If you’re not all in, it is because you don’t believe

We say we believe it, but if don’t act on it, it is not because we can’t or because something or someone is preventing us, rather it is because we really don’t believe it. I’m not talking about being half in either, I’m talking about all or nothing, so do it or stop kidding yourself.


Last week John Biringham columnist/blogger for The Age newspaper wrote Why I’ll be kicking you off this blog bemoaning the quality of comment section of his posts (and the other Fairfax posts) as open sewers. And looking at the comments on posts of the major Australian newspapers, you’d be hard pressed to argue with him. Stooges from all political parties, unions and lobby groups, pushing their agendas, making outrageous claims and belittling others.  But it would be wrong to put this down to the commenters, they are just meeting the expectations of the newspapers. See Fairfax is just playing lip service to the new reality of the social web and user generated content. They don’t really believe there could be any scenario where commenters could add any value, so they neglect them.  They’ve designed the system to fail and reinforce what they already knew. They only have the comments there so they can shrug when the board and the shareholders ask why the share price is still plummeting. We’re hip they say, we have comments and a twitter account.


They say they believe the Internet has changed news but they really don’t.  They are the experts, they are the professionals, and the commenters are well, the commenters. Fairfax will let us play on their site, but only as John describes it, in the open sewer.


The fact that this post comes only a couple of months after  Eric Beecher detailed that he had outlined a “catastrophe scenario” to the Fairfax Board eight years ago. They thought Eric was cray, and pulped the report, turns out he under estimated the problem Fairfax now finds itself.


What does this have to do with education?


If Eric Beecher had written a report eight years ago about formal education no doubt he would have also warned of a “catastrophe scenario.”


Now is the time to be all in.  By all in I mean, reimagining everything we do in light of what modern technology makes possible. Looking carefully at all the compromises teachers make every day and assessing whether they still apply in today’s world.


And when we do this. No excuses. No excuses why we’ll have to wait until later. No excuses that our staff, parents and students aren’t ready. No excuses about copyright and cyber safety. No excuses about money and equity.


There aren’t any justifiable excuses, sorry. Excuses show that we’re just like Fairfax, we’ll pay lip-service, we might even convince ourselves that we believe it, but deep down we don’t.


We’re still the experts and professionals, we say to ourselves, and that will never change.  We’ll teach and the technology will integrate and engage.


Sorry not good enough, now is the time to be all in.


What should students do once they can read?

Looking at the New Directions for school leadership and the teaching profession discussion paper, the only evidence presented to support the assertion that Victoria’s education outcomes are not improving is the report “Challenges in Australian Education: results from PISA 2009: the PISA 2009 assessment of students’ reading, mathematical and scientific literacy” Specifically the New Directions paper focuses on reading literacy, where in 2009, 14,251 students were given a two-hour pen and paper comprehension test. To get an idea of what types of competencies the reading test is assessing we can look at the sample test , with questions range from comprehension about a letter in a newspaper, the ability to interpret a receiptcomprehension around a short story, an informational text, and interpreting a table. While it doesn’t seem unreasonable to want our students to be able to accurately perform these kind of tasks, these tests are not a true or accurate representation of the skills and competencies our students need in today’s technology driven world.


The trouble isn’t that our students can’t read, they can read, let me say it again they can read. At the lower levels Australia is doing fine, apparently our (Victoria’s) trouble is at the higher level. But what are we actually testing at this higher level? Well, I’m far from an expert on PISA testing, but the five subscales, three aspect subscales (access and retrieve, integrate and interpret and reflect and evaluate) and two text format subscales (continuous texts and non-continuous texts) don’t inspire much confidence. This is especially noteworthy given that the purpose of the New Directions paper is that school leadership and the teaching profession “will provide Victoria with the global competitive advantage it needs to prosper in a demanding economic climate by driving economic as growth and labour productivity.”


