What will be normal?

So much change within the passing of weeks; the use of ‘unprecedented times’ has been over-used perhaps but we are certainly in unusual times and only time will tell its long term impact.

Do you remember the video that did the rounds in the early part of the new millennium ‘Shift Happens?’ If ever we needed an illustration of how shift happens quickly then looking onto the education world over the last month would be a fine example. Even in this example it has changed significantly over a relatively short period. Just to think that Facebook, Twitter were forming and many of the new social media platforms did not exist!

Online learning, MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses https://www.mooc.org/) have been with us for some years (first introduced in 2008 with the MIT OpenCourseware project, but they have not made large impact on schooling in the UK or certainly not as much as their potential could achieve. Zoom, MSTeams, GoToMeetings, Google Hangouts, even Google classroom have not made a major impact, although some exploration by the interested and innovative teachers has been seen.

The proprietary software that many schools have seen as optional extras to ‘proper face-to-face education’ have all of a sudden become the major resource for delivery and many teachers have up-skilled rapidly to be able to share lesson material online so that during the necessary social distancing, learning can be prompted, resourced and maintained.

Concern over the disadvantage now faced by learners who do not have internet access at home is suddenly to be resourced by government grant paying for tablets, laptops and even routers to level the playing field. Link to FEWeek article 19/04/2020

Many who have been offering these types of learning experiences over time with fledgling software and resources may have now found themselves on the front foot, leading the way into an unknown world, but the playing field will now level quickly.

My thought is now turning to what will be the long-term impact? How will we turn these learning experiences to great advantage and what comes next in the journey of education?

Sir Ken Robinson has talked recently in his online vlog about a movement to consider and influence what this ‘new normal’ for our thinking about education could look like. In his case he draws parallels with the need to change out thinking and behaviour in terms of the changing environmental conditions and the global warming crisis having parallels with the need to change our thinking and behaviours in regard to education. If you wish to engage with the trusted education thinker (link) (https://goboundless.org) and the children focused learning platform with a difference (link) (https://hellogenius.com). Links to Sir Ken’s blog site in ‘Further investigation’ below.

In our work in school efficiency and budget realignment reviews we consider how the school budget spending benefits curriculum delivery and and looks at how this could be reoriented to achieve different objectives. One of the most significant questions I have been asked this year during one major school review was from a headteacher who asked, “now that I have identified savings in the structure of the school”, it was to be around £1.6M over three years, “what am I going to do with the funds I now have?” You may think that this is a odd question, however that leader is not the first to ask that and probably wont be the last. The issue is that we have become so fixed in our thinking and practices that we are not used to rethinking the potential. But are now we are in a position where we might need to rethink? So what would you do?

One school has committed to a strategy of staffing classes differently from previous practice. The result is that resources are now available to support the learning with tablets for all and online resources more appropriate to the learners needs but this is only possible as the budget priorities are reconsidered in both these cases not by receiving more money.

But lets go further than that. Now that these online resources are available how will these impact the capacity for learning and development. The curation of knowledge through the use of Wikis and collaborative work spaces, where learners can collate their research and knowledge. The idea of creating timelines for literary work to show contextual study of time for when the book was written and when the book was set is an example of how learning might be experienced differently.

Still further, how we can use the technology to support the study of programmes where we don’t have resident teachers or courses to compliment programmes in school. The recent BBC series on ‘The Learning Revolution’ suggests that the majority of learning in years to come will be resourced online changing the purpose of the adult in the room, this may be a projection too far at the moment but some way along the path maybe where we are at now.

The potential to draw from existing online programmes for example Udemy, Linkedin Learning, TED, iTunes U and the likes of Code-school, Duolingo and many other specific subject courses may well form a growing proportion of the offer that our schools are able to utilise. This is a very different way of thinking about schooling. A recent study of the Finnish school system suggests that they are moving away from taught lessons completely allowing students to drive their education using online resources and a methodology not unlike the Montessori schools prevalent in the UK at primary stage and very much a figure of the Dutch secondary system.

The pathways are ahead of us, the routes may be many and various, the destination may be unclear and ill-defined. What I heard from a colleague at the Creative bravery Festival based in Scotland but internationally recently, “stop getting ready, start getting going” in short stop planning and get started. Maybe that is a word of wisdom for the moment. Its time to make steps to make change.

Get in touch or comment below, info@smartcurriculum.net

Further investigation.

Sir Ken Robinson’s blog site, link.

https://goboundless.org details will become evident over the Summer of 2020

Hello Genius provides children with unique learning experiences which help reveal their individuality and helps parents engage with their children in new and exciting ways. Hello Genius will launch in the Summer of 2020. https://hellogenius.com

Creative Bravery Festival 2020, link.