Saturday, September 20, 2008

Declaration of Educational Goals: ICTs

MCEETYA are seeking input on the new National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians for the next decade. See previous post.

The "rapid and continuing advances in ICTs" that are "changing the way we share, use, develop and process information" and the "massive shift in power" to learners features in the draft preamble of the new declaration. But it also calls for a "quantum leap" in our knowledge of effective ways of embedding ICTs in learning in schools.

One goal refers to learners who are "creative and productive users of technologies, particularly ICTs" and the preamble identifies the need for "digital media skills" and to be "highly literate in ICT".

Some are disappointed however that the 'commitment to action' section only mentions
  • maximising the use of the latest technologies in teacher professional learning (d)
  • integrating key multidisciplinary perspectives into the curriculum which includes ICT (e)
  • using new technology to minimize red tape and make information easily accessible to the public (g)

To some this appears odd given the focus in the preamble, the current Digital Education Revolution national agenda and the level of detail in the DER strategic planning documents.

Perhaps the draft declaration needs to include something about using ICTs to achieve each goal - and some/many of the 'commitment to actions' - or is that assumed? Can we assume anything if we are talking about the need for "quantum leaps" in effectiveness?

Should the document include something about using ICTs to

  • enable personalised learning?
  • create safe and developmentally appropriate spaces for blended learning, communities of inquiry and digital folios?
  • facilitate assessment of, for and as learning?
  • bridge formal and informal learning - including computer game and special interest 'affinity spaces'?

Or perhaps given the ongoing rapid rate of change in ICTs to 2020 we need to rethink our approach in this area?

How can we be ready for powerful mobile computing, complex virtual worlds, sophisticated games AI, highly interactive media, ubiquitous geo-tagging, and many more ... as they deliver new affordances in education? Particularly when they are likely to be delivered directly to most (but not all) learners? And particularly when learners won't necessarily 'see' either the new ICT or the new affordances?

How can curriculum, learning, teaching and assessment be much more responsive to this rapid change? How can we keep the focus on learning, teaching and assessment without being distracted by shiny gadgets with short lives? How can we reduce the professional learning burden on teachers?

What other questions should we be asking and which assumptions should we be questioning?

Perhaps this is where we need a 'commitment to action'.


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Friday, September 19, 2008

Declaration of Educational Goals: Metaphors

MCEETYA are seeking input on the new National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians for the next decade. See previous post.

The draft document calls for the development in Australia of "world-class curriculum and assessment". Although I understand the intent I question the metaphor and therefore the possible underlying assumptions.

While previous declarations have been about 'schooling' the current document moves to 'education'. This is a welcome and significant shift away from 19th century metaphors and thinking that were designed to support industrialisation.

But which school of thought does 'world-class' sit in? We need to be careful that 19th century metaphors are not being simply re-badged leaving unquestioned assumptions to drive thinking.

For example, when the document refers to the need for "quality teachers" it also talks about developing the right people to be effective instructors to deliver the best possible instruction! Aren't we committed to personalised learning for all young Australians?

The document says teachers should have "targeted professional development... to enhance teaching and learning." Shouldn't they be engaged with "personalised professional learning... to enhance learning, teaching and assessment" ?

Laying solid foundations is another metaphor that needs questioning... The notion of providing foundations for later learning appears frequently in the document. Combined with the need for essential literacy and numeracy (also frequently cited) and the need to meet national standards this has the potential to alienate many of the learners we are attempting to engage.

Some learners spend years - even decades - in dark educational foundations...

We understand the brain/mind and learning a little better now. Laying foundations, building learning structures, sequential processes and other 19th C metaphors are not always the most appropriate...

We also need to question our curriculum metaphors. The document talks about a "comprehensive curriculum that details the knowledge, skills and values to be achieved." Is this 'curriculum as content' where "specified work needs to be covered" ? Or are we talking about more dynamic curriculum frameworks that remains current in times of rapid change?

While the document has much to offer it still appears to be caught between the 19th and 21st centuries - neither in one nor the other...

But then so are we :-)


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Declaration of Educational Goals: Play

MCEETYA are seeking input on the new National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians for the next decade. See previous post.

The draft document emphasizes the importance in times of rapid change and with current global challenges of having creative and curious learners who can think in new ways, embrace opportunity and innovate.

One powerful way to promote creativity and innovation is to create educational environments that allow learners the mental, emotional and physical space to safely play, explore possibilities and take risks - and not just for very young learners.

