#FutureSchools depend on getting better with #PresentSchools. Learning from boulders, pebbles and breakfast cereals

pebbles and bouldersTwo seemingly unrelated articles caught my attention this week. A great piece by Stephen Heppell on the “School of the future”

“In preparing our children for that uncertain future, we inevitably need schools unlike the ones that prepared their parents”. (Article here)

And the demise of another “boulder”: Kellogg posts $379m loss as consumers cut back on cereal

“Simple food, clearly less refined, if you like – that’s what I think consumers are looking for…”

I think that before we get too caught up in future schools we need to think about present schools, strategically moving on from the (seemingly still evident) industrial paradigm to growing a community that meets current and future needs of this generation, considering the big shifts that have seen the disappearance of Kodak, Borders and now possibly breakfast cereals.

There is nothing special about technology or what it can do – it is a normal expectation of life. An interactive whiteboard, ‘funky’ furniture, iPads/tablets and large open spaces are not necessarily indicators of a future-focused school. It is about shining a light on everything and disrupting practice to better serve the present, as well as the future.

In 2010 Charles Leadbeater a leading voice on innovation and creativity wrote We Think.

Imagine surveying the media, information and cultural industries in the mid-1980s, industries that provide most of our entertainment and so filter access to the world around us and shape how we make sense of it. The scene would have resembled a large sandy beach, with crowds organised around a few very large boulders. These boulders were the big media companies.

These boulders came into being because media had high fixed costs… They were closely regulated and resources… were scarce… Anyone wanting to set up a significant new media business could be seen coming from a long way off. Rolling a new boulder onto the beach took lots of people, money and machinery.

Do you see where we are going, here? (I don’t buy processed breakfast cereal anymore, I make my own.)
Looking again at this text five years later and Leadbeater words ring true:

Now imagine the scene on this beach in five years time. A few very big boulders are still showing, but many have been drowned by the rising tide of pebbles. As you stand surveying the beach every minute hundreds and thousands of people come to drop off their pebbles. Some of the pebbles they drop are very small: a blog post or a comment on YouTube. Others are larger… A bewildering array of pebbles in different sizes, shapes and colours are being laid down the whole time, in no particular order, as people feel like it.

Pebbles are the new business. The new kinds of organisations being bred by the web are all in the pebble business. Google and other intelligent search engines offer the locate the pebble we are looking for:

Wikipedia is a vast collection of factual pebbles

YouTube is a collection of video pebbles

Social media…allow us to connect with similar pebbles…with shared interests

There is still a lot of business in serving the boulders that remain, providing them with content, finance, advice and ideas… The information and media businesses are right at the forefront of the transition from boulders to pebbles because the web so directly affects them.

And education? Leadbeater continues,

Schools and universities are boulders, that are increasingly dealing with students who want to be in the pebble business, drawing information from a variety of sources, sharing with their peers, learning from one another.

Why are schools and universities boulders? Perhaps because as “institutions” they seem to be fixed immovable objects made up of large cumbersome buildings, rigid standardised testing, fixed regulatory and curriculum requirements and research evidence that looks back without considering rapidly changing future context.

If we could smash-up this institutional boulder and enable school to be more like a collection of learning pebbles, what should it look like? A place of broad opportunity and quality relationships that enables the future.

Ultimately, future schools, or even present schools, provide an education that is not only content-rich, but is meaningful and engaging, focussed on providing the best opportunity for this generation of young people.  It fully utilises the tools and resources available, in a way that ignites a passion and sets them on a path of lifelong learning.

@anneknock

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