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What’s The Relevance Kenneth? June 3, 2007

Posted by davidit in Education, Education 2.0, ICT Integration, Inquiry Model, Web 2.0.

To paraphrase REM’s single What’s The Frequency Kenneth? many students and educationalists are asking this very question about the education system that they are in. They are not only questioning the relevance of the curriculum and its content, they are also questioning how education as it stands, prepares students for the world of work beyond school. There is much anecdotal evidence to suggest that the overwhelming sentiment of students is that school just is not relevant to them. A well known t-shirt slogan says:

I’m not ADHD. I’m just not listening.

This is a wry observation of school and students’ attitudes to the institution they endure 6 hours a day in, but I contend that we ignore it at our peril. A former Principal that I used to work for, often used to say that he feared that students learned in spite of us and our input! What does that say about the state of current schooling practices?

I have made much about the case for change and at my current school we are slowly working towards a goal of creating a curriculum based around student needs. We are aiming to create an environment where students learn through following their own passions and interests. This is a path that is strewn with challenges and the most vociferous of them are the bastions of traditional pedagogy! Teacher led instruction, assessment regimes, sacred curriculum content etc!

Take a look at this video. Listen to what the students are saying, especially about reading and books. How does that challenge what you are doing in your class? How can you change what you deliver to be relevant to the students in front of you? Do the students in this video read any less? It could be argued that they communicate more and more effectively through a multitude of media than we ever did or do! If this is true then our students are already more adept at communicating, gathering information, re-interpreting and publishing than we are. Is it any wonder then that they are increasingly feeling that school is irrelevant? For me lots of what these students are saying has echos of the comics are not worthy reading arguments of earlier decades…

Further on in the video, one educationalist emphatically states that we need to have a big discussion about the future of education. I bet that his statement implies that only big people, ie teachers, elders and betters, would be part of that discussion. In education:

discussion+new fangled ideas=inertia! (And by that I mean inertia factorial)

We do not have time to discuss we need to act. Our students are not waiting for us to catch up, they are forging ahead in spite of us. If we have to discuss, then our discussions must include our students. Once we ask them what makes them tick? What do they want to see in their school day? We will have opened up the door to genuine inquiry learning.

In my current school a year 2 teacher has taken a look at her writing programme and has adapted it. She now uses a blog for the students to use as their free writing books. This has proved to be a mini revolution in her class. She has not abandoned any “sacred educational cows” she is merely doing the same but different. The difference is that she is laying foundations for future teachers to use web technologies in their programmes and make learning in their classes more relevant. So what has the revolution been? At its most basic, the students are writing for an audience, their parents. The parents can see what their child has written today and can give feed back via the comments and they do! The writing has relevance to the children, because they have an audience beyond the class, the programme has its own inbuilt perpetual motion. In the future the students will then copy and paste their initial posts and edit them, so that the teacher has evidence of progression. It is all the same stuff, just done differently. It is a simple idea that has far reaching consequences. The good news is that we can all do it.

I hope that this video makes you think about what you can do to change, to adapt, and to adopt new technologies in a meaningful way in your class.



1. Marnie - June 10, 2007

Great video. I am really excited to be part of the teaching profession at such an exciting and changing time. It only takes a look at how excited and motivated the children are when they get the opportunities learn in a digital learning environment to know that this is the right way to go!

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