10 questions every educator should take the time to answer

Please take some time to read the following ten questions and post your answers as a comment below. I’d love to know what answers my children’s teachers would give. In fact, I’d be pretty darn interested in the answers that our new Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, would give to these questions!

1. What skills and knowledge do you think are essential for students to have acquired before they graduate from high school?
2. Do you think that learning to program/code is as important for young people as learning to read and write?
3. How can schools (including public schools) reshape their physical environment to make it more suitable for students in the 21st century?
4. What really is ‘personalised learning’ and is it truly possible to achieve it in our schools as they are today?
5. If I came into a class you were teaching, what would I see?
6. What are your thoughts on inquiry-based or project-based learning approaches in schools?
7. What are three tech tools to which all students should have access?
8. Should we get rid of subjects like ‘Maths’ and ‘English’ and replace them with courses in ‘Sustainable Living’ or ‘Food Security’ or ‘Entrepreneurship in the 21st century? Why or why not?
9. What is your response to those who believe that ‘direct instruction’ is synonymous with ‘real learning’?
10. Can you provide us with your top three reasons why teachers and students should share their learning beyond the four walls of the classroom?

Note: I wrote these as possible interview questions for Stephen Heppell. It will be interesting to read what his responses are and how they compare to the responses of my PLN. Happy thinking and answering! 😀

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48 thoughts on “10 questions every educator should take the time to answer

  1. I have been wrestling over #9, especially since I have been reading someone who throws around a lot of research to support that position. I am actually quite interested in how you and/or others would answer it specifically.

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  3. 1. We need to look at the areas of growth & ensure students equipped for these areas. Innovation & creativity are essential skills. It is encouraged through early childhood but can be stifled in high school through how subjects are taught and having set class times which doesn’t always allow for organic exploration.
    2. Yes. It is an industry that is growing with number of IT graduates dropping and jobs increasing (http://m.smh.com.au/national/education/the-nerd-factor-blamed-for-drop-in-it-hopefuls-20130913-2tq5m.html). Students need to be creators not just consumers of technology plus it’s my subject area so a tad biased.
    3. I’m not convinced on the merits of open learning spaces but I do think we there should be spaces that promote collaborative learning.
    4. Teachers should get to know & take an interest in their students. Celebrate their strengths. Smaller electives and senior classes this is made easier but overall the drive to get through content makes it hard to individualise the learning experience.
    5. That depends on the class yr 7 & 11/12 highly engaged in their projects, yr 10 “Is this assessable?”
    6. TAS lends itself easily to PBL and it is effective. This year I’ve been trying to make it more meaningful so Yr 10 had real life clients for their final projects.
    7. It’s not the tool but how they interact, engage & what they can produce with it.
    8. Not replace integrate. These topics are explored in some subject areas. There is room for greater collaboration across KLAs.
    9. Real learning or answering the exam correctly?
    10. Students are learning everywhere not just my classroom. I can learn from them. Learning isn’t confined to a physical space.

    I went to see my Yr 11 Multimedia students in their soccer grand final recently. It was also the final weekend before their short film project was due. Every parent told me they had been filming/editing etc that very morning. At PT nights I’m told its “all they work on”. Why? Are my projects too ambitious or do they just love the subject? I asked them, they love it and they perceive themselves as “good at it”. I genuinely get excited and so impressed by their work & constantly praise and encourage them.

    • Thanks for your answers! The link re: coding/programming is really important for educators to take note of! Loving that your students are passionate about your subject & see themselves as being passion-driven career focused 🙂

  4. Hi Bianca,
    Great questions… I RT’d yesterday morning and was still ruminating on the questions late last night. Still not sure I’ve come up with the definitive version on my thoughts (in fact I KNOW I haven’t! But here we go…

    1. Kids need to be literate in today’s language. Australian kids are among the best in this regard according to the OECD – shame we don’t hear too much about that… http://www.oecd.org/newsroom/educationkoreatopsnewoecdpisasurveyofdigitalliteracy.htm
    This might sound a bit superficial, but I believe it opens the doors – One of my key learning objectives is that kids should know who they are, what they’re good at, what they love doing and how these three things together could make the world a better place. Oh yeah and they should understand that credit isn’t FREE money.

    2. Coding… hmmm… to be honest I’m not sure. I’m yet to be convinced that it’s as important as reading & writing RIGHT NOW (I’m not overly keen on assigning importance to stuff either). In the past I’ve questioned whether writing (as in hand-writing) is all that important – too much fury! Having said that, I think every kid should have the opportunity to learn to program/code – just as every kid should have the opportunity to dance, play guitar, explore astro-physics…

    3. I’ve spent a lot of time researching school learning environments of late, with a particular emphasis on the link between architecture for learning and architecture for wellbeing. Definitely worth checking out work by Stephen Heppell: http://heppell.net & Ken Fischer: http://www.monstercakelab.com/beastcage/rm-sacftf/generic.php?cref=GP1327839

    4. Personalise learning: See my thoughts Re: Q.1. Is it possible in schools today? I believe it IS possible, but requires teachers, parents and kids to really buy into what you’re trying to achieve. I’ve worked with a lot of kids who don’t care for personalised learning – they just want to pass the HSC – well! And they see any deviation from the “script” as losing ground on their competitors at “rival” schools.

