I've hanging around a few Nings of late and even kick started one to give some of my staff a first hand experience of social networking walled garden style. One that I've just joined recently is part of an online conference run by my education system and focussing on Learning Spaces. What I find interesting about this is the chance to contrast the thinking and experiences of educators within my system with other points of view out on the open web. For instance, Vicki Davis recently pointed to this video from Bob Sprankle's presentation at the recent BLC conference in North America.
Now, the concepts and ideas that Bob raises are worthwhile, don't get me wrong. Many teachers can articulate what their ideal classroom could look like if someone was actually funded to build it. But there's the rub. Even with the Federal Government getting stuck into the biggest building initiative in decades via the BER initiative, I don't think much of that is going into future proofed classrooms and buildings. Schools are being handed templates of current buildings with minimal opportunity to rethink the way a school or even a classroom could be designed and function.
So when an idea like Qantas Club model classrooms was floated in the second Ning that I've been frequenting, I can feel a collective sigh from all of the teachers who just know that their classroom space is not changing any time soon. They quite pragmatically see that fantasy talk around learning spaces that are tailor made for these 21st Century Skills is not their reality. After all, they still have to shoehorn 30 odd students into their allocated area, connect to less than reliable networks, juggle limited budgets and still meet the rising demand for data driven accountability.
Of course, if we can allow the connection to the web in our schools to be less restricted and of sufficient bandwidth to be useful, then these new online learning spaces for the everyday teacher have much more chance of being achieveable. Even here, we run the risk of stumbling into fantasy territory again. You know the dream, the one of kids using their own devices to connect to the school network so that connection to the rest of the world is right there on the kid's desk. But then we'd need top notch technicians to ensure a robust and flexible network - and I know in this state, there isn't enough funding to keep the sort of talent in this area that we need for that dream to come true.
I have this gut feeling that even primary school education is going to dramatically change - some how, some time - before my time in this system is up. But I'm realistic enough to know that the physical facilities that people describe as pushing towards a more ideal learner centered classroom don't come cheap and it will take a better government (State or Federal) than what we've got right now to make that investment.
Don't get me wrong - we are seeing welcome investment in education that is a long time coming. I have to keep my cynicism in check and my network helps to keep me from assuming negative outcomes.
Darcy1968: Windows 7 is RTM so we may be advantaged by getting our laptops later rather than sooner #DERNSW7:09 PM Jul 27th from twhirl
grahamwegner: @Darcy1968 I'll bet there's a few teachers quaking in their boots re: DER laptops - or planning to ignore so business as usual.7:18 PM Jul 27th from Twitterrific in reply to Darcy1968
Darcy1968:@grahamwegner It is terribly exciting for most though and at our school there's no where to hide but plenty of collegial support and help.7:21 PM Jul 27th from twhirl in reply to grahamwegner
grahamwegner: @Darcy1968 That's good to hear - it would be easy to be cynical (like me).7:34 PM Jul 27th from Twitterrific in reply to Darcy1968
Darcy1968: @grahamwegner we have all just been empowered to make a genuine difference and I buy into the once in a lifetime opportunity notion.7:36 PM Jul 27th from twhirl in reply to grahamwegner
We can make genuine change in classrooms exactly as they are right now. Waiting for the ideal learning space may never happen but as Tom Woodward's great photo illustrates, schools will be eventually forced into change whether they want to or not.