|Vivid Sydney Lights - Customs House|
The first speaker Raju Varanasi, talked about how he's been involved with using game-based learning to achieve this with the game Murder Under the Microscope. He said kids are spending a lot more time on it than any other homework and can't wait to come to school to share what they found out. The next speaker Phillip Cronin, talked about connecting every classroom in Australia and how this will level the playing field for socially isolated students in remote areas and those in low SES areas making do with less. The next speaker Chris Nicholls, talked about a school music program that started in Venezuela by one man who wanted to try to get kids off the streets and out of a future in crime. He now has about 350,000 students attending his program for 4 hours a day after school in Venezuela. With strong evidence that the program led to better school attendance, lower rates of crime, higher self esteem and better learning outcomes. Chris is now starting a similar program at a disadvantaged school in Melbourne. The final speaker was Sharon Clarke from NAB Schools First and talked about the importance of throwing open the school gates and letting the community in. She says in this world of rapid change, schools can't know everything, but they can use the expertise around them in their community.
They made some recommendations for the future: First of all embrace change and understand our humanity and not just come up with technical solutions. Find different ways to measure learning. Quantitative literacy and numeracy tests do not measure someones self esteem, tolerance, interpersonal skills and cross cultural understanding. We need to stop dumbing everything down to the lowest common denominator and allow kids to strive for something. The education system should question itself and all its assumptions. What is a school? What is a classroom? If every classroom is connected virtually imagine what could be possible! We need to open up schools to collaborating with the community and bring subject matter experts in. Businesses have a responsibility to give back and a great amount of expertise to share. Why not leverage their social and human capital for the greater good?
To finish Raju suggested a vision of the school of the future as a social learning space that looks more like a cafe. Where the teacher doesn't know all the answers but creates shared meaning through collaboration. If that all sounds a bit out there for you - they were saying that although the students want that now, the system and many of the teachers are slow to change. Baby steps I guess. It was an interesting panel and I was glad I attended.