    5. Depending on the class/age it might be slightly different you’d see alot of movement around the room (or outdoors) and you’d hear kids talking/laughing.

    6. I love PBL & IBL, but they need to be facilitated REALLY well by teachers who REALLY understand what it is PBL & IBL are all about. That’s where the sharing of work you and @Waginski do is vital -https://biancahewes.wordpress.com/project-based-learning/ Too many teachers see PBL as a messy way of getting the kids to produce what the teachers want. That sense of autonomy is a false construct, as kids don’t really have the control. Also wary that if PBL becomes the flavour of the month in the way that “Flipped Class” has, it will be corporatised, and flogged until the the last dregs of authenticity are beaten out of it.

    7. Assuming the InterWebaWhatchMaCallit is a given, I’d like kids to have access to a gaming console (Games promote Autonomy, Mastery, Purpose & Relationships) a laptop and an espresso machine, so if they are going to drink caffeinated drinks as least they can do it properly!

    8. I’m all about balancing ideology with realism. Replacing subjects with courses would be such a seismic shift that I feel education would become paralysed (just see some of the reaction to a tweaked curriculum for example). I think we could start introducing such courses as electives (throughout K -12). Some primary schools don’t teach subjects as explicitly as Maths | English | Science and integrate them all into courses like you suggest. High Schools find this a little harder, but tweeps like @BenPaddleJones are doing some interesting stuff with integrated curricula. https://mhs-integrated-curriculum.wikispaces.com/

    9. Direct Instruction is a term rather like “Wellbeing.” Everyone knows what it means, but if I asked you to describe it, we’d all have slightly different takes on it. This article breaks it down: http://www.centerii.org/search/Resources%5CFiveDirectInstruct.pdf
    Assuming the individual was referring to DI in it’s best form: I’d agree with them, that like all pedagogical models, it probably has a place – but again like most models – shouldn’t be seen as the silver bullet – cure all – one size fits all approach.
    Assuming the individual was referring to DI in it’s worst form: I’d thank Mr Pyne for the opportunity to chat with him and wish him well with the pending wave of teacher resentment.

    10. In no particular order:
    i) Reflection – If we know something will have an authentic audience we are more likely to reflect on what we’re doing. It also gives us the opportunity to get other people’s perspective on our practice/learning which feeds into the next two…
    ii) Relationships – Teachers talk about their PLN. You know the value of these relationships, often with people we’ve never met in person. Wouldn’t it be great if kids could cite their PLN in their work?
    iii) Resilience – Sharing one’s mistakes/difficulties helps build our resilience. The notion that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s ok to discuss or lay bare our shortcomings will do wonders for our collective wellbeing.

    3Rs – see what I did there? Have a look at this talk too by Dan Siegal: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nu7wEr8AnHw

    If you’re still reading this (and caring!)… well done!

    • Great responses Dan. I was tempted to list cafe as a vital learning space so I’m glad to see you mention coffee. Love your 3 Rs too. When I’m on a bigger machine than my phone, I’ll try to remember to come back and follow up on your links.
      Shani

    • I totally read them all! Thanks so much for taking the time to think about and then write down your answers. I really like your answer to #10: resilience. So essential!!!

  5. This will be fun!
    1. To think for themselves: be creative, critical thinkers, discerning about information they discover, be aware of how they are part of a community/society/world and how they can contribute to their community/society/world.
    2. No.
    3. Be more flexible with space, less like factory rows, more respect for students as people. I’m not an advocate for open plan learning but if finance permits there should be spaces for small groups, large groups and class sized groups. There should be quiet places for individuals and small groups to work. Furniture needs to be comfortable and inviting and easy to move. There needs to be wifi and IT support.
    4. Ha! What most schools call personalised learning is not personalised learning in the slightest. Personalised learning should be about students learning in their interst areas or developing new interests of their choice. Imagine how interesting school would be for everyone if we learned different things from each other. I still think it’s important for students to learn some areas outside their interest to expand their horizons but much more depth can be obtained if it’s an area they want to pursue. Personalised learning is about truly individualised program not based on age and stage but on strengths and weaknesses. Personalised learning should be individualised as much as possible.
    5. I don’t practise what I preach because of BOS and school requirements. You wouldn’t see me teaching from up front often, generally just to introduce each lesson. Most of the time students sit in small groups and work together on tasks that usually follow Blooms with an emphasis on applying knowledge. I try to make my lessons as relevant as possible to the real world. Most of the time you would see me along side students, guiding their work.
    6. Most learning should be inquiry/project based. It should be about answering big questions not the accumulation of facts. That said, sometimes for the sake of efficiency basic facts need to be taught rather than discovered.
    7. The internet by whatever means possible (for information and collaboration), a device that allows creation (written, webpages, art, music, etc) and tools for hands-on creation and discovery (what is currently found in science labs, art rooms, food tech rooms, woodwork rooms, music rooms, etc)
    8. Yes. Yes. Yes. ACARA’s General Capabilites should be expanded and be the focal point of learning, not an add-on afterthought. Our world rarely operates in subjects distinct from each other.
    9. Get real! Teachers are no longer about imparting knowledge to their students. Information is so easily available online that we should be teaching students how to be discernible with that information, how to apply that information, how to add to that information, how to use that information, and this type of learning can only be done by students being active in their learning, not being passive vessels to be filled.
    10. For learning to be authentic, engaging, fun, about life instead of an artificial institution. To expand minds, hearts and souls. Because students are people in a wider community.

