A Dream I Had of Learning in 2030

The Learning 2030 Summit focuses on the future of high school education, a future that will be influenced by the wider landscape of education issues; from informal to formal education, primary to post-secondary. In this Learning 2030 Blog entry explore how a young leader in Nigeria sees the future of high school education and what he thinks we need to do today to get there by 2030. by Fagbohun Omatayo, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor Image © UNNPride Dream, dream, dream... I dream of a high school where the ability to think critically would be encouraged rather than memorization. Where children can design effective solutions to address the problems that matter to them. I dream of a high school where learning would be fun, increasing the receptivity of students. I dream of a high school where children would be taught more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. A high school where creativity and innovation are emphasized. I dream of a high school where students would be “knowledge makers.” Where the classroom is a think-tank and the teachers expert resources. I dream of a high school in the next 20 years where skills in new media and entrepreneurial prowess would be nurtured and developed. I dream of a high school where the Internet would be fully utilized by the teachers as a source of learning tools. Image © carlagomo   Getting technology to students of the developing world In my view, there is no way that we can successfully separate innovation, the Internet, and technology from education in the next 20 years. The Internet is changing the way we work, play, live, even how we eat. It’s already changed the way many students learn in the developed world. Students in the developing world need access to these new tools to help tackle the complex problems they will face after school.   The world isn't static. If we are to have a dynamic future, teaching approaches and methods must change. Fagbohun Omatayo works to promote the UN's Millennium Development goals in Africa and is a Development Ambassador for Nigeria. He currently serves as a Google Student Ambassador after participating in Google Student Ambassador Summit in Nairobi, Kenya. 

Question Everything, Think Outside The 011000100110111101111000

Image © saschapohflepp by Mike Maccarone, Learning 2030 Contributor As teachers (of science, in my case) we encourage our students to wonder (and wander) through school, through life, with a curiosity about how it all works. From the seen to the unseen, the intuitive to the head-scratching.   We aim to equip students with tools they can use to answer their own questions: make observations, collect data, develop a hypothesis, design new ways to test ideas, compare results with others.   We also challenge students to question common sense, to find innovative ways to solve problems, and to think 'outside the box'. But, are we practicing what we preach?    Skill vs. content In the age of digital information and social networking, where facts and equations are literally a click away, the need for memorizing content is far less important than it once was.   A traditional science classroom, where content lies at the center of teaching, learning, and assessment, is no longer enough.   Skills must be at the heart of the classroom and content the delivery system for those skills.   If we turn the curriculum inside out, students are more likely to think scientifically – with consideration, intent, and evidence – rather than merely remember facts.   Scientific literacy can then be more about global citizenship, giving our future leaders, voters, and activists alike the insight and intuition to think scientifically.  An outdated system Kingdom/Phylum/Class/Order/Family/Genus/Species   Red/Orange/Yellow/Green/Blue/Indigo/Violet   I can still recite them, though if you challenged me to explain the difference between Class and Order I might flee (or at least pretend to receive a phone call and check my smart-phone for the answer). Why do we still teach this way? Why are we holding on to these classification systems, these boxes?  For one thing, it's easier to test. I can ask a student to write facts in order, mark her paper, grade it, and tell if she is good or bad or just alright at 'science'. A lazy example, perhaps, but assessment has become a major player in educational reform. Without data, how can we know if we're doing anything right? Data can be a dangerous thing if we collect it improperly. Is it fair to use multiple choice questions and math problems to determine whether our students are thinking analytically? In order to truly reshape how we teach, we need to focus on how we assess. Measuring skills and growth does not have to be a numerical process. Educational data does not have to be quantitative to the extent that public schools might like and teachers' unions might loathe.   There is certainly value in assessment, especially in providing feedback to students. If we can shift our focus from easily gathered, shallow data, we can redirect our efforts towards giving students meaningful feedback that helps them improve their understanding of science and their approach to learning, regardless of where they may fall on the academic spectrum.   In order to shift the focus of schools from content to skills, we need to consider what we are asking our teachers to do and what support they need.   We also need to agree to measure student success in a more meaningful way.  Thinking outside the 011000100110111101111000* But what if we take it one step further?   What if we begin to think of science the way a scientist, and not a test-writer, would - accessing and encouraging all of the different connections to the concept we are studying when it fits best in the classroom, and not when it shows up in Chapter 12. If skills rather than content are brought into focus, if assessment is about feedback and growth rather than facts and percentages, and if sparking curiosity in students is the real nature of a science classroom, how can educators begin to think differently about what and how to teach?   For one, we should acknowledge that the lines between physics, chemistry and biology are blurry – if they exist anymore at all – and that without building in Earth and space studies, engineering and sustainability practice, and technology and its impact into our schools, we will be doing an injustice to the next generation.   For teachers this is can be an uncomfortable idea: I am trained in physics and though I have some background in other areas of science, I couldn't begin to teach a biology class effectively without help. Collaboration is certainly key in developing new, enriching, and exciting cross-curricular ways to innovate the classroom.   Image © CERDEC Students don't think in boxes unless we tell them to If these students can study the physics of a battery in connection to a circuit, explain the chemical process behind alkaline batteries, and use this as an analogy to understand the role of the central nervous system, develop an appreciation for batteries as a means of storing energy using sustainable resources, and design a system that implements a battery as a power source – well, why wait?   Why take four or five years and four or five teachers to connect the dots?   Students are ready to make connections, to be creative, to apply their knowledge to new ideas. Their lines haven't already been drawn.   We can do much, much better than boxes if we work together as teachers, within and between our schools, if we utilize technology as a global network of collaboration and resources. If we question our methods and practice what we preach.       Learning 2030 Forum Peer Advisor Mike Maccarone is the Science Curriculum Specialist (Upper School) for Avenues: The World School in New York City *“box” in binary language

