A couple of weeks ago I was asked to present at the Minister of Education's Cross Sector Forum. I had four minutes to present about Modern Learning Practices. As you can imagine, it took me longer to prepare this presentation than a one hour conference presentation! I had to try to distill what's important and give a couple of examples of what we are doing here. I have included a copy of my speech below.
The Minister remembered her visit to Amesbury School in May 2012.
Presentation to the Cross Sector Forum – 15/05/2014
Principal: Amesbury School
First and foremost, we want our school to be a place where students experience what it means to be fully human. Modern learning practices at Amesbury School must align with our framework for a humanising education.
As a result we have been involved in an ongoing process of deconstructing our experiences of school and trying to reassemble them in newer, more efficient and smarter ways that ensure our students experience what it means to be fully human while also being well prepared for their economic and social futures.
Reading, writing, maths are still essential skills for the future. But they are no longer privileged as they once were. Their place is rightfully to serve the greater goal of exploring the world and assisting students to live better in and for the world. This particular relationship has implications for modern learning practice. Firstly, seeing reading, writing and maths as a means not the end, does not mean it requires less focus. In fact, we have realised that we have to develop much more precise knowledge about these learning areas and that we need to have that knowledge at our finger tips so that we can be quickly responsive to students’ needs as they arise, but also so that we can see the opportunities within an inquiry to teach these essential skills in an integral way.
However, it does need to be delivered differently. We have to become much more efficient and effective at delivering the core skills and knowledge. As a result we have developed a number of delivery mechanisms such as snappers, workshops and sessions which we have collaboratively developed and defined.
For example, a snapper is appropriate for delivering quite boundaried content. It will be no more than 12 minutes. It is highly teacher directed. It will only be delivered to students for whom that is their next step or to other students who may choose to opt in. Students are highly focused because they know exactly how long the session will be and that it will assist them to achieve their working goals.
To further assist us, we have designed and built a software tool which is currently being trialled. ALF – Amesbury Learning Framework –is cloud based and has many functions for students, parents and teachers. At a glance, at any time, parents will be able to see exactly where their child is at in relation to national standards. Teachers, children and even parents can upload evidence of learning against the child’s working goals from school or home in a range of media for moderation. Attached to each achievement indicator will be information for students, parents and teachers about what the indicator means. There will be links to snappers and workshops, so rather than waiting for teachers, students will be able to access this learning for themselves. Teachers are able to access the names of all the students across the school or hubs who have a particular achievement indicator as their current working goal and then deliver the relevant content to that group of students, wherever they are in the school.
Finally, in all the busyness and activity, in modern learning practice we need spaces of stillness and quiet. Currently we have an artist-in-residence. He is not at our school to teach art but to BE an artist in the full view of children and teachers. Time slows down where he is and children are drawn just to BE in that space.
Modern learning practice is a complex interplay of many seemingly disparate parts – big picture thinking, precise knowledge, head and heart, efficiency and technique and judgement and wisdom, fast and slow. Going forward, we need to continue to explore how the different parts best hang together and where the balances lie to meet all the needs of all our students.