I was struck by a sense of gloom about our future when reading about the trend in accelerating technology, which offers both progress and disruption to the world as we know it. How do we prepare our young people for their uncertain future? But listening to my students as they discuss such weighty topics as climate change, terrorism and cyber-crimes, I am heartened by their interest, knowledge and empathy. Where are they getting their information from as it isn’t all from school? According to the BBC (June, 2016) ‘social media has overtaken television as young people’s main source of news’. We know they are more connected to the wider world than ever before, so it makes sense to me to focus on collaboration as a mid-term trend that can help us prepare students for this fast-changing world. Collaboration can lead to ‘civic literacy, community engagement and innovation’. (OECD, 2016). In developing these skills, we should embrace technology to enhance communication, knowledge building and critical thinking. By collaborating, we are working with our peers, working with our students, working with their families and the wider community, including the rest of the world. Collaboration fits neatly with the culturally important concept of whānau. It is important that our small and unique nation embeds this concept into its national psych if it wants to survive the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ posed by disruptive technology.
My focus practice is the new unit on which I’m collaborating for our Junior Enrichment programme. This is taking an Agile approach to learning in that students are at the centre, in an environment that allows them to select a topic of interest to them, interact with their peers and the wider community, design, problem-solve, prototype and adapt through evaluation. Assessment criteria are built upon the Key Competencies outlined in the NZ national curriculum and take a cross curricular approach.
Schools around the world are actioning similar approaches. Summit Public Schools in California encourage their students to be ‘self-directed learners’ by coaching them in: ‘challenge seeking, persistence, strategy-shifting, response to setbacks and appropriate help seeking’. They use a mentoring system where students are individually supported in setting goals, making a plan and developing their ‘Habits of Success’. We are in the early stages of developing our new curriculum, but we have already learned a lot from research during the planning stages and can learn more from the Summit model.
This is all very exciting, but it means a huge shift in thinking for me as a teacher. Our young people expect to be consulted, they are proud of their knowledge and are conscious of the world’s problems. They use social networks to communicate, so we need to ensure that we are using socially constructed ways of teaching, built upon strong relationships and trust. We need to protect them from the millions of bits of misinformation available to them by teaching them to be critical and evaluative. We also need to be mindful that not everyone will be comfortable in this world of collaboration. Some people are shy, introspective individuals who also need to be given the opportunity to work alone. We know that a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching and learning is ineffective. We are already dealing with ‘withdrawal disorder’ and ‘fear-of-missing-out syndrome’ (OECD, 2016) posed by technology. Yet, even with these problems, the positives can outweigh the negatives if we are active in our embrace of technology, rather than passively allowing it to run us down like some juggernaut. I am no technology expert and I don’t use social media websites on a regular basis, but this shouldn’t be an obstacle; not if I collaborate with my students.
National Intelligence Council. (2017). Global trends: The Paradox of Progress. National Intelligence Council: US. Retrieved from https://www.dni.gov/files/images/globalTrends/documents/GT-Main-Report.pdf