    I’ve completed this very quickly on my phone to make sure it is done. These are important questions and I didn’t want my intention to answer to be lost in a list of numerous other things to do. I could write much more because I feel passionately about all these points, except (2). Hope you have a lot of responses – I’m looking forward to reading them.
    Shani

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Shani! Some really good answers in there… I agree with what you say about personalised learning: ‘Personalised learning is about truly individualised program not based on age and stage but on strengths and weaknesses.’ How do we make this a reality within our current system? Can we? I also totally agree with your passion for the General Capabilities as the focal point – that’s the dream!
      You did so well considering you did this quickly and on your phone – told you you’re a genius! x

  6. 1. Students need to have acquired the knowledge of how to teach themselves and how to research. They need to be literate, numerate and have digital competency. A passion for learning and discovery is one of the most important attributes a student should have when they leave school. People skills and an appreciation of community is also vital.
    2. I think basic programming skills are useful, but not vital. So much depends on the interest of the student. I don’t think everyone needs to be able to code.
    3. Physical environments in school need to be much more flexible and allow for both group and individual learning spaces. Get rid of the rows of desks! I would like to see proper theatre spaces and film making facilities in schools.
    4. Personalized learning is where a student is able to follow their own passions. I would like to see students able to follow their own areas of interest. No matter what students are interested in, in the process of learning about it, and presenting it as a project, they will learn many other skills along the way. I think it is possible in schools if we start to see students as co-learners and teachers in an organic learning community. I think we have a lot to learn from our students, and they should be given the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills. Deep learning happens when we have to teach others skills. I would like to see a more egalitarian learning environment.
    5. If you came into one of my classes you would see students sharing their skills with others and peer teaching. It may be a bit noisy. I like to train up a team of student leaders to help spread skills. I am not the focus.
    6. I like the idea of PBL and students producing real products for a real audience, preferably beyond just the school walls. PBL prepares students for real life and provides a genuine feedback loop, which every learner/creator needs.
    7. I think students should have access to mobile devices & computers and good internet access.
    8. There will always be students with a passion for English and Maths. I would not like to see them replaced. I would however, love to see a lot more cross KLA integration in whole school/year projects. The primary model is far superior to that of the secondary one in my opinion. It is far more wholistic. I do believe that sustainability and a respect for all life (not just human) should be firmly embedded in the curriculum. Without an understanding of sustainability our planet is headed down a path to destruction. The value of all life is something I try to get my students to reflect upon.
    9. Direct instruction is deadly, beyond what is really necessary to start off a project or teach a necessary skill. Peer instruction is great.
    10. a) We live in a global community and we must all reach out beyond our classrooms.
    b) Students need to be able to understand more about the rest of the world and life outside
    the classroom – the classroom is too removed from real life.
    c) We all need feedback from and sharing with people outside our class.

    • Hey Viv! Love your answers to these questions… couldn’t have written them better myself! I think the ‘feedback loop’ of PBL is essential and often forgotten in the rush to focus on product over process. I would LOVE my students to attend a school where they are seen “as co-learners and teachers in an organic learning community.” YES – we DO have so much to “learn from our students, and they should be given the opportunity to share their knowledge and skills.” Love, love, love! Bx

      • I know I have learnt so much from kids in Minecraft, and so much when I set them a task to research and present on a topic of their own choosing (approp of course). I used to say, I want to learn something from your presentation about your topic, and I did!

