Learning for the Future – Essential Articles

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Through our reading, we are fortunate that we have been able to compile these articles specifically focused on teachers and their professional development. Today’s article examines learning for the future: resources, types of learning, student disengagement, play-based learning, teachers surveys and more, and our hope is that they serve as a conversation starter about learning for the future in schools. 

Resources for high quality learning are increasingly becoming accessible to anyone with an Internet connection. Via The Hechinger Report, we have had a good look at Learning Commons this week. Still in beta, Learning Commons is an open, free, shared online space where users can access and use resources developed with a focus on blended and personalised learning. 

The concept is sound, and there is a credible list of partner organisations and a wide range of courses and resources available. The purpose of Learning Commons is to accelerate teacher professional development within the context of future-focused learning.

Looking through the resources, although highly learner-centred many are very disciplinary with an emphasis on moving teachers away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach to teaching and learning. These are important first steps, and we will keep in touch with the resources that are being added over the coming months.

Learning Commons is a good example of how access to information and learning is trending in the online space – open source and free, with credibility established through partner organisations and vetting of resources.

One challenge for teachers who access these resources is having their learning recognised or acknowledged through a credits-based system or online professional portfolio, possibly in a blockchain ledger. The question then becomes whether a credential is necessary, and if so how resource quality is evaluated – likes and views will not be enough.

We’ve been having a close look at High Quality Project Based Learning (https://hqpbl.org) recently, and are impressed with this framework that’s been released. Sourced via The Hechinger Report, the framework is a short, focused document describing the six criteria for effective project based learning (PBL), with a focus on the student experience. PBL is emerging as an important instructional approach globally, providing students with the opportunity to learn and apply a range of knowledge, skills and competencies. 

The six criteria from https://hqpbl.org are:

1. Intellectual challenge and accomplishment

2. Authenticity

3. Public product

4. Collaboration

5. Project management

6. Reflection

Each criteria is framed by a statement of intent and guiding questions, and the research underpinning the framework is thorough.

Together with the UN Global Goals and the World Economic Forum’s 21st Century Skills, a curriculum or learning system could be readily developed to enhance learning in schools and help students become future-ready. What are we waiting for?

Brookings Institution has been looking at the challenge of student disengagement, in this case through a lens of bored students within traditional classrooms and education systems that do not in any way align with students’ reality and the world they live and grow in. This article briefly shares some 21st Century pedagogies and suggestions for teachers and school administrators, before zeroing in on the big four of student engagement:

1. Listening – encouraging students to share opinions, and taking them seriously.

2. Choosing – providing opportunities for students to make choices about how they engage in the learning process.

3. Co-authoring – collaboration and participation in projects, products and activities.

4. Co-responsibility – working alongside students, and engaging them as authentic partners in the learning process.

This is sound practice, and what we regard as an absolute minimum in engaging and collaborating with students effectively. Unfortunately, in many cases this simply does not happen for our students – a failure to engage is a failure to development a life-long interest in learning – an essential habit in a dynamic and ever-changing world.

We have some new learning via The Exponential View next, about how Sweden has become a global music powerhouse through investment in music education in schools. Music support for students includes hundreds of hours of subsidised music classes, more subsidies for further specialisation, music streams in schools and music subsidies in adult education to name a few. As one student says “We can afford to make mistakes and experiment … You can afford to find yourself, and your own expression, without having any pressure, money-wise.”

The result of this investment is serious development of talent, sharing of knowledge and growth of a huge business that is global in its reach. The world’s leading artists now record in Sweden, and music is becoming a legitimate and accessible pathway to success for many. All that students need is a laptop, a microphone, a cupboard to record in and an Internet connection to reach their audience. Powerful stuff.

This article explores why the benefits of children, even older students, learning through play are becoming ever more apparent, to the point where it should be considered a fundamental right for every person. Through play, young and old learn to organise, collaborate, lead and innovate, developing lifelong skills for success not only for the individual, but the societies in which they inhabit. However, research shared via the World Economic Forum indicates that over-scheduling of children’s free time and overuse of technology are contributing to the majority of children in the US spending less time playing, with less time spent outside than maximum security prisoners.

In addition, due to highly structured learning and test-based assessment, many children globally do not have the opportunity to develop fundamentally important human skills through play at school, and it may mean the difference between getting a job or not ten years from now. There appears to be a lot of resistance within learning communities to the idea of play-based learning, and that play is not something that should be taken seriously.

How can we start a conversation with our teachers, families and policy makers about how necessary play is, not only from a wellbeing perspective but for the development of fundamental skills? How do we open eyes to how work is changing, what skills will be needed, and how play develops these? How do we make system-wide change happen?

We conclude today with an interesting piece of research from The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, which surveyed 1200 teachers globally about how to best prepare students for the ‘modern workplace’ in which both hard and soft skills are essential. Key takeaways are:

1. A range of teaching and learning strategies is necessary, including project-based, personalised and active learning.

2. Technology can support the effective execution of these strategies.

3. Teachers need to be good at what they do.

4. Budget constraints limit the ability of schools to innovate (see below for discussion).

5. Educators are generally cautious about adopting new strategies (important to note).

6. Businesses are already noticing the gap between the skills they need and the skills that new graduates actually demonstrate.

These findings are fairly consistent with the trends that we observe in our research, but we do question ‘budget constraints’ being a primary reason why innovation can’t happen in schools. Budgets certainly constrain a school’s ability to purchase technology and provide professional development, but action can be taken within schools to manage and mitigate those constraints.

Financially, it costs nothing for a school to identify in-house expertise in project based learning and run professional development sessions during a series of staff meetings. It costs almost nothing financially to set up a teacher research group, decide on a class project or investigation and mobilise a community to help. It does take collaboration, planning and imagination.

The research conducted and insights gained when looking at learning for the future have inspired the Indigo Schools Framework, the details of which can found in the Primer on our Resources Page. Send us an email at info@indigoschools.net or complete the form below if you’d like to learn more about how the Indigo Schools Framework can be successfully applied within your school. Also be sure to follow us on Facebook and Linkedin for our latest updates.

Interested in transforming your school? Let’s start a conversation.

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