Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Challenges of learning in the 21stC

Jackson Pollock painted images in the 1950s that may have predicted the ambiguity, challenges and excitement that future decades hold?

Our 'new' New Zealand Curriculum asks teacher to 'see' their students as active seekers, users and creators of their own knowledge. Students who can see 'connections' are able to call on, or integrate, various disciplines to solve problems.

It is no longer appropriate to see knowledge as prepackaged into subject boxes to be transmitted to students - who by nature are now no longer willing to accept second hand learning from their teachers.

Those who try to impose learning on students are fighting a battle that will be lost in the decades to come. In the meantime the 'knowledge priesthood' that reside in the Ministry, and secondary school subject departments, continue to try to retain their primacy. Add to this the reactionary 'default position' of primary teachers who cant see past the Victorian literacy and numeracy dogma.

Anybody who wants knowledge can access 'wikipedia' or search via 'google'. What is important for learners is to keep their curiosity intact; to continue to be exited about learning; to sort out which knowledge is authentic; and to develop their creativity and imagination.

What we need to teach is to help students trust themselves to learn how to become aware of and solve their own problems. Our teaching must result in students actually enjoying solving problem by creating their own artifacts of knowledge, or personal expressions, using whatever media they choose to select.

The role of future teachers in achieving the above is both an exciting and challenging one; teaching inquiry and thinking approaches; how to interrogate information; providing information and media assistance; ensuring necessary skills are in place ( including literacy and numeracy); assisting students in their 'personalised' learning pathways; interacting in the role of a learning 'adviser' or 'coach'; and, most of all, creating safe and stimulating learning environments.

To achieve this will require the dissolution of subject boxes and for teachers and students to work in teams. Balancing team work while still encouraging singular acts of creativity will make teaching far more exciting - but not for teachers ( and students) who have grown used to their boxes.

All learning 'emerges' from what someone called 'cognitive inconsistency' - when things don't seem to work out as expected. All learning is a creative act of personal construction - meaning cannot simply be passed on to students without something being lost in the process. All learners have to face up to jettisoning old knowledge to allow new idea to seep into the subconscious. Education is literally about changing ones mind.

Control of knowledge has to be wrested away from the 'knowledge priesthood' who presume to know better. New minds need to able to see connections between disparate areas of learning while at the same time calling on knowledge from the various disciplines.

And learning is more than pure logic. Intuition, feelings and imagination are to be valued if new ideas are to evolve.

Students as creators of their own knowledge requires 'new minds', or minds before they were hardened into categories by faulty schooling.

Students as creators requires new schools.

Students, who will thrive in the future, will need to be driven by their curiosity, able to call on past learning as required.

Such schools are hard to find today but they do exist in the minds of many creative teachers.

Leaders, who can combine such teacher creativity with the innate curiosity of students, will have begun the development of future schools.


Anonymous said...

It is important to value in depth subject knowledge in this process of integrated learning - which you do. If this is not done shallow learning (and teaching) would result. This is what happened in the past; once the pioneer teachers had paved the way - others just jumped on the bandwaggon and gave it a bad name.

Bruce Hammonds said...

I agree .

So far the integrated units i have seen lack any real depth of content not withstanding all the amazing information technology that is available. Let's us hope schools are not heading back to revisit past mistakes.

One of the troubles is that primary schools are becoming obsessed with literacy and numeracy expectations and their technology seems to focus, at present, on electronic whiteboard 'nanialand'.

Both resulting in traditional teaching styles.

I await to see a school taking seriously students as 'their own seekers, users and creators of knowledge', as it states in the 'new' curriculum.

I would love to hear otherwise!