  7. 1. I think it was Neil Postman who said that education is about learning how to live a life, not just how to earn a living. Learning how to learn and think seem to be essentials to me.
    2. When I was a school student I was told that I needed to learn LOGO. I’ve never used it since. Coding may well become more important, but the jury is out.
    3. I agree with what has been said above but I believe that a good tecacher can teach in a tent. If changing the physical environment is our most important priority, we must be doing pretty well everywhere else. Learning is about the relationship between teacher, student, and content. While the physical environment does affect this relationship, is it the most important influence?
    4. I think that school is, and always has been, an attempt at balancing socialisation with creativity. I’d like to see a pared down curriculum with the core traditional disciplines balanced against a major ongoing personal project for every student, maybe including mentoring and work experience. I think it is more possible than we recognise.
    5. If you came to my classroom you would see lots of thinking being made visible, lots of conversation, a relaxed, informal atmosphere, me asking lots of prompting questions, students writing to think, and lots of laughing and silly jokes.
    6. Inquiry and PBL approaches should be central to everything we do.
    7. I don’t think that there are three core tech tools. I think we should focus on learning and be able to select from an array of tools that support what we need, when we need it.
    8. Traditional subjects provide the best sense of the world as we know it today. Disciplinary thinking is crucial. You can only think in an interdisciplinary manner if you have a good understanding of the disciplines. That being said, a real curriculum should be a couple of loose guiding pages which teachers can use as a starting point. The curriculum documentation we are provided with is a content-heavy syllabus, not a curriculum. The bureaucrats and politicians need to let go.
    9. I think inquiry-based and student-centred approaches should dominate the classroom, however it is a mistake to diss all direct instruction. There are times when teachers need to tell students stuff, but when this is the default position, which it usually is, then that seems to indicate that we don’t really understand how people learn. Direct instruction is great for drilling kids to do well on a test, so it depends what your goal really is.
    10. Authentic audiences provide significant motivation, we all need to learn how to work with people who are culturally very different to us, a basic principle of connectivity is that the network is more important than the message.

    Typed while listening to a national ed leaders conference!

    • Hey Cameron…
      Thanks for sharing your answers with us! Totally learnt a bunch of stuff, yay! I wish I could challenge your point about learning spaces not mattering… well, I think I can cos I agree that great teaching can and does happen anywhere and in any space BUT we should be given access to a whole range of spaces that are more suitable to a whole range of learning experiences. I don’t think all classrooms should look the same – they shouldn’t all be bright coloured or with triangle tables, just like they shouldn’t all be boxes with 30 tables and chairs. I think ownership over learning spaces is really nice for teachers – I LOVE having my own classroom – but probably this isn’t essential as we should be selecting (or letting our students select) the right space for the learning experience that’s happening. Furniture might be a bigger deal than space… what do you think?
      Anyway, I know I’ve only stuck to one aspect of your answers… sorry! Oh, actually… the traditional subjects thing. I dunno. I really don’t. Can we have both? I’m really torn on this. Might need its own blog post 😉

  8. 1. How to be a respectful human and learn and seek information independently.

    2. Yes, silly asking a TAS teacher that one! Transferrable skills such as problem solving, lateral thinking, testing and evaluation are awesome!

    3. Offer choice, extension and diverse curriculum.

    4. With creative teachers and passionate leadership maybe?

    5. Diverse learners. Me, not at the front of the room. If it is a prac lesson, then it may seem chaotic!! hahaha

    6. Strive to include elements of these into my programming, but am not a “purist” in PBL, use lots of the philosophies and elements of in practical/collaborative work.

    7. Camera, interweb and a mode to publishing/sharing online.

    8. Nope! but they should be less like silos in the curriculum and embedded into other/all KLA’s – other subject areas use their skills? can this be reversed?

    9. “hahahahahaha” 😉

    10. Real feedback, real audience – I think they have the opportunity to increase the QUALITY of student work?

  9. You always ask (good) hard questions! 🙂
    1. To be a life long learner, to have the confidence to know who you are. The skills that do not relate directly to syllabus dot points, that can not be googled…

    2. Yes every students should learn to code (but I am biased being a computing teacher), also it will be in the new k-6 curriculum. It is not coding that is important, but computational thinking, the ability analyse and solve problem, to create technology not just being a user of technology! Even if you never code again you use the underpinning concepts and way of thinking everywhere!

    3. There are so many students who struggle to sit for 6 hours per day…we need ways to engage them. What would happen if we removed every chair from a school, what would it look like?

    4. Personalised learning is when students are engaged in the learning (this can look very different in different classrooms and subjects)

    5. In my classroom it would depend upon what we were doing, often it would be very noisy and a bit chaotic, often students would be working on their own work, individually or in groups, sometime I would be up the front explaining or leading a discussion. It is normally fun and a little bit silly 😉

    6. Use them, but I am coming from a computing background where I have always used projects and inquiry…

    7. Pen, paper, phone. o.O

    8. Don’t get rid of Maths and English, just get them to cover these interesting real world content and concepts

    9. What is real learning? Unreal learning is what happens when you have a good teacher! 🙂

    10. “Makes it real”

  10. 1. Authentic problem solving, creativity, team work oral and written communication skills in multimodal mediums, and the use of ICT.
    2. No
    3. Schools have to redesign theior learning space by removing furniture and startibng with a blank canvas. They need to think about mobilty and agility for students to enable them to collaborate with other students.
    While on learning spaces, the whole school needs to be transformed to enable students to learn both internally and externally from the traditional classrooms.

