Demain

Tomorrow…

How can we reinvent education? Better said, how could we reinvent the world with education? A tremendous question raised by the best selling documentary “Demain” and a disappointing solution: Finland. Not that Finland is disappointing (see one of my past blog entry) but after nearly two hours of film talking about innovative solutions for the energy, the economy, the agriculture, the democracy, you could have expected something more than the so famous Finnish case. Being a reference for the OECD is not necessarily a guarantee of deep transformation. Democratic schools, escuelas nuevas, green schools… and hundreds of teachers that reinvent education every day out of passion and commitment could have been featured in the documentary. Tomorrow’s education is much more than giving more autonomy to principals and teachers. Education is a promise for tomorrow.

 

a documentary by Cyrille Dion and Mélanie Laurent

a documentary by Cyrille Dion and Mélanie Laurent

Years ago, I was asked by UNESCO to prepare a street chidren educator’s handbook. I asked whether UNESCO and the educators really needed one more manual that was likely to end up unused in the basement of ministries. What could it mean to educate street children? How come could street children engage into education when their lives were about daily survival.? If your main concern is what you will eat and where you will sleep the same evening, how can you prioritize education?

Learners require a vision of the future, not the immediate future but a long term perspective. The objective was then changed. We launched a project to give street children an understanding of the future so that they could understand what education could do for them and their future.

P.A.U. Education started working with street children educators designing a project entitled: the white book of our future. The idea was simple: enable street children to write and publish a book about their future. After 9 months of participatory work with street children in Mali, Honduras or Egypt, books were published. Children “with no name” were credited as “authors”. Invisible children gained recognition and a presence they never had until then. In Mali a law acknowledging their rights was passed.

Education is a promise of a better tomorrow but children needs to be guided to understand what tomorrow could mean for them. This is what innovation in education is about.

Tomorrow… Demain… Now!

A conversation on education

There are many websites, newsletters and journals on innovation and education. I had the chance, for the last 15 years at P.A.U. Education, to be part of some of them.  For all of them, we pretended to be the “single gateway”, the “community meeting point”, the “platform for exchange”, the “reference”. Retrospectively, reading these sentences make me feel overpromising (to say the least). How could we pretend “centralizing” a global movement leading to digital education when innovation in education is mostly ruled by a decentralized agenda: anywhere, anyone, anytime.

How can we support this “decentralized” movement? How can we join the many practitioners and educators that passionately work for a change in education?

Creating a conversation on education! No more and no less.

The need for conversation is growing and we all need a place to share our visions, practices and perspectives on the way education is changing.

This is why I have decided to launch the Open Education Studio. It’s a space to spread out innovation in education.

 

The Open Education Studio is an invitation to change, a place where innovations in education can be shared, and where the dialogue can be enhanced.

The Open Education Studio is driven by thoughts and experiences from inspired practitioners. None can pretend to teach, or preach. All join the studio to share, listen, inspire and be inspired.

The Studio is an open place where teachers, educators, practitioners, entrepreneurs, publishers, industry or policymakers “speak freely and candidly” and tell the truth about their practices, ideas and desires, frustrations, expectations, and more.

Joining the Open Education Studio means directly cutting into old practices and conventions and making innovation available and accessible to all.

See you there!

Reinventing learning spaces

“Anywhere, anytime, anyone”: what type of learning spaces do we need to make the dream of an ubiquitous and accesible education come true?

Technology apparently is the answer. Instead of building schools and universities that will take ages and consume millions, let’s use screens and microchips. Billions will enroll in MOOCs and the future of learning will be written in the endless memory of powerful learning management systems. But the “no more school” temptation won’t solve the problem of learning places. It will only displace it. “Where do we learn” remains as important as “how do we learn” or “what do we learn”. More than ever we need learning spaces where students come together and share.

As education is continuously reinventing itself, we are about to (re)discover the importance of learning in the street. Colin Ward and Roger Hart always believed in the importance of children social capital built outside of school through play, games and sports and activities with peers where children learn to govern their own activities.

A recent educative project – the Beit project – pushes the paradigm of learning spaces to new limits. A mobile installation simply made of a set of wooden desks and chairs covered by a roof is installed temporarily in public places in order to transform them into sites of dialogue and reflection, engaging students and schools of different socio-cultural backgrounds, which together will build a common experience. No wonder maybe that this innovation is due to an architect, David Stoleru.

A learning space in the city: the Beit project

A learning space in the city: the Beit project

Two chairs, one desk, two students, one common vision, a significant place full of contents and you have designed a learning space! No need for fancy colors or furnitures: walls are abolished and learning can take place everywhere at -almost- no cost and with no technology at all.

Let’s now extrapolate this example to other places: a fast food restaurant for instance where young people spend endless hours connected to their smartphones can be transformed into a learning space with a simple interactive wall giving access to a collection of MOOCs, just as in any public library. Any city can nowadays afford a “MOOC academy”, i.e. a civic center connected to the best MOOCs platforms in the world on a 24×7 basis. A coffee machine, a microwave oven, chairs, tables and couches: this is everything we need to build a new learning space.
 

