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Saturday, 19 November 2016

Disrupting Education


I love the word disruption.  We had a disruption this week when we had to evacuate from our house at 2am because of threat of Tsunami.  Most of the time we think of disruption as negative.  It think it is uncomfortable.  While uncomfortable it can have positive results.  Think of the disruption of electric lights.  A huge change.  I think we need this type of change we need in Education. Education needs disruption!

We try and disrupt education by adding in Innovative Learning Environments.  The spaces are new but we take our old practice with us and add it into the space.  It would be like taking a candle into a modern house with lights and using the candle instead of switching the lights on.

We try and disrupt education by adding in technology.  Again, we use technology like we use a pencil or a book.

We enter the 21st Century but live like we are still in the 20th Century.  We continue to use plastic while our oceans are drowning in it.

What is it going to take to disrupt?

We are going to have to stop doing some things.  Stop lighting candles, and turn on the lights.  Stop using ipads to write on.  Stop teaching like we always have.  The most important word is.... Stop. What are we going to stop in order to start?

A little example.  Over the last two years I stopped teaching writing like I used to.  I stopped having small groups of children and teaching them how to write by sitting them down and giving them a direct lesson. I stopped defining writing as the activity we do when we open our writing books and use a pencil.   Instead, I put numerous writing tools around the learning space.  White boards and pens.  Clip boards and pencils and Ipads.  Chalk and concrete.  Crayons, paints, pastels. Writing was modelled by me and others as we needed to use it.  If we needed it, we used it.  Writing is a culture tool and when it is seen as genuinely useful, and genuinely cool, everyone wants to do it!

Writing wasn't defined as a lesson.  Children wrote because they wanted to, or they didn't write because they didn't want to.  I didn't make them.  Some children copied words.  Some made words up.  Some used writing to communicate with.  The way we viewed what writing was, changed.  The way I taught writing changed.  It wasn't me teaching writing, but children learning to write.  Actually, those children who didn't write, found other ways to communicate.  They were still learning.

Not disruptive enough!  However, it felt it.  I wasn't teaching the way I had taught forever.  I had to learn a new way of viewing teaching.  I have recently learnt a name for it.  Instead of direct teaching, it is embedded instruction.  One definition of embedded instruction is "Inserting planned, individualised teaching into children’s ongoing activities, routines,and transitions in a way that relates to the context of what the child is doing. It involves distributing opportunities to use teaching strategies for the child’s objectives throughout the regular routines of the day.” 

I am not sharing this to focus on the writing, but to show how I had to stop one practice to enable another to begin another.  I am still learning to embed instruction.  It could disrupt education then again, how many times did Edison fail while inventing the light bulb?  When a reporter asked, "How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?" Edison replied, "I didn't fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps." More importantly, the concept of stopping one practice to start another or enable another to begin, could lead to the difference between a candle and an electric light in education.  

The problem I think is that we haven't got the time for 1000 steps.  We need solutions to global problems now.  Is disrupting education about providing the space for our children to provide solutions to our most pressing needs?

Have a think.  Are you in an ILE or a flexible learning space? How disruptive have you been? Electric light disruptive or are you still using candles in your space?  


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