‘Shut Down The Schools!’

A new report asks a very important question in, ‘What can we learn today about the students’ aspirations, adoption and adaption of emerging technologies for learning than can help us plan for the future?’ A major national survey concluded that students were already very effectively implementing a vision of socially-based, un-tethered and digitally-rich learning on their own, in and out of school, with or without the assistance and support of their teachers and schools.

Digital Education Research Network (DERN)

 

We should shut down all Australian High Schools and re-purpose the sites, shifting all academic education online. The resulting spaces should be for young people to use for sport, art, musical performance and other community activities.

Rogan Jacobson’s, Shut Down The Schools!

 

For educators dieting on a menu of progressive blog posts and viral education videos, it’s enticing to think that we might just be at a tipping point for transforming education. But before tipping that iceberg over to discover a whole new world, we have to realize the enormity of the task we hope to undertake.

The Clever Sheep

 

Like you, my RSS feeds and the links that unfurl, in a never-ending stream from twitter and yammer, often inspire and make me feel part of a future arriving now. We are doing good work to help students, communities, systems and the future of learning.

Sometimes, sometimes, it can feel a little hollow and real change, glacial and wholly unlikely.

The quotes above, taken from three sources in a 24-hour period, seem to blend and merge into a somewhat complimentary montage of the ‘enormity’ of what is happening and needs to happen if our communities are to flourish in these New Times.

Rogan Jacobson’s call for a ‘re-purposing’ of our current schools seems to reflect the anecdotal evidence, our own personal lived experiences and research which suggest that learning is no longer best facilitated by a traditional model of ‘bricks and mortar’ schooling. The ‘enormity’, that Rodd Lucier (aka ‘The Clever Sheep’) mentions, of our ‘challenge’, is highlighted by this radically attractive proposition of Rogan’s. No-one who reads this post will believe that schools will be ‘closed’, in the way suggested, to bloom as a places of art and music, poetry and sport. For a host of reasons, even if this was the smartest educational and social policy to pursue, it is just not going to happen.

In fact, many will say, “art and music, poetry and sport”, is that not what schools currently do? If not, sort it out!

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by ĐāżŦ {bad contact, no biscuit}

 

Q: What hope do you have for the future of learning? Have you a pragmatic, positive vision to balance your more idealistic ideas?

 

Slider image:
cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Joriel “Joz” Jimenez

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The views expressed at this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

13 Comments

  1. If more educators made efforts to see ‘patterns in the noise’, we might have an easier task in re-inventing school. In a world primed for micro-communication, maybe the bytes you’ve selected will lead others to dig in to this topic; or better yet, to find threads of personal interest that they might weave into meaning…

  2. I’m curious if Rogan Jacobsen, whose only experience of teaching is at a very wealthy, very well resourced, very well off, elite private school, thinks the model he proposes would actually work on a state/nationwide basis, for all areas and socio-economic groups.

    Like you said Darcy, no one who reads this actually thinks it will happen, but while the perspective is an interesting one, I wonder if it is even practical is a theoretical sense, let alone a direct one.How much does it even take into account the still uneven distribution of technology and Internet access (hey, I’m sure MLC students have 100% Internet access — where I am many students still have no access at home).

    Still, the idea is interesting — at least in as much as I agree that schools should be communal places for art, culture, sport and a whole host of other activities, rather than just learning in the traditional sense. Sadly, we read too often that these pursuits are often abandoned in the face of strict “teach to the test” models, and that’s a whole other problem.

    An interesting question…

    Steve Turner.

  3. Garry Raftery:

    Darcy, on the train in to work this morning I found the following quote. It’s from the Rust Report, a weekly digest of ICT news in Australia…

    “Larry Rowe, Managing Director, ABC Driving School, Western Suburbs, Sydney, said: “Blink Mobile enables ABC Driving School to maintain contact with our students who are typically a young, tech-‐savvy market and who tend to not suffer fools lightly. If they cannot access the information they want, using the medium they want, then they will simply move on to one of our competitors, who can meet their needs.”

    It started me thinking about how these sentiments could also apply to our schools. I watched Rogan’s video that you posted earlier this week and I instantly connected the above quote with his provocative statements. How many of our students want to be able to “access the information they want, using the medium they want”? AND, will this pressure further accelerate the re-think about HOW we do schooling?