Our students can read, our issue is not at the lower levels, our issue is that we don’t have more students topping out the table. To this the answer is simple, lets teach our students how to dissect and analyse,  and we’ll do better in the PISA tests and be well on the way towards our goal.


Except that this is exactly the wrong thing to do.


The PISA reading literacy test is testing for a world that no longer exists. Our students will not be working with largely expert and authoritative texts, because the expert is dead and their expert texts died along with them. The skills and competencies that our students will need to be globally competitive are far more complex than PISA could have ever predicted


So what kind of learning “will provide Victoria with the global competitive advantage it needs to prosper in a demanding economic climate by driving economic as growth and labour productivity”? 


We need to understand the new social world that both our students and our teachers live and learn in. A world where the experts are no longer in charge, a world where autonomous self-directed learners are skilled at co-constructing new knowledge in unknown and uncertain environments. A world where knowledge is complex and is changing. Our students need to be immersed in the modern learning, made possible by modern technology and free of the compromises that up til now our education system has been based on.


Funnily enough, the same priorities should be applied to developing school leadership and teacher’s skills and competencies. The role of the teacher and the role of school has also changed, and basing it on the idea of authoritative texts and ideas, rather than autonomous, self-directed collective investigation, would be too totally miss the point.


Footnote: A group of teachers are putting together a collective response to the New Directions paper you can join the effort at https://sites.google.com/site/pln4action/

A funny thing happened on the way to the Australian Curriculum

…the world changed.


I hadn’t really paid much attention to the Acara Technology paper, I had meant to but I hadn’t found the time.  Upon reading it (several times) I’m left feeling that it is a missed opportunity. Although I don’t really agree with the other papers published by professional bodies (ICTEV, ACEC, ACS & Creative Contengencies) either, but more on that later.


It seems to me to be a mishmash of 1. old and 2. older thinking.  The 1. old thinking that technology allow us to create digital products, and the 2. older thinking that technology (and programming) enables computational thinking (modelling, simulations, process, design). There is no co-construction, there is no mention of new learning relationships (feedback, intervention, remix and reuse). Computational thinking doesn’t hold a candle to online social, situated learning. Production doesn’t hold a candle to reuse and remixing.  I think (unforunately) it is written by people who don’t use the Internet to learn, and it shows.  They see technology as being used to create (new) preferred futures but fail to recognise that technology is already, irrevocably the future of the education. Now is not the time to be half-pregnant, now is the time to be all in.


I think the Australian Curriculum is in danger of suffering the same fate as the ultranet (Victorian reference). Regardlessly of the merit of the idea, they are working away oblivious to fact that a profound change has occurred. As a result upon launch their thinking will be obsolete.


What have they missed?  I think that we’re at a unique time, due to affordability and access, every student if they don’t already have their own laptop will have one soon, every student will have access to broadband Internet and the learning environment we have (also called the Internet) has totally changed how people learn.  Acara doesn’t recognise (nor do the other papers) that what we have through these things (ubiquity, access & the Internet) has changed the way people learn.  This scoping paper should be largely about that, while they recognise there will be a need for flexibility as new technologies are released – they don’t seek or want to understand what we now have. And they certainly don’t want to believe that what we have now is perfect and that there will be no next big thing. Its a real shame – would love to see an ICTEV paper (or paper from anyone) saying just that – how technology as we have it now – enables people to learn – and what schools need to do in response.


In summary:


1. I don’t agree with the strands as any of the papers have them – study about networks, parts and computers in society is not needed.


2. I do agree with ICTEV et al that every kid should learn to program, but for different reasons. As I said before I’m not that interested in the mythical computational thinking rather giving our students tools to create products that solve or investigate complex authentic problems. We compromise with instruction because project-based learning is too hard – not anymore not with the Internet to learn from and with others, and not with programming to create complex solutions.


3. I’m not really sure what the strands should be (I don’t know enough about this stuff) – If we need strands, make the first being about using technology to learn and the second a programming strand.



Yes, the world [of learning] has changed, lets not blow the opportunity by failing to realise this.