Play for learning does much to maintain engagement, promote well-being and create opportunities for transformation in understanding. Play can also bridge formal and informal learning and break down barriers to learning. The serious games initiative for example is one way education can use online games to enhance learning.

The importance of play for learning is a little hard to find in the current draft that validly highlights the need for skilling in essential literacy and numeracy, building foundational knowledge and skills in all learning areas, and achieving excellence.

As well as talking about how we as a community can achieve these educational goals "with support and hard work - from children and young people and their parents..." perhaps we also need to say something about playfulness, imagination and celebration.

All work and no play makes for a dull declaration of educational goals :-)

There may be other things we can do to promote creativity, imagination and innovation. Ken Robinson asked if schools kill creativity at TED two years ago and his message has been reverberating around the globe ever since.

Should there also be something in the declaration about students following their passion and developing personal interests and talents?


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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Declaration of Educational Goals: Foresight

MCEETYA are seeking input on the new National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians for the next decade. See previous post.

The draft is scattered with skills and dispositions (beyond fundamental literacy and numeracy) that are needed to be successful as individuals and a nation in the current decades of ongoing "major changes" (previous post).

  • critical and cross-disciplinary thinking
  • values of resilience and ingenuity
  • thinking flexibly and creatively
  • innovation and problem solving
  • multi-disciplinary capabilities
  • engaging with new subject disciplines

However this does not highlight enough the need for futures thinking, skills and tools. It is not enough to be able to cope with change and solve problems - although these are very necessary skills.

We need young Australians who can create their preferred futures, who have skills in problem prevention and social foresight, and who have the optimism for the future that comes with the empowerment these capabilities bring.

We need to be able to predict the consequences of our personal and collective actions rather than react to global challenges decades after they were caused - particularly with some of far-reaching applications of today's new bio/nano/gene technologies. We need young Australians who question underpinning assumptions and worldviews before they engage in a search for solutions.

Futures studies or social foresight has appeared regularly over the last few decades in educational discourse but is often overwhelmed by more immediate concerns and priorities. We need to think more creatively about how we can include the skills and tools of social foresight in education. Our successful future depends on it - locally and globally.

As far as the draft document goes perhaps an immediate improvement would be to include problem prevention with problem solving, foresight with resilience, and questioning assumptions and worldviews with critical thinking.

We certainly need "successful learners" who "have the capacity to make sense of their world and think about how things became the way they are" but perhaps we also need to add "and can create preferred futures".

See also World Futures Studies Federation and the WFSF Teaching Commons Resources


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Monday, September 15, 2008

Educational Goals for Young Australians

Education Ministers (MCEETYA) are seeking input on the new National Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians for the next ten years. The new Declaration will follow the 1999 Adelaide Declaration and the 20 year old 1989 Hobart Declaration
of "agreed goals for schooling in the twenty-first century."

So how do we see education now and what might be the goals that take us forward to around 2020? In this period of rapid change what do we even know about the world in 2020? And what will students need to prepare them for the workplaces and communities of 2030?

The draft Declaration lists some of the "major changes" since the Hobart declaration.

  • global integration and interdependence
  • shifts in geopolitical power
  • technological change
  • complex environmental pressures
  • rapid change in the way we use ICTs

For individuals and the nation to succeed in this new century the draft declaration proposes three educational goals founded on the principles of equity and excellence.

  • Successful learners...
  • Confident individuals...
  • Active and informed citizens...

A 7 point "Commitment to Action" shows how Australians might take "collective responsibility for personalised learning" that gives every young Australian the support they require to achieve high-quality educational outcomes.

Opportunity for feedback on the draft closes 3rd October 2008.

So, what feedback might we give from an 'holistic and integral education' perspective?

There is a great deal to be positive about...

The draft highlights the importance of every individual's "intellectual, physical, social, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and well-being" which is also foundational for holistic and integral education.

The language has changed from 'schooling' in previous declarations to a focus on 'education' with 'personalised learning' which is also a key element of holistic and integral education which recognises and values each unique individual.

The draft places "young Australians at the centre" and recognises the "central role of teachers" and the "collective responsibility" of the whole community. It has a "strong focus on literacy and numeracy" and "developing an understanding of history and culture and the key principles of science; knowledge of spiritual, moral and aesthetic dimensions of life; and competence in ... the creative arts."

In short it uses a more complex 'both/and' language rather than simplistic 'either/or' thinking that has been characteristic of some educational documents in the past...

Next post - How might the draft be improved? Any ideas?


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