The High School of 2030 MUST Be Built From the Ground Up

  by Dr. Guy Claxton, Learning 2030 Advisor I may have missed something, but I believe that the necessary starting point for thinking about the school of the future can’t be to tinker 'away from' what we have. We need a clear vision of what young people want (and need) outside of school, in order to be able to flourish in the 21st century, and to move toward that.  Then the whole apparatus of books, timetables, buildings, teachers and exams is up for debate.  The true test of a good education It seems blindingly obvious to me that the 'valuable residues' left behind in young minds after all those years in school is not certified knowledge, but the skill and confidence to cope well when ready-made knowledge is absent or insufficient.  To paraphrase the great psychologist Jean Piaget, students need to become experts at knowing what to do when they don't know what to do. In other words, they need to love learning, and be darn good at it. Not the kind of learning that's involved in preparing for tests, rather the kind that needs curiosity, perseverance, imagination, conviviality and self-awareness.  Out with the old… School's bite-sized approach to knowledge is old hat. Carving learning up into little bits that have right answers, which can be 'delivered' in an hour and tested 'objectively' develop exactly the wrong skills for life in the 21st century.  Kids need to develop the mindset of courageous, ingenious explorers, not the ability to parrot back dead facts on demand.  They need to be able to think for themselves, think on their feet, ask good questions, challenge what they are told, imagine new possibilities and make good friends.  (Image ©moodboardphotography) What we really need to do for the learners of 2030 It’s not about 'getting more kids to college.' It’s about figuring out how to develop minds that are strong and supple enough to thrive in a tricky and turbulent world; and how to develop spirits that love to turn that real-world intelligence on to projects that are personally satisfying and socially worthwhile.  That, as far as I can see, is the only game in town. Anything less is just wallpapering over the cracks. Professor Guy Claxton is Research Director at the Centre for Real-World Learning, University of Winchester and is an Advisor for Waterloo Global Science Initiative's upcoming Equinox Summit: Learning 2030.