    I don’t think I’m as revolutionary as Rogan. But, unless we make some moves in a new direction, are we consigned to be like Mubarak’s regime, unprepared for the twittering masses in Tahrir Square? Have you seen Anne Knock’s recent open letter to Peter Garrett? http://bit.ly/lxEkrn

    • Darcy Moore:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Garry.

      I am writing a post about Angus & Robertson’s, The Public Education Act (1880) and the paradigm change that led to the photography industry becoming digital. It addresses some of your points, especially the pragmatic reality for all of us of, if something ‘meets…needs’ why not use it. The example, of the oft-quoted student who has to ‘power-down’ when in an analogue classroom, must lead to more visible problems in coming years with everything from attendance and teacher professionalism to community pressure on politicians to improve investment and innovation. It still seems to me that the community gets the political decisions it deserves (in a democracy) and we can ‘hope’ for more, in coming years.

      PS I have read Anne’s letter and agree with her sentiments.

  4. Dean Groom:

    The school, as a meeting place has value. We need community spaces, but need effective ones. Public schools are treated like a franchise, rather than a learning ecology. This suits those who have governance, but not those who rely on them for essential developmental years. There are, in my view, deeply vested interests in the elites making decisions, and competition between factions and people in those factions for superiority – so much so that the behaviors of a few reek havoc on the experiences of the many.

    Use Case: My kids spend 1 hour a week if they are lucky in a computer room in primary school. Last year they spent zero due to the BER classrooms making the library inaccessible. Compare that to the general marketing messages of progressive change. We used Pengu and created PD and units of work for kids to use it in a digital literacy program. It was blocked after a few days with no explanation. This year we followed other lead and used Edmodo, teachers giving up more time to create ‘breakfast with a techie’ and co-create units of work for kids to collaborate over grades. It too has been blocked.

    This sends a deep message to the community – on of unreliable, random and irrational behavior. In the same week the PR machine is using media to say how it’s allowing social media (for teachers). Big deal – social media in the context of the classroom is a barren and empty experience for teachers in my kids school and most importantly the kids in the school.

    Keep the schools open – but lets be very honest – there is a core-interest that has either dismissed the phenomenon of how kids learn with technology from pre-school ages or hasn’t noticed, in either case they should be ashamed to call themselves leaders.

    When change happens (if it happens) there would be no need to fabricate media pieces, which when tested are plainly selective and un-representative of the day to day experience of those who matter most. Classroom teachers and students – after all, it’s widely know that the most significant influence on a child, beyond family is their teacher … not the way media reports it.

  5. I’m considering this from the perspective of a parent. Close down shools and let teenagers learn on the net at home? I do not know Rogan, but I have to ask – does this person have children?

    What about learning social interaction, peer group support, the resources available at a school?

    Who is going to provide the space and equipment for home learning? The supervision? I, for example, do not have space at home to set up three teenagers for high school!

    I also agree with Dean – “widely know that the most significant influence on a child, beyond family is their teacher”. For many children, their teachers may be a better role model than their parents, or if they are from a single parent family, the only role model they have of the gender other than their parent.

    To put it bluntly: ridiculous idea.

    • Darcy Moore:

      I suspect that Rogan was not talking about home-schooling but less bell-ringing and factory order rather than the kids staying home. :O)

  6. Troy:

    I have more than once, sprouted the line about close down the schools, mainly to provoke. The negative connotations of ‘schooling’, of knowledge (not even understanding) being controlled, of valued learning only occurring in those four walls. And I can only imagine how people with Indigenous heritage and the assoicated negative views of school and education feel about coming to school between 9-3.
    Instead, learning occurs everywhere, any time, any place. As does social interaction, however, in the school setting it is managed and controlled- in different ways between different schools and different sectors, in different ways in different classrooms, in different subjects in different ways.

