A significant barrier to transforming learning in secondary schools is the lack of manoeuvering space. The timetable is packed, so the knock-on effects of change are hard to accommodate. Staff non-contact time is minimal and so re-organising delivery is constrained and time for re-training limited. Indeed, so many aspects of school organisation, culture and even the physical space are a result of continued honing over many decades to prioritise a traditional agenda.
It was therefore refreshing to discuss with Jim Wynn of Cisco some ideas he is working on for curriculum remodelling and how they can potentially create some space for manoeuvre. In essence, we consider afresh all the varied ways we can now meet a curriculum need. Of course we include ‘traditional’ techniques, but we can also draw on so many new possibilities, including different media, different levels of interactivity, the use of independent study or peer group learning or investigative learning. The list goes on. What I really liked about Jim’s approach was his lucidity and the simplicity of how to actually go about this. Make a table, put the objectives along the top and the possible activities down the side. There will be many activities possible for each objective. Now stand back, and consider new pathways and new ways of organising people, time and space to follow these pathways.
It’s not rocket science, says Jim. So what is new? It is that many of these new activities now be mediated in the virtual world. Even activities involving collaboration may take place using tools such as email, chat, bulletin boards, blogs and the like. Indeed, isn’t this often the way collaboration takes place in industry? I am also reminded of Alan November’s notion of Authentic Audience, and the power technology has to include ‘real’ people in the educational process as well as us teachers! This can be particularly motivating for learners.
And what of the benefits? If just some of these activities can take place in the virtual, we create some flexibility for ourselves. This allows use to look at those issues of timetabling, space and use of staff – and perhaps do something differently.
I am reminded of those picture puzzles with the sliding tiles (I’m sure they have a name). One space is essential, but I’m not even sure we have this at present. Maybe Jim’s ideas can create one or even more of the spaces needed to permit the more flexible approach required if we really are serious about transforming learning in and out of our schools.