Fixing a Learning Disconnect in the Digital Age

by Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen, Learning 2030 Blog Contributor The relationship between in-school and out-of-school learning has been the source of robust scholarship since the early 20th century. One conclusion that has been drawn from many of the studies of formal and informal learning is that school curriculum and pedagogy should learn from the ways in which learning takes place out-of school. Several researchers have argued that bridges should be made with informal learning practices and learners funds of knowledge with formal education as a way to promote authentic and meaningful engagement that can support identity development. A growing disconnect with digital learning Concerns about the growing disconnect between the digital learner and the school have revitalized public conversations and academic research on the mismatch between in-school and out-of-school learning. Today, there are varied and conflicting views about young people's use of technology, ranging from grave concerns about lack of socialization and poor interaction skills, Internet addiction and cyber bullying, to idealizations of a new generation of highly motivated, highly technologized learners. (Image ©hackerNY used under Creative Commons License) Can we make schools relevant to 2030 and beyond? Efforts motivated by the need to make schools relevant for 21st century learners and — on the other hand — to make learners ready for the 21st century, have resulted in explorations of the ways in which to meaningfully and powerfully bridge between cultures, literacies and social practices of "digital natives." The techno-enthusiast voices of "smart schooling" describe a vision of future school as a fluid, self-fashioning digital learning arena that is increasingly network-based, spanning boundaries between school and out-of-school sites and formal and informal spaces. Here, individuals’ interests guide the learning activity towards educational, vocational and civic goals. At the other end of these optimistic views, there are voices that seriously question whether digital technologies and youth media cultures can legitimately enrich the key tasks of the school, envisioning scenarios in which digital media might hinder, distort or even destroy what the school is and should be about. Media overload? No matter where you stand on these debates, it's clear that the growing diversity and fragmentation of today's media ecology means that young people have a greater range of and choices in media and communications. What is also clear is that (currently, at least) it is generally educationally-privileged youth with productive learning supports at home who are able to take full advantage of the new learning opportunities that the digital world has to offer and to translate these opportunities to academic and/or career successes for themselves. A divisive distinction In my own research work, I am interested in contributing to ongoing discourse, debates and research between the encounters of informal and formal learning in the digital age. My research goal is to offer a conceptual framework via which separations between formal and informal learning (and between the digital learner and the school) could be re-framed so as to overcome the traditional divisive distinction between the two.   Cross-context learning for 2030 Students have always engaged and learned within and across contexts, operating in different spaces and places via different tools. However, creating hybrid spaces of learning that authentically harness the funds of knowledge embedded in the life worlds of digital learners is a key challenge for research on learning and education in the 21st century. In my view, the role and position of the school in the digital age should not be seen as opposing youth culture nor as digital enrichment of traditional schooling, but rather conceptualizing school as an important part of a network of contexts of learning. A hybrid ecosystem for today's learners Together with other learning contexts, a hybrid learning ecosystem can optimally support engagement and identity-building for today's diverse learners. I am suggesting the creation of spaces in which formal and informal meet, creating a third hybrid space for authentic and transformative practices in school and out. Here, formal and informal learning with digital technologies would reciprocally transform one another. Dr. Kristiina Kumpulainen is a Professor in the Department of Teacher Education at the University of Helsinki and former Director of CICERO Learning She will serve as a member of the expert Quorum for the Waterloo Global Science Initiative (WGSI)'s upcoming  Equinox Summit Learning 2030 from Sept 29 -Oct 3, 2013 Selected Publications: Kumpulainen, K., Mikkola, A., & Jaatinen, A-M. (2013). The choronotopes of technology-mediated creative learning practices in an elementary school community. Learning, Media and Technology. DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2012.752383 Kumpulainen, K., Krokfors, L., Lipponen, L., Tissari, V., Hilppö, J. & Rajala, A. (2011). Learning Bridges – Toward Participatory Learning Environments. Helsinki: CICERO Learning, University of Helsinki. ISBN 978-952-10-6046-5 (paperback).