Tuesday, February 3, 2009


A couple of things have left me shaking my head, so shocked and disappointed that I have been speechless.

The most shocking for me was a conversation between two colleagues. It was about learning spaces and pedagogy aimed at engaging and providing 21st Century Learners with the best educational outcomes possible. Sounds like a good conversation to be heard between two colleagues in the first couple of weeks of the 2009 teaching year, doesn't it? I love that I'm working in an environment where these conversations do take place and wish that more would happen.

It's always a jolt back to reality when you hear a fellow teacher say something like:

There's no way that their (student) brains have changed so much compared to when I was at school that they learn differently...
Turns out, not all teachers get that the students and the world have changed a great deal. Sadly, that means they don't get that a shift needs to happen in our schools. And that means that every 30 students sitting in their rooms are being having the same old thing regurgitated to them that their parents heard when they were at school - is it any wonder they switch off?

As it was the day after I heard this particular comment my PLN sent something incredibly relevant over Twitter (my apologies I can't recall exactly who sent it through - if you know send me a message and I'll correct the post):

An interesting article which talks about the way neurons are making more connections than before because, according to Carl Zimmer, "our brains are seeking to extend themselves". Now, the article does not take a stance as to whether this is a positive change in our brain or not, offering two arguments and the pros and cons of both view points. The point is though - that our brains are undergoing changes - they are NOT the same as they once were.

And even if there wasn't evidence that our increasingly technological world is affecting us, the fact remains that the skills and process of our world have changed almost beyond recognition from twenty years ago. If the student's brains haven't changed their world has and that means their values, attitudes and beliefs have. As Michael McQueen discusses so well in his book, "The 'New' Rules of Engagement".

If teachers don't accept these things our students are in real trouble in my opinion. So long as this belief continues to find root in our education system we're always going to get comments like this:

"We're taking our class back to the dark ages."

Now, that's progressive thinking for you.


Image: 'Progress', KevinDooley @ http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/


Shane Roberts said...

Nic, a post that resonates the frustrations of digital pedagogy leaders throughout the world today. It is difficult for some of us to come to terms that our students brains have changed, yet some of our teachers' brains have not. This presents a significant challenge for faculty leaders and curriculum coordinators as we aim to change the way our teachers think. Considering the changes we speak of in students happen over generations, yet we insist our teachers make these leaps in years (or less).

The best advice I've heard is to work with the innovators and early adopters. Their progress will be reward for your efforts as a leader. Do it for the few, rather than the lot.

Jean-Louis B said...

I know exactly how you feel about colleague comments! I've heard some real kickers in the past year, just as I am starting to change my ideas about what a school and classroom should be all about.

Makes you wonder how long this change process is really going to take with people like that in the way.....sigh.....

Nic Mobbs said...

Shane, I totally agree that what we're asking teachers to do in terms of making a shift is massive. Understandably, some find it incredibly daunting and confronting. I spent a lot of last year paving the way for things in my departments last year and it's starting to pay off as more and more come on board. For many they needed to see it in practice first.

The few can snowball pretty quickly from what I've seen.

Jean-Louis - any change takes time and patience. One of my favourite quotes is, “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.”