 

 

The year of the learning path

Students are back to school. New MOOCs are about to be launched. Exams are around the corner. All learners have resumed their journey along the learning path.

Learning is a transformation experience, changing oneself for better. Cheryl Strayed once described this experience in her book “Wild” taking us on the Pacific Crest Trail for a 1800 km hike. Not all of us will have the courage, the need, the time to embark on a similar journey. But all of us have the possibility to take the learning path.

2016 may be – at last – the year of “education for all”. It may also be “the year of the learning path”, when everyone will be able to start anew and learn.

Learning is infinite but there is only one learning path with clear marks so that no one can get lost.

It all starts with attention and passion; the attention we need to realize that we need to learn and the passion that will keep us committed during the trail.

Once the decision is taken, once we are on the path and can’t go back, we will then walk through information and knowledge. A textbook, an exam, a video… are only parts of the learning path.

Accumulating “learning miles”, wearing off our “learning boots” will enable us to take actions for change. “Learnin’ is a changin’”. A learner shouldn’t be allowed to exit the path unchanged. Too often, students walk the path without noticing it. They are in the back seats, not paying attention to the teacher. They keep silent and are soon forgotten. They make as if they are on the learning path but they have already left and no one noticed it. These “early path leavers” may have another chance to join the path but they will have to start again from day one.

Those who stay on the path not only take actions but change their habits.

Changing habits is only the penultimate stage on the learning path. The learner will exit the path thinking upon his/her identity, questionning the change that was experienced and already planning the next trail.

The learning path is one and all learners should walk on it again and again, all year round.

(see a short video animation)

the learning path

learning path

Another unconvenient truth for teachers

Great technology and computers alone cannot substitute poor teaching: This conclusion taken from the latest OECD report on the role of technology in the classroom is a very unconvenient truth, especially for someone that writes periodically on the subject…

“There is no substitute for teachers” is a widely agreed “truth”; the fact there is no substitute even for bad teachers is another “truth” in most of our schools. And there will also be an agreement on the fact that technology alone can’t improve bad teaching.

Remediating bad teaching is therefore a key issue for the future of our school systems. How would you define bad teaching? There is no common definition and it will vary when you ask students, fellow teachers or parents. What an education inspector will define as bad teaching may distort the reality as the focus may be put only on curriculum instructions compliance.

Bad teaching may be not taking into account students’ diversity, not paying attention to students’ skills even if they can’t be evaluated in an academic way. Bad teaching may be a boring teaching. In one of my blog entries, I even mentioned a study  that shows that brain activity in class was less than brain activity during sleep (see below)!

sleep class

But what if technology can indeed have a positive role on teaching? Technology alone is not the magic solution as it often comes as an imposition to the teacher. So what about having the teacher designing the way technology will be used in the classroom.

The OECD report also says that  ”it is vital that teachers become active agents for change, not just in implementing technological innovations, but in designing them too”. Learning design may very well be one strategy towards sustainable innovation in the classroom as it can only be achieved with the teacher’s active involvement in figuring out what type of change is desirable and feasible. Instead of passively training teachers into the use of technology in the classroom, we should have them entered a learning design studio, as described by Yishay Mor.

There are ways to go beyond this unconvenient truth revealed by the OECD report. But which truth – if any – can be more convenient?

The Open Education Europa portal, that plays a vital role to opening up minds towards greater innovation in the classroom, recently gave “Eight Teacher Truths in the Digital Era“.

1. Learning aims, not tech dreams

2. Create conditions for risk-taking

3. Effect a change in teacher attitudes

4. Ensure the tech works flawlessly

5. Save teachers time

6. Find new ways to share knowledge

7. Meet teachers and use influencers

8. Create spaces for experimentation

Whatever you chose, remember that there is not a single truth for good (and bad) teaching!

Born to learn

New York Times comment

New York Times comment

On Friday in Paris, hundreds of people that were just having dinner or a drink at a restaurant, or listening to music in a concert hall, died. They died suddenly, unexpectedly, brutally, shot in the back, or lying on the ground, unarmed. Some of them tried to run away, to escape the bullets. Many didn’t, they had no time. Their murderers behaved without mercy, as they always do. They killed in cold blood. Our sons and daughters, our families and friends were there, could have been there, may be there tomorrow. They will still go out for dinner, have a drink and listen to music.

In the coming days we will learn that the murderers attended school in France, may have even sat in the same classroom as some of their victims, former school mates or teachers. We are all ready to go to war and fight the enemy, even if we don’t know who the enemy is. An invisible, faceless, merciless enemy is hiding somewhere in the buildings we live in, in the classrooms we go to. This enemy has a name: ignorance!

While many will ask for more police, more armies, more bullets and more weapons, we will also need more teachers and more classrooms to fight the same enemy.

All those who died in Paris and those who killed them were born to learn.

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