    4. Personalised learning is when students set their own goals and directions for learning. It can be achieved if students are fiully aware of the Australian Curriculum requirements and what they need to meet the outcomes. However, in practice, it is very difficult to implement as it requires a high level of student self direction.

    5. Student engagement at various levels.

    6. PBL is one pedagogy that incorporates the australian Curriculum General capability and the ITL Research 21st century skills. PBL requires an authentic problem, student self direction, and a timeless environment.

    7. Edmodo, Any Microsoft, Adobe or Google Product – that’s the market.

    8. Rather than get rid of courses, maybe we should design learning as problematic situation and integrate English, Maths, Science and the other learning areas.

    9. Direct instruction is teacher and teaching focused. In my context, too many students are disengaged to what teachers want to teach rather than what students want to learn.

    10. Students can learn off each other as part of a global community.

    • How do we get that ‘high level of student direction’… does it require growing up in an educational environment where student voice and choice is the ‘norm’? What would a school like that look like day to day?
      Love this… ‘removing furniture and starting with a blank canvas.’ If you see my previous comment you’ll know that I’m going to take up the ‘no furniture for a week’ challenge and see what my students demand to have back… or to replace what they had!

  11. 1. Coming from 20 years corporate before becoming a teacher, I keep thinking back to all the juniors I’ve mentored over the years and all those missing skills – they need to be able to work in a team, they need to be able to problem solve and make decisions, they need to be risk takers (in a safe way), they need to be creative and imaginative, reflective and critical thinkers, they need to be multi-literate (yes they need to be able to read, write and have numeracy, but they need more). Given that we are in the time of the digital natives, it always surprises me just how little they know about ICT and, particularly, ICT in the workplace. They need to be self-directed and have a strong work ethic.

    2. Do you think that learning to program/code is as important for young people as learning to read and write?

    Hmmmm, interesting. Yes and No. Having spent many years as a coder/programmer (and having that interest ignited by my own teacher at high school over 20 years ago) I would say yes. But it is not something that interests everyone. Not everyone needs to be able to code and program, but they do need to be multiliterate. Not just knowing the web 2.0 tools favoured by schools, but the ICT used in the workplace.

    3. How can schools (including public schools) reshape their physical environment to make it more suitable for students in the 21st century?

    Firstly, install a powerpoint at every desk so that the computers, tablets, or whatever is being used can be charged! Save the environment and give all students a tablet and have textbooks on those instead of printing thousands of books each year. Schools should be BYOD (and of the student’s choice not enforcing one particular type/brand on to them). A UDL approach should be taken.

    4. What really is ‘personalised learning’ and is it truly possible to achieve it in our schools as they are today?

    Personalised learning, to me, is when learning is tailored to meet the desires of each individual student, whilst still working within the curriculum. Is it achieveable right now? No, I don’t think so. I would like to think it is, idealistically, but so many changes would have to occur first.

    5. If I came into a class you were teaching, what would I see?

    Chaos.

    6. What are your thoughts on inquiry-based or project-based learning approaches in schools?

    Personally, I think it is fantastic and something that I would’ve enjoyed as a student. But it would involve a level of commitment from students, self-direction and responsibility for their own learning.

    7. What are three tech tools to which all students should have access?

    hmmmm, only 3? OK, again coming from 20 years corporate experience before becoming a teacher, they really need to be proficient in Microsoft products, I would go with skype too – why not let them practice teaming up with classes across the world via skype, just as they will do when they enter the workforce. I would also go with Adobe products over any other tech tools if I must really limit myself to 3.

    8. Should we get rid of subjects like ‘Maths’ and ‘English’ and replace them with courses in ‘Sustainable Living’ or ‘Food Security’ or ‘Entrepreneurship in the 21st century? Why or why not?

    No. Having spent many years with adults who cannot read or write and seeing how they struggle to make their way through life, it is essential that every student be proficiently literate by the time they leave school. Likewise with maths. Both subjects provide us with skills essential for every day of life. The other 3 are possible subjects as electives, for those students who are interested, but not every student would be interested, nor are they essential in the same way that English and maths are.

    9. What is your response to those who believe that ‘direct instruction’ is synonymous with ‘real learning’?

    Um, are you suggesting that there are those who say that teacher-centred instruction is synonymous with student-centred learning? haha you crack me up. 🙂

    10. Can you provide us with your top three reasons why teachers and students should share their learning beyond the four walls of the classroom?

