Leading a school in an age of disruption driven by technology is not easy. There are so many critical issues that schools are facing that need to be tackled. This article is confined to one issue only – the need and opportunity to rethink schooling.
Sounds desperate. But educators are not desperate! Some talk about the issue of rethinking schooling as if they had never started. This is silly. For years, keen educators all over the world have been exploring ways to rethink and improve schooling. They are not just starting now; much progress has already been made in transforming schools. What they need to do is to continue this work, moving at a faster pace than ever before, just to keep up with all the other changes in society – especially the immense opportunities afforded by the huge advances in digital technology.
Rethinking schooling does not mean that schools will disappear any time soon. It means that at every opportunity, educators will leverage all of their resources, knowledge and skills to make the contemporary schooling experience challenging, stimulating, relevant and future focused.
What role does and can digital technology play in this exciting movement? How can schools continue to evolve? Digital technology is making many things possible now and the quest to continue to transform schooling is greatly enhanced.
Global collaboration and cooperation by school students is now commonplace and growing. No longer do students need to be confined to their four classroom walls. Team work, group work, sharing and collaborative problem solving bring a refreshing new look to many classrooms; all made possible by the advances in digital technology.
No longer does the teacher need to be the expert. A myriad of technologies available provide diverse knowledge sources, a phenomenon which has drastically changed the role of the teacher in reforming schools. The potential for organising a classroom differently is now very high.
Technology offers schools the opportunity to customise and personalise on a large scale. This is a far cry from the inflexible and uniform learning practised in more conventional schools.
Standardised assessment has driven what is accomplished in schools for far too long. Technology changes this to the extent that it encourages students to forge their own direction and pursue their own interests. Individualised lesson plans, specialisation and specialised assessment are the result.
Technology has shifted the need for knowledge to be stored in the head. Because of the explosion of knowledge and technology, knowledge can now reside outside of students’ heads in external resources and their reliance on these resources is great. In short, with technology, students can know and get through a lot more.
The knowledge explosion makes it very difficult for a school to cover all the important information students may need for the rest of their lives. Covering an overcrowded curriculum is nigh on impossible. The nature of learning has to change and thankfully the explosion of technology allows it. Students must now learn how to learn and search for the information and resources they need. A very different kind of interacting in the classroom emerges.
By its very nature, technology fosters a more hands-on, activity-based schooling experience, allowing ‘learning by doing’, in contrast to passively learning by simply acquiring knowledge. Creativity, making, robotics, imagining, hypothesising, simulation and augmented reality experiences are more possible and come to the fore.
The value of digital technology in developing students with analytical minds cannot be underestimated. Once complex problems are now made simple earlier in a child’s development. Through technology, students experience the joy of understanding concepts that were once out of their reach, allowing them to engage more fully with their environment and the things that truly interest them – and they are capable of doing this at a much earlier age.
Sustaining the Change
The opportunities to change by leveraging technology clearly abound. However, the trick to achieving sustainable change in schools is to learn how to scale innovation – how to take a great idea and have it reach every leader, teacher and student in the school.
To learn more about how to leverage technology to rethink schooling, why not attend the 2016 Leading a Digital School Conference to be held at the Crown Conference Centre, Melbourne on the 25th, 26th and 27th of August 2016? Keynote speakers Ted McCain and Steve Francis tackle this critical issue on Day 1 of the conference. Visit www.iwb.net.au/digital for more information and to register.
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