’ve left behind. We want our kids to participate thoughtfully and ethically in the digital space, to have positive avatars, to distinguish valid from invalid content and engage in meaningful and creative work. And how do we do that? We don’t just buy some kit and expect magic to happen. It won’t. We invest in the people using the kit and support them to become the teachers our kids need.
In short, we need to commit to developing a new kind of teacher – a teacher that is comfortable using digital tools to construct a learning space that engages digital natives in solving challenging problems across multiple disciplines. We need a teacher who encourages creativity and collaboration, connections between subjects and communication in digital forms. Of course this teacher still loves their subject, knows and cares about their students, asks brilliant questions, laughs out loud and engages in rich curricula – the old and new. They’ve kept all the skills of version one and two but they’ve become something else, something better: teacher 3.0.
Most schools are not well-resourced for digital best practice so it makes sense to engage with a company that understands 21st century education – both its technical and pedagogical requirements. Datacom Education partners with educational institutions across Australia, New Zealand and Asia to provide industry standard technical expertise blended with unique leadership and classroom support to maximise the quality of student-teacher time and enable “anytime, anywhere” learning.
At Datacom we provide technical and pedagogical services from Professional Learning, Strategic Reviews to bespoke applications that will help you become a school where the learning never stops. Get in touch with us today to see how we can transform learning together.
Daniel Groenewald is a Professional Learning Consultant at Datacom.