If you are a blogoshere junkie (like me), you’ll have seen the phrase 19th Century “Factory Model Education” being thrown around a lot recently. This lovely little (dead) metaphor is frequently used by edtech zealots to beat up on teachers and schools who appear not to have quite woken up and smelled the coffee of 21st Century LEARNing.
Edtech critics, often painted as “luddites” by these “techie reformers”, bounce back and say it’s not about the technology at all – they cite the fact that there are armies of innovative artisan-teachers (and a fair few schools and colleges) out there doing just “fine” without all the bells and whistles that come with the edtech hype. What they stress is that it is not technology (or a lack of it) that matters – but rather it is a (very) real lack of understanding of what works and what matters in a classroom (“flipped” or not) that is the real killer…
You see, we are just as likely to…
Or, even worse…
…by implementing edtech in an unthunking way (or introducing “new classroom models” centred only on technology and toys) as we are by not questioning what we do and have done in our schools and classrooms for years!
I’m not going to focus on the technology side of things in this post – I want to focus on the other stuff as the “factory metaphor” is not only used by those wanting to push the edtech agenda. Personally, I love luv “me tech” – but I have a great deal more respect for all those great teachers and schools that focus on the other things that matter in student LEARNing and success (and I ain’t just talking about success in the “examocracy” sense).
The problem is, of course, that not every school (or system) seems to have bothered to spend time finding out “what works” (let alone “what matters”)!
When we do look at the things that really matter in education…in our schools and colleges…the starting point is often bunch of people who ask the simple question “What are we here to do for the LEARNers”?
These people know that their job is to focus in on “real LEARNing” – two of the following (go on – have a guess!):
OK – straightforward enough!
Getting to “deep” or “transformational” LEARNing requires that a school or college does a “great” job across the board. A “board” that usually has four elements:
These four elements are backed up by research study after research study and are frequently viewed as being “interdependent” – makes sense really! However, one of them stands out (again in research study after research study) – in terms of student LEARNing and success.
The TEACHer – and this is because:
Obviously, there’s a great deal of talk out there about what makes a “great teacher” (even dipped my toes into that little pool more than once). However, I have found that three things stand out whenever I come face-to-face with these so-called great teachers:
These LEARNing, QUESTIONing and CONNECTing “artisan-teachers” can and do make the difference to student LEARNing and success…even when not that tech-savvy (as the kids can do much of that themselves anyway)!
We need to honest, too – just as we know that not every classroom is full students with a real “hunger to learn” (especially after a few years of SCHOOLing), we also know that not every school is packed with the talented, hard-working and creative artisan-educators we noted at the start of this post…not YET!
In cases like these, is it possible that the other 3 elements can “make up for” any shortfalls on the TEACHing side? Even, “help” those techers who might not have achieved their own greatness till now?
I would argue “YES” – leadership and attention to culture and climate are critical ingredients of any great school or college. Most teachers can only see as far as their own experience (pretty much like everyone else) – and the working environment they operate in, along with the inspiration and support they receive, can nurture and help them grow.
So, what of curriculum and assessment? Can “great” thunking and practices in these areas do the same – and help teachers become as “great” as they can be?
Again, I would argue (a very loud) “YES” – curriculum and assessment thunking that is aligned with LEARNing, QUESTIONing and CONNECTing can be amazingly powerful in the area of teacher development. After all:
…or to put it in terms than many an educational manager or director may not entirely “like” hearing:
The sad truth is…it is in the area of curriculum (and, by default, the assessment practices that form part of many curricula) that a large number of schools and colleges let themselves (and their LEARNers) down…big time! The lack of careful attention to this critical element on the “board” – an element typically prioitised in all the schools and colleges that are widely considered “great places to LEARN” – is what can and does foster…
And, this can even impact some of our GREATest TEACHers…on occasion!