    I heard a colleague say that they are no longer going to use the DER 1:1 laptops because they can not see what the students are doing. It is an interesting comparsion, that students might select to be involved in active, passionate communities online and show deep understanding about a topic, or a genre of music that personally engages them. That is a scary thought. Self-directed, self-motivated learners. It just happens that the learning or social interaction or the knowledge gained isn’t valued…Just as a love of the Beatles might not have been valued by the controlling generation in the late 1960s…

    I love the line about using schools for sport, art, musical performance and other community activities (or for paintball). I used a similar line during a recent discussion at an executive meeting when people were lamenting the poorish NAPLAN results…that perhaps we rid the school of art, music, sport and anything creative and innovative and instead have practise NAPLAN sessions. A once a year pen and paper exam that is established to locate areas needing improvement – that is ‘looking for what students can not do’…controls some of our focus.

    My idealism may be closer to naive, but a learning space is not stagnant, is not bricks and mortar, just as knowledge is not only valued if it is written down in a 40 minute exam.

  7. Mathew:

    Shutting down schools is not an idea, it’s a cop-out. From my perspective, working with students of disability, socio-economic disadvantage and the generally ‘damaged subject’ end of the spectrum, its not about warm fuzzy feelings, but expanding opportunity and accessing the future. I see kids every day that know school as six hours of safety, consistency and respite from the ‘home school’. 

    • Darcy Moore:

      Thanks for commenting Mathew. :-)

      As I said in my post, no-one will believe that schools will be closed for a ‘host’ of reasons but my question, one I was genuinely hoping would spark ideas and dialogue:

      what hope do you have for the future of learning? Have you a pragmatic, positive vision to balance your more idealistic ideas?

      • Mathew:

        I hope learning in the future is linked with the realities of the present as much as an impatience with status quos.

        The pragmatic and positive vision i have for schools is as a continuing ‘node’ in the mesh of life around it. 

        I have established a community garden at my school over the last few years on nieghbouring vacant land. This is a positive reality that sees students who were once coraled into ‘worksheet’ failure having rewarding, tasty, tasks and physical improvements to build success upon, this increases post school opportunities. I have used the web to document its growth, make links, find resources, gain volunteers, foster awareness, develop opportunities and build on small successes. 

        I see schools not only as academic exercises on the verge of virtualisation but as practical hothousing for skills, and  idea distribution points. I see technology as a powerhouse in the process of growing ideas and grounding them in lives.

        As stated above ‘respite’ is a value I place on the physical institution of the school. This is a venue to experience lives other than the ones they might otherwise know.

        With tech I can tailor (or let play) to individual need, be it communication, directed leisure skills or an intervention in some part of a students need based on observation. It’s all subject to budget and support. It’s all with an eye to what future exposure to, or opportunity for, tech that child might encounter. 

        Pragmatic things require pragmatic time. Pay teachers time and they will pay attention. Steal our time and we have little to offer.

        I want to see the positive aspects of this system flourish, I want our resources to be so good we do not have to sell shoddy goods to a wary clientele (which is another reason why tech is important), I want to see compliance paperwork streamlined,  I want to see sideline sledgers back off and do something useful, I want understanding of what it is that teachers do from moment to moment in context, given the resources they have.

        I want to revolve in a cycle of masterpieces and I want a cup of tea  ; )

        • Darcy Moore:

          *Bravo* Fantastic Mathew!

          You may have read my post about Dr Phil Lambert’s paper, ‘Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future’ and here are some more musings.

          The second notion Phil related that is of particular interest to me is that schools are increasingly going to be “social networking sites”.

          What does this mean?

          Phil talks about the schools in his region that have established community gardens and that this has occurred because like-minded teachers, parents and community-members have had the desire to grow things, in all senses of the expression.

          Belonging is a fundamental human need. Schools are a natural place for our communities to congregate and broadening what functions the schools serve, allowing for an organic growth, including using the online world.

          That was one reason why I enjoyed Rogan’s speculative musings. They are very much about community.

  8. rogan jacobson:

    Hi everyone
    It’s great to see you enjoyed my winning talk at the Battle of Big Thinking (replayed on ABC Big Ideas, and News24). Mine was one of many talks at the festival and they can all be seen here: (http://www.accountplanninggroup.com.au/articles/2011-big-thinkers/). Why not check them out – and see some interviews with various commentators. Controversy is the grease that keeps a healthy democracy charging forward. I wish you all the best for the next term.
    cheers
    Rogan

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