    Continuous improvement, learning from others and learning of others’ values/ideologies/points of view, promotes continued learning

  12. I’ve changed my mind. There should be gaming consoles. I want to incorporate gaming as part of incorporating mulilit into the classroom. This could then include programming and coding – students, once they understand a genre can take the text that they have studied and transform it into a game – program it, ask the questions what happens if the character does this? They will get to understand logic, which in turn will help them reflect more critically on the texts they are studying, it will encourage inference and intertextuality.

  13. Hello Bianca,

    “Take 2!”.

    1. Students need to be able to discern information and collaborate with others to either solve “their” real world problems or build upon many of the good things achieved to this point in human history. The ability to creatively ‘think outside the box’ and work with others will be the ’emotional intelligence of the years to come.

    2. Dr Gary Stager encourages all schools to look at ways we can introduce ‘coding’ into our schools saying that 90% of jobs will require people to understand some form of coding. If this is true, then this makes it almost as important as treading and writing.

    3. How can schools (including public schools) reshape their physical environment to make it more suitable for students in the 21st century? BIG Picture, knock almost all schools down and start again. That aint gunna happen…. so….. the easiest way is to use flexible, agile and comfortable furniture. We did this for 8 rooms at the beginning of this year and worked out the average cost to ‘chair and desk a room’ is approximately $5000, using flexible furniture is approximately $6700. $1700 x 8 = Priceless!

    4. I see ‘personalised learning’ as differentiated learning (pitched to the level of the individual) with CHOICE. It is possible to achieve if mandated core curriculum is pitched at the level of the individual and they can make decisions (have ownership of their learning) about WHAT they study (content), HOW they study (individually, pairs, teams, seeks experts) and WHEN they learn (pace of learning, at home/school/virutally?).

    5. If I came into a class you were teaching, what would I see? Not that I “teach” per se; however I would hope you would firstly see Respect and Trust. The aim would be for me to provide learning opportunities which provide students with greater choice of subject matter, learning methods and pace of study. Such a commitment has resulted in students being more involved in decision‐making processes, extensively using digital technologies and increasingly ‘learn by doing’ with relevance to the real world.

    6. Inquiry-based or project-based learning approaches in schools allow best for the development of the General Capabilities and core contemporary learning skills.

    7. What are three tech tools to which all students should have access? Laptop/Table, Phone and (if the costs were not an issue) 3D printer.

    8. ‘Maths’ and ‘English’ are essential subjects; however the time spent on them and all other subjects is too much. An ideal timetable would ensure the compulsory teaching of most of our subjects offered now, but with reduced hours for all of them. This would allow for offering more options (CHOICE) for students to choose a raft of electives (from as early as Year 7, maybe 5, maybe even Year 3) such as ‘Sustainable Living’ or ‘Food Security’ or ‘Entrepreneurship in the 21st century’.

    9. What is your response to those who believe that ‘direct instruction’ is synonymous with ‘real learning’? Just to say that ‘direct instruction’ is one part of real learning. This is a time and place for explicit direction; it is just the time and the place does not always have to be in a classroom ALL of the the lesson.

    10. The top three reasons why teachers and students should share their learning beyond the four walls of the classroom? This concept is not new. For a looooooong time now excursions, site visits, on the sporting field, on the stage, tutorials, group study etc. etc. has meant learning has occurred outside the four walls. However, an answer…..
    i) It can happen anywhere, anytime.
    ii) We need to engage in the “virtual” possibilities outside the four walls.
    iii) It makes sense, and you know it does!

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to write these answers for a second time, Greg! You are so switched on as a secondary principal, it is inspiring! I think that in the next 24 months I’m going to see you take the risk and transform your school’s timetable to include less hours for ‘subjects’ and more time on ‘courses’ as outline above… I so hope so! Can you chat to my principal about PBL, learning spaces and flexible curriculum? She’s SO close to it… if you guys collaborated, wow!! Hope I get to come and visit Wagga again soon so I can see what you’ve implemented so far! 🙂

  14. 1. What skills and knowledge do you think are essential for students to have acquired before they graduate from high school?
    Assuming that fundamental literacy and numeracy have been acquired by the end of PS, I’d hope HS students have acquired learning and thinking skills. Emphasis on “soft skills” as all else is dated within 2 years of graduation. Soft skills like; collaboration, researching, communication, problem analysis and solving.

    2. Do you think that learning to program/code is as important for young people as learning to read and write?
    No. basic literacy is essential to JIT learning and I think people will learn to program when and as they need to. I do think some understanding of programing is important.

    3. How can schools (including public schools) reshape their physical environment to make it more suitable for students in the 21st century?
    The physical environment needs to be more flexible and adaptable but this alone is not sufficient as the temporal environment also needs to change. Where in our world, other than schools and perhaps prisons are space and time so tightly and synthetically regulated?

