Last week I attended the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference 2015. I intended to write a post summarizing the different keynotes and breakout session I attended, but as I was writing I realized that it was already 700 words and I had only written about the first keynote! This was by Graham Brown-Martin and I have decided to dedicate a blog post to what he spoke about as it really struck a chord with me.
Opening Keynote: Reimaging Education by Graham Brown-Martin
Graham was an excellent choice to open this conference as he got me all fired up and excited about the future of education not only in the UK but around the world. Graham is the author of the recently published Learning Reimagined.
Through his research, which involved him travelling around the world visiting schools, Graham asked different cultures the question:
“How is the connected society transforming learning?”
If the connected society is transforming education and learning then are we ready for this transformation? If there is going to be a transformation then this means there would have to be a change to the status quo which begs the question “What is the new status quo?” and “What is School for now?”
Through his research, Graham came up with six key areas that affect learning:
Context: Transformation is often contextual. For example, in Ghana student were given kindles which allowed them to read at home because there were never enough books in school for the student to bring them home. Additionally, they had a lot more books to choose from since they didn’t have to buy hardcopies of the books.
Environment: The environment says something about what is expected of the students. Example, a school in San Diego uses problem based learning and de-silo’d learning which creates an environment built around collaboration.
Engagement: Do we have students and teachers that are engaged? We need to start looking at education as teachers drop out of the system due to pressures from league tables. Engagement is vital. As Graham stated, “teaching is not a delivery system. Teaching is not fed-ex.” Reward is based on test scores instead of innovation with students.
Technology: 30 years ago they said there would be a profound change. Graham is still waiting for that profound change. With technology we have always ended up at the same destination. Technology can be used in a much more exciting way and we are not using that as much as we should. Where is the revolution? There is very little evidence of how the technology has improved the learning outcomes; same education systems, same assessment systems just faster.
Assessment: Testing is big business. A lot of people have vested interest in how testing is done, that is the way the system works. Assessment is freezing the transformation. Students are still being trained on how to pass an exam. Imagine if rather than trying to do a silo examination students could use their skills and collaborate with trying to solve a problem? Revising is memorizing and soon forgetting.
The Future: What do we really know about the future as this might determine what school is for now. Things we do know.
- Population growth
- Climate Change
- Antibiotic Resistance
Are we preparing ourselves for these challenges? These are the elephants in the room. These are the things educators are and should be talking about.
In summary Graham argued that the purpose of education is for students to reimagine society. The purpose of education is to equip our children with skills to reimage society. These problems are big, but if we look at them together then they can be solved.
In my opinion, Graham has encouraged my optimism about the future of learning, teaching and the world with his vision. You can see the changes the University is focussed on making for the future of learning and teaching by the strategic vision for 2020 which they have categorized into six themes (which you can read more about here). It’s an exciting time to be working at the university!