I’ve been very, very fortunate these last few months.
My job is pretty much at the point where I have an immense amount of control over what it looks like, and what is a big picture priority. I’m well aware of how rare this is and immensely grateful that I work somewhere that puts the kind of stock in me that I get to do this. The kind of stock that encourages me to develop and deliver events like Future Learning, and to attend events like Learning 2. I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by some properly excellent people, both immediately within the team I work in, and remotely through the network of people I look to as mentors and colleagues.
The whole lot swirled together surrounding those two events – Learning 2 in Singapore, and the Future Learning series we’ve run back here in Perth. I’ve long looked to the international school circuit in South-East Asia for a network of professionals to learn from, and for examples of schools doing inspiring things, so to spend a few days amongst that network of people was really inspiring. It was also really affirming to hear conversations we’d had around a table, over coffee, or in our own workshops echoed amongst the colleagues I look up to. We’d spoken at Future Learning about the future of workplaces. About the future of learning environments. About the need to adapt to massive changes in the information landscape. About the value and power of networking broadly. What Learning 2 brought to that conversation for me was the cohesion and clarity to bring it to life.
Learning 2’s theme was “Making Change.” At a big broad umbrella level, that fit. But by itself, it doesn’t bring that cohesion.
The big jump into the deep end for me was the Maker movement & design thinking. Growing up I was always an avid Lego user, comfy with a toolbox, and always building stuff. To see that it’s carving itself a place in schools felt really nice. To see that it had structure through things like the Stanford Design Process made it feel sturdy – like it’s something even very conservative schools could take seriously.
This design thinking process was a big takeaway for me, and part of my “what are you doing on Monday?” challenge. At Future Learning we’d speculated a great many things about the Future with an eye towards reimagining the school environment. What we’d glossed over was that all-important first step of good design – empathy. How well did we really understand today’s students’ present, in order to make some educated guesses about their future?
This feeds into my next big takeaway. Stories. Schools love policy. They love plans, and tables, and schedules & firm boundaries. How long do any of those things last anyway? Especially policy – how many of them get written, filed away, then referred to twice a year? What happens on those other 363 days? I assume common sense prevails. Or if not common sense, then at least its cheap academic impersonator, TTWWADI (That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It). Reflecting on this in the context of Paula Guinto’s Learning2 Talk (here), it occurred to me that real, authentic, relevant learning (thanks Patrick!) is a narrative too complex to be written ahead of time. To achieve that relevance and to capitalise on every learning opportunity, it needs to be approached as a constantly evolving body of work.
How we do that in a way that meets common ground between what students need and what school systems want? I do not know. But I think I’ve got some of the tools to really start exploring it.