I am a big fan of twitter chats and regularly take part in many chats based in various countries. Recently, however, I have found that they are becoming ego chambers filled with back patting and lacking critical thought. Still doing great things to connect educators, share ideas and support each other but not really allowing time or space for critical discussion to occur.
That is until the 2nd Birthday of #edchatnz last night. It was a doozy! The topic was “How can we meet students’ needs when the world changes so fast” and Rachel Bolstad (@shiftingthinkng) gave a masterclass in developing critical discussion within the fast-paced environment of a twitter chat.
Questions 1-4 were great:
- What makes you feel optimistic about the future?
- What are your anxieties and fears about the future? Be honest!!
- What is hard about being a future-oriented educator?
- What kinds of learning experiences help to shape future-creators?
But Question 5 just blew the discussion apart:
All of a sudden the quickly shifting tweetdeck column stalled as the shockwave hit. 100 years? People were struggling to provide for this generation let alone those learners around in 100 years, right!?
I sat back for a few minutes really chewing this one over and was then able to start answering. Here’s my expanded thoughts on this AWESOME question.
Right now, I am trying to develop students who actively build the future they want rather than just helping them become flexible and passively accepting that they need to adapt to changes in future (I highly recommend reading Keri Facer’s Learning Futures for more on Future Building). To do this students need to develop both knowledge AND dispositions that will allow them to be agile as they both build the future they desire for their communities whilst adapting to changing conditions (for more on this I also highly recommend Key Competencies for the Future by Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd and McDowall). To enable this to occur, I am also lucky enough to be in a brand new school where we are aiming to build agile school systems and structures. We have adjusted our module structures, timetable and teaching combinations as we have gone throughout the year as we see opportunities for improvements to be made and collect data to check these hunches.
How does this impact learners 100 years from now?
Every day at work I am helping to build a culture of creativity and iteration within our school. This is not easy. In fact it’s damn hard work. But, it’s incredibly important to keep our vision in mind and keep striving forward. Checking developments and decisions against our school vision. In my interview I promised to be tat guardian of the vision that would fight for things to move towards the vision even when it was hard, not allow things to slip backwards. My latest efforts with this have been focused on building a culture of critique where as well as sharing ideas we also share our concerns and criticisms. Critique is vital to ensure we do not get distracted by jazz hands and all developments are purposeful iterations.
At the same time we are developing this, I am sharing not only our developments but the thinking behind it all – through this blog but also at a smaller scale on twitter and Google+. This helps me process my thoughts but also helps to share these ideas out into the wider educational system. Other teachers read the tweets, posts etc. and (sometimes) discuss these with me and others from HPSS, with each other and with others in their school. Lots of us are sharing at conferences, helping to spread these ideas further (last week at ULearn there were 6 from our school presenting on different topics). In time many of us will also move on to other schools and take these ideas and experiences with us helping to spread them further.
I am also currently working on a project to help others launch innovations in their schools. Hopefully, this will help those teachers wanting to change things for their learners but struggling for time, feeling isolated, facing blockers etc. to put their ideas into practice. Watch this space!
Yes, Rachel, you absolutely broke my brain for a while last night. You absolutely made me critically reflect and think deeply about my practice. But what that reflection has shown me is that I can say that every day I am working to provide empowering conditions for learners today AND for learners in 100 years.