Thursday, September 25, 2008

SLF08: The Shape of Things to Come: Personalisation and Collaboration in Education

Live blog from a keynote by Charles Leadbeater at the Scottish Learning Festival.

Started by making positive comments about Curriculum for Excellence but also that we call SLF a learning Festival - not a Conference. Leaning should be a part of life, not an added extra.

Started with a canon clip from YouTube.

He asked the audience how many times we thought it had been viewed and started an auction. Bids started at 10,000 and had reached 17 million when Ewan McIntosh shouted out the answer - over 49 million hits! {For the record - my browser was at the spinning beachball stage and was on the verge of loading the results of my YouTube search when Ewan shouted out the answer. He says it's because his MacBook Air is faster than my MacBook Pro. I think it's just he's a better typist!} Can you imagine how the BBC would have reacted to a pitch from this chap? They would not have believed anyone would be interested in watching a clip of a few minutes in length filmed with appalling production values. But he is part of the generation who realise what can be done... at home. A generation infused with the idea that "they can" not that "they want to".

Evidence for England seems to suggest we have reached a performance plateau, that we are not tackling ingrained inequality and that the harder we try to hit the target (by measuring literacy, numercy, etc.) the more we miss the point (which is about collaboration, creativity, co-operation...).

It all comes down to relationships.
Standards matter but are we providing young people with the kind of relationships that help children learn. Relationships are built on Care (being treated with dignity...), Recognition (in many secondary schools, children feel only their exam results are valued), Participation (what can learners contribute, not just what they can receive?) and Motivation.

Learning with and by not to and from
A collaborative and participative way of learning. Derek Wise headteacher at Cramlington Community High School school, is putting this into practice. Learning is something we do best with other people but that then enables us to learn on our own.

He claimed education was like an egg on a plate. The school is like the yoke and we put all our efforts into getting better yokes. The white is the family and schools find it difficult to work here but perhaps the biggest area is the plate - the pupils' wider social community.

Order and calm: hard and soft power
Schools that do this, are not afraid to use hard power because they recognised the need for order and calm. But they recognise this comes from the culture of an institution, not just its rules. This leads to a real care for the social and emotional needs of the pupils. So mentorng schemes etc. were in place. Also, major effort into creating personalised learning. Personalised learning is not just about tools but is about an educational philosophy. Lead to the breaking up of spaces (schools within a school). Place, Timing, Pace and Space. For example, education took place outside the school in an allotment - this made it easier for parents get involved.

More integrated across phase. ("We call it transition, but it is more like disruption.") Big schools that feel small. Software should lead hardware - the software is the educational philosophy. The problem is that often the hardware (the building) leads the education. Wider measures of success. New leadership teams, e.g. more than one head, posts not tied to subject or age...

Parental and family learning. Have to find new ways of engaging parents, e.g. "third spaces" like the allotment. Efforts made to minimise disruption at home. It's about aspiration and ambition - recognising they have to create learning communities not just a service or an institution for some (children). However, headteachers and schools are not really equiped for this. So need to draw in community resources, make school resources available to the community and to disperse the schools into the community. To create learning led cultural change.

Ten ideas to close the gap between where we are and the YouTube generation - creative, productive and per-to-peer. How do we do this without getting into trouble?!
  1. Personal budgets for families at risk. Invest early - the right amount at the right time may avoid the big costs of a crisis later
  2. Emotional resilience for all. Perhaps this should be provided in a family but where it is not schools need to build that capacity.
  3. Break up big schools. There are economies in scale but benefits in smaller schools. So have a school within a school - allows for possibility of getting the attention needed.
  4. National peer learning programme - recognise pupils teaching.
  5. Scrap the summer holidays. We penalise parents who go on holiday when it is inconvenient to us.
  6. Build a capabilities curriculum - learning to learn etc.
  7. The personal challenge. Children not allowed to do things they are already good at.
  8. The community based teacher. Get out into the learning plate.
  9. Individual budgets for potential NEETs.
  10. Schools as productive enterprises. Not just work experiences and work shadowing. What about actually producing things and making money.
  11. {There was supposed to be ten, but I have 11... and I missed his tenth - my eleventh. - DM}
He said we should not dismiss this as too idealistic (as if that was a dirty word). He based this talk on schools that are already doing it - for them it is deeply practical.

The people who have the potential to gain most from innovation are those who are least well served by the current system.

If you treat a school as a rock, the only way to get it from point A to point B is to propel it. If instead you see it as a bird, you could tie it to a rock and throw it! However if it is a flock, the only way you can move it is to put out some water and bird seed!

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