Although I didn't make the effort to blog about this last year, going to an all day event with Mark Treadwell (sponsored by ACEL) was an excellent learning opportunity. Mark describes himself as a travelling scholar and his session focussed on explaining much of the research and concepts of his book "Whatever!" retitled to "School v2.0" for the Australian market. My principal, Ann and I went along knowing not much than his book title expecting that it might have been about Web 2.0 tools in education but we were pleasantly wrong. Instead Mark gave us a big picture of what he refers to as the replacement for the 400 year old Book Based Paradigm, the Internet Based Paradigm. He used his experiences in the New Zealand education sector to talk through the challenges faced by schools today and how NZ has sought to meet these challenges. Of course, the government has changed hands since his 2008 visit and now, so the established direction and priorities of the MOE might have changed course somewhat.
Anyway, we were sufficiently impressed by Mark's work and both Ann and I agreed that his message was one that all of our teachers needed to hear. The phrase 21st Century Learning gets bandied around a lot in education circles but Mark Treadwell's overall synthesis in both his presentation and book is the most complete and defined that I've come across. So, Ann asked him at the end of his session when he was next due through our neck of the woods and secured his services for a staff PD day. That happens next Monday in conjunction with three other schools. I've been reading a few of the chapters from his book in preparation and phrased up a number of focus questions for our staff to consider and respond to during the day.
- What are signs in our work life that the Internet Paradigm is having an effect ?
- What are some practices in our schools that are decreasing in value because of the internet?
- What challenges does all of this present to our school?
- What personal challenges does all of this present to you?
Mark Treadwell has a number of comprehensive websites with a lot of supporting materials for his book. I know he's not the only visionary promoting and pushing for meaningful change to the education system (although he did mention that he despairs at the prospect of change at the university level where practices are even more entrenched than in primary and secondary schools) but if we are looking for relevant possible courses for action here in South Australia, then the New Zealand experience is far closer to us in school culture and values than other national change initiatives. If we are to believe those nation education ranking systems that regularly place Finland in the number one spot, then us Aussies in fifth spot are better to take our lead from the nearest competitor in fourth spot, the near neighbours in NZ rather than take advice from someone like Joel Klein from another country back in about twelfth spot.
Spot on Graham. Our friends in New Zealand can teach us a lot. I look forward to the chance to attend uLearn one year. I have always felt that educators in Victoria also seem to have their finger on the pulse, certainly more so than some of us bunnies up here in New South Wales. Cheers, John.
I brought Mark to Hong Kong last May to speak to educators at a 21st Century Learning conference and he was a great hit (and a great guy). He is still replying to comments on the blog from the conference. Marks ideas are backed by a lot of reading and research so he commands a lot of credibility when he speaks.
I would caution against looking to any form of league table or international ranking as the basis for deciding the direction of reform. If you look at the position of Hong Kong on the 2003 and 2006 PISA rankings you will find that the other country consistently up there with Finland is Hong Kong. A fact used by the government here to keep secondary classes above 40 and the curriculum very traditional and examination focussed.
This country allows for kids to be very studious as it does not offer the options that Oz does. 0 medals for HK in Beijing! As a consequence, the plumber here can tell you pi to at least 15 places.
I think we are looking for leaders like Obama to tell us more than how to solve geometry problems or the major rivers of Europe.
@Paul Your point about league tables is well taken – kind of ironic that I was using a justification that is really at odds with the type of learning that defies easy statistical measurement. And data can be twisted to justify any viewpoint if required – so your over-educated plumber example is a classic example of someone who learnt content at the expense of skills.