    4. What really is ‘personalised learning’ and is it truly possible to achieve it in our schools as they are today?
    Learning specific to the needs of the individual, at least to some extent identified by the individual and at the very least negotiated with the individual. I think we strive for it with very limited success, the structure and organisation of schools weighs heavily against it. Personalised learning would require flexibility in physical space and time, flexibility our schools don’t have.

    5. If I came into a class you were teaching, what would I see?
    Small groups of students working together with devices or equipment (sci teacher), me moving between groups, noting on the screen or WB important questions of problems that arise from the investigation/project at hand.

    6. What are your thoughts on inquiry-based or project-based learning approaches in schools?
    Crucial, I mean this is how we work and relate outside of the walled garden. Real world problems are not delineated along disciplines, and nor are they value neutral. I think it’s crucial that students have experience with dealing with realistic “messy” problems.

    7. What are three tech tools to which all students should have access?
    a) Phone with good camera. (organiser, photo, movie, audio notes, calendar, communication) basically small versatile data collection device.
    b) Laptop/computer/netbook (connectivity with variety of input/output devices and ability to modify create/program)
    c) Stable and fast internet connection

    8. Should we get rid of subjects like ‘Maths’ and ‘English’ and replace them with courses in ‘Sustainable Living’ or ‘Food Security’ or ‘Entrepreneurship in the 21st century? Why or why not?
    Really challenged by this one and I guess that just reflects how entrenched “schooling” is as opposed to learning. I really like the idea of learning embedded in tackling real issues with specialist teachers coming in like consultants when required, with students using the skills and knowledge of the disciplines in an authentic context. But what prior knowledge/understanding, if any, would students require? I want both, less time spent in disciplines and more spent in integrated learning, but suspect that’s me having difficulty thinking outside the current paradigm.

    9. What is your response to those who believe that ‘direct instruction’ is synonymous with ‘real learning’?
    Ask them to reflect honestly on their own life experience, how did they really acquire the knowledge and skills they possess? So okay now we can bury that DI nonsense, or I know they are either disingenuous or ideologically driven.

    10. Can you provide us with your top three reasons why teachers and students should share their learning beyond the four walls of the classroom?
    a) To put learning in its context as an ongoing process.
    b) To foster development of communication and collaboration skills.
    c) To be exposed to new ideas, to be challenged.

    • Love this question: Where in our world, other than schools and perhaps prisons are space and time so tightly and synthetically regulated? So bloody true it’s scary!! And I love your final three reasons why we should take learning beyond the classroom.
      Seriously though, we’re teachers – we can make all of this vision a reality, right?!!

  15. 1. Being literate and numerate in today’s world, which is more than just being able to read, write and count. Being able to respond to constant change and have the resilience to learn, unlearn and relearn. Also being able to connect to people around the world and come up with innovative solutions. Students today will be facing difficult challenges as adults like overpopulation, water scarcity, food shortages, etc. They need to be able to work together on a global scale to meet and overcome these challenges.

    2. I’m in two minds about this. Yes, because coding allows you to learn how to decipher patterns and it opens many doors like being able to create apps and games. However I think coding will become increasingly graphics based like Kodu so that you don’t need to actually know how to code in a computer language and work on how to sequence actions to create a digital solution to a problem.

    3. I think all schools need to knock down, rebuild and start from scratch but this is not alway possible. One teacher with 30 students in a room is such an outdated model. We need more open learning spaces with furniture that enable students to learn in multiple ways. However knock down and rebuild isn’t possible for many schools so simple things like linking two adjacent classrooms together making use of large spaces like the library and the hall might have to do for now.

    4. I think personalised learning is when students can pursue their own interests and passions when they are learning. I think it is possible but we need to change the current structure of schools. For example why do we have to have one teacher per 30 students? Why can’t a team of 5 teachers be responsible for the learning of 150 students and sometimes it might be 1 teacher teaching 45 students with another teacher teaching 4 students and adjust the ratio to suit the learning needs at that time. Doing things this way may make personalised learning possible.

    5. If you came to my class you will see a mixture of things, depending on when you drop by. Sometimes they will be doing a project and some students will be in the classroom next door filming a video while other students are in the corridor working in small groups and some in the classroom. Other times they are doing a worksheet to revise for exams. Yes I do the traditional, boring stuff too.

    6. I think all teachers are already and have been doing elements of inquiry based learning and project based learning for a long time, but I think for these things to be really successful we need to get rid of the one-teacher-per-thirty-students classroom model and get rid of the timetable in high schools.

    7. All students should have access to a smartphone, a laptop or tablet and a high-end computer to do high-end tech things like make animations with Adobe Flash or create games.

    8. Yes! Up to Year 9 or 10 there shouldn’t be subjects. No subjects and no timetables! It doesn’t mean that all subjects will be diluted somehow in these cross-KLA courses. You might still have some maths sessions for things you can’t embed into cross-KLA courses. I just think for things like PBL to work, it needs to be cross-KLA and as long as you have teachers and students forced into silos called subjects, nothing will really change.

