Shift Happens

I was down at the swimming pool this morning when a new T-shirt caught my eye. “Shift happens” said the shirt. (in a manner of speaking 🙂

By serendipitous coincidence I was thinking about the future of education and some recent conversations with educators at a number of schools.

For children and young adults school is the workplace where they spend the most time. As a parent I’m vitally interested in how that time is spent or invested.

One of the stories I particularly liked was about lunch at a particular school. One of the school traditions is that the children can’t serve themselves – they can only serve each other.

That vignette is worth any number of homilies or placards on the wall; because what people actually do is always important.

And at a school how they communicate and encourage students in a particular direction is also of great interest.

As I live in Auckland I was interested to check out a feature article on “The Best Schools” in a recent Metro article.

That feature offers up three summary questions in searching for the best secondary (high) school. These were listed as:

  1. How good are the teachers?
  2. How safe is the school?
  3. Does it offer enough of what your child needs to make the most of their secondary school years?

I particularly liked this masterpiece of understatement at the beginning of the article.

“The major indicators of academic achievement are related to the home. Children with articulate and educated parents and a home culture that values learning are likely to do better than others, wherever they go to school.

What you’re looking for; therefore, is a school whose students do significantly better than others from similar backgrounds. A school that “adds value”.

Predictably the star students featured in the article are all wonderful reflections of their parents and their schools but upon closer review it does seem that analysis is a bit limited in scope.

I would be interested to know a bit more about the bigger picture. How the school is helping to equip students for a world that is transforming and changing at an accelerating rate. As a parent I’d like to know a bit more about educational philosophy which is a bit harder to measure on a chart.

And given that we all live in a techno-savvy world know I would have included a survey of school websites and what they might reveal about the depth of school experiences available.

For a great example of what some 7 year olds can do – have a look at Learning N’ Stuff which gives a fascinating snapshot of actual life at school complete with homework and useful links like Spelling City to make homework even more fun.

To me it is like a glimpse into the future of education in a way that bonds parents, teachers and kids right across the spectrum. Top work CS11!

Also found this paragraph by Maree Conway on Thinking Futures which in turn highlights a relevant video on some of thewider issues. It was in the context of tertiary education but all of the same factors apply right down to preschool.

“Drivers of Change
The future of universities is being influenced by a number of major drivers of change. There are ones we know well: globalisation, demographics, government policy on funding higher education, and the impact of IT developments on learning delivery. There are other drivers that are less well acknowledged.

This is a now well known video on You Tube – Did You Know? or Shift Happens. It demonstrates how things change, and we can’t assume everything will stay the same.”

The presentation comes from Shift Happens who note the universal importance of some of the themes and issues raised so far.

“We believe that the themes of Did You Know? are global in nature and apply to schools and children around the world. We want all children to be successful.

We do not view the growing importance of India and China as negative but rather as additional opportunities for everyone in the world.

We do not mean to gloss over the very real issues that countries such as India and China face, and we recognize that globalization and “flat world” factors have downsides just like other societal shifts.

We prefer, however, to focus on the positive benefits and on doing what we can to help children learn and grow so that they may become successful digital, global citizens.

We’d like your help. Everyone must be involved in the conversation if we are to come up with a system of education for our children that prepares them for the 21st century.”

(Check the suggestions area for some more ideas on discussion and next steps. Like “What implications does this have for our current way of doing things?”)

So what are you thinking about on the topic of educational futures? How important is school anyway and what are we all doing to add value along the way.

A little planning can go a long way – as Dwight Eisenhower once said “Plans are useless; planning is priceless.”

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