In March, I wrote about the amazing workforce that exists within our schols and my admiration, awe and respect has grown immeasurably. In my experience, staff have taken on new skills that might otherwise have taken a long time to learn in a matter of days. They have developed their knowledge to embark on the prosess of teaching to others. It has been a collaborative effort to make an online school as interactive, soiable and connected learning experience. Can it replace being in school? No but it has shown our ability to adapt when needs must. To support every learner has meant greater support for every family and although we are not in a perfect world we are making the very best of the situation. It is within this backdrop that @networkEDcymru challenged our understanding of education when they asked us to listen to 3 podcasts on BBC sounds by Alex Beard a former teacher that has left the profession to find what the possibilities could be for a future that looks differently at education.
I’m not going to paraphrase the 3 podcsats, it would be better for you to listen and reach your own conclusions regarding the learning revolution by Alex Beard.
What I have enjoyed is the need to give myself time to think about the learning revolution. I haven’t given myself a great deal of breathing space and my ability to create a work life balance is just as bad as ever. At present, I feel that I’m available 24/7 and that I’m unsure when the work day begins and ends. Perhaps this is my subconcious way of coping ar taking the words spoken by Alex Beard, my social care has heightened and that I’m working on a number of different levels in an intergenerational way.
If we take the titles of the 3 episodes, Knowing, Teaching and Learning. It almost feels like a KWL but Alex Beard has manged to question what I know, improved what I want to know and has built on my learning. Poor English I know, but I love the way that the author has turned to a number of experts whether philosophers, scientists, AI experts or educationalists and fused the knowledge, creativity and questions into a coherent programme that challenges the norm. Perhaps now more than ever we can understand that the norm can change at a moments notice thus being ready to think outside the norm will become increasingly important.
Know that and know how are key elements of the learning revolution. It is a debate that sometimes rages on Twitter, in other terms knowledge v Skills. I often consider this as the which came first, the chicken or the egg debate because ultimately and even within a learning revolution you need both. It is true that having knowledge i.e. know that allows your know how to develop but a baby often builds knowledge of both at the same time for different reasons. Knowledge of the alphabet and mathematics as well as scientific concepts will always be the basis of know that and perhaps as AI develops it will be the role of technology to provide more know that in order for teachers to have the space to develop the know how.
During this period when teaching has moved online, many schools will have used software that has elements of AI built into them, allowing a bespoke approach to learning refined directly to the needs of the child. However what online lacks is how to support the know how i.e, collaborative learning is an effective method of using your knowledge. Using your knowledge is true know how where know that is often about storing the knowledge. But, we need both!
In the new curriculum for Wales, as we build on the skeleton that has been published, we need to have the confidence to provide the know that and provide the opportunities for know how.
Another debate that the learning revolution has responded to, is that of the role of the teacher. Are we the instructors of directed learning or the coaches that facilitate opportunities? Directed learning provides you with strong foundations in the know that however the opportunities for know how might be limited. Perhaps here again a balance is required. At present, we don’t have the fully developed technology of the AI to provide all the required information to an individual and therefore directed learning has a role to play in supporting knowledge or as one person in the podcast described it, allowing teachers to drive the bus. However, you need everyone on board in order for the bus to reach its destination and in this context, learning how to learn does require more facilitation and coaching and this will involve cultivating shared know how.
Our new curriculum has been criticised in certain areas as relying too much on the know how without sufficient focus on the know that. I would answer this by saying, the school has been given the skeleton of a curriculum and within this skeleton, the importance of language and Mathematical concepts is crucial in order to have access to all other areas of learning and experience.
Thus we arrive at learning. As a teacher, I have never stopped learning, as a school leader I’m consistantly having to adapt my skills and as a learner, I don’t allow myself enough time to embed the new know how into my daily life. For Alex Beard, the key to learning is that it doesn’t stop. Intergenerational learning is a key element of the discourse. I was reminded during VE day and by a past pupil that has recently qualified as a teacher that one of the most moving and emotional lessons that I facilitated was when a Grandmother of a child in my year 6 class came to discuss life as an evacuee. On hearing her words, the knowledge they thought they knew developed into a collaborative know how and they learnt to care, share, cry and support each other. Operation Pied Piper became real in a way that I couldn’t achieve. Ats the end of the session, the Grandmother said to me,
“Thank you for letting me share my experience, it has really helped me but I also realised how much more the children wanted to learn!”
Learning across the generations isn’t simply about sharing knowledge, it is a means of developing know how and building social care within the curriculum. As a commentator on the podcast identified, social sensitivity is key to the process. Alex Beard used this as a focus for teenagers and how to get the engaged in their learning and it came to, in my opinion, a fantastic idea, that teenagers really are the R&D experts. Yet at present with a constant focus on exam timetables, do they have the opportunities to fully develop their skills as learners?
What should always be remembered is a simple fact, what stimulates the brain the most is learning at any age! The podcasts suggests that career pathways will be changed more than once in a persons life and thus continuous learning will be required.
In Wales, we have an opportunity to re-imagine learning, to think of the environment in which we learn differently and to know that both old and young have a role to play in securing our future, building a better cleaner world and caring for each other.
Yet the key to success will have to be built around the creative process, to learn that play is about attitude and the way we engage with the world. Allow the space to learn from mistakes, allow the opportunity to take risks and this doesn’t always have to be by following the norm of a classroom as they appear today.