    9. Direct instruction has a place in learning and we shouldn’t view direct instruction and student-centred learning as a dichotomy. If you are constantly lecturing students and they just memorise and regurgitate what you tell them then that’s not real learning. People who think this way are confusing learning with compliance.

    10. Reason 1 – Students like to show their learning to a real audience. Reason 2 – Teachers need to connect with other teachers and people outside the school more to show the community what they really do. Reason 3 – The community can benefit from being the audience of students’ learning. Eg.students working with graphic designers and health workers to create posters to educate the public on vaccinations to learn about how the human body systems work (this is one of my ideas at the moment).

  16. 1. Literacy, Numeracy, Curiosity
    2. Reading no; writing maybe (handwriting definitely but the ability to touchtype is still the best thing I learned in high school). I know that understanding code is hugely valuable (if you do) but I don’t think it’s necessary for everyone (in the same way that I don’t understand how my computer or tv actually work)
    3. Flexibility, flexibility, flexibility
    4. The opportunity to develop skills by pursuing personal interests. See 3
    5. I would like to say students engaged in a variety of tasks but you’re more likely to see a crazy woman trying to be everything for everyone
    6. Absolutely in favour of PBL IBL CBL – given 3 (above) it enables 4
    7. A mobile device which can access the internet and has a decent camera; access to more powerful processing/big screen when needed, good internet access
    8. Yes please! It’s entirely possible but relies on the support of all teachers and admin, excellent ubiquitous technology and a better teacher/student ratio than is possible under current regimes
    9. Have you actually been in a classroom since 1950?
    10. Higher standards/effort/quality if you know you have an authentic audience; peer learning (teachers AND students)’ and learning becomes a 24/7 experience (like life)

  17. 1. It concerns me that I can’t articulate myself on this question more readily. Resiliency, creativity, considered risk-taking and a willingness to embrace failure as an opportunity for critical analysis, reflection and growth. The ability to communicate effectively and apply their knowledge and understanding to a variety of known and unknown contexts.
    2. The skills associated with coding are important, but coding itself, no. You can learn the skills for coding in other contexts and then apply them as required. Or, if you’re into coding, then you can just learn to code!
    3. I’m not sure. On one hand, I agree with some of the other respondents that learning spaces need to be adaptable to the requirements of the learning experiences. On the other, a multi-purpose facility can’t always be all things to all people all of the time…there are always compromises.
    4. Within the current environment, learning can be personalised, but I’m not sure you would describe those experiences as personalised learning. Anything personal requires a significant investment from the student, the teacher/s, the parent/s and the learning has to be supported by the structures that contextualise the experience.
    5. I would steer you in the direction of the students undertaking a creative exploration of the world in which we live, however, the level of engagement of all students would surely come into question at some stage.
    6. Like most things, if done well, IBL and PBL can be extremely valuable components of the learning experience.
    7. Something with a screen, a decent keyboard, a mouse (or touch or motion capabilities) and a browser that can access the internet (could be a computer, laptop, tablet with keyboard, etc); a portable recording (audio and video) device and the flexibility to choose the third device according to the context.
    8. I think there needs to be a place where students can still learn discrete skills before they are provided with an opportunity to apply them. Individual subjects should stay, however, there needs to be greater capacity for authentic collaboration across disciplines.
    9. Direct instruction is more of a precursor to real learning. There is a time and place for it, however, as with most things, moderation is the key.
    10. I think Dan H’s 3 R’s hit the spot:
    “i) Reflection – If we know something will have an authentic audience we are more likely to reflect on what we’re doing. It also gives us the opportunity to get other people’s perspective on our practice/learning which feeds into the next two…
    ii) Relationships – Teachers talk about their PLN. You know the value of these relationships, often with people we’ve never met in person. Wouldn’t it be great if kids could cite their PLN in their work?
    iii) Resilience – Sharing one’s mistakes/difficulties helps build our resilience. The notion that it doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s ok to discuss or lay bare our shortcomings will do wonders for our collective wellbeing.”

    This has been a challenging exercise. Not just answering the questions, but hitting that ‘Post Comment’ button and entering into a public conversation.

  18. 1. The ability to think critically. To ask why, and have some idea where to go to find the answer, The ability to work in teams, problem solve with peers. The ability to communicate in written and oral forms with peers and supervisors appropriately. The hardest thing of all resilience, compassion and a thirst for knowledge. In terms of actual knowledge my bias as a Legal Studies teacher will probably come through.. but I think they should have some understanding about how our society works, particularly governance.
    2. To be honest it is not something I have prioritised yet. I can see the value but I certainly don’t rank it with reading/ writing.. yet
    3. This is a hard one. I think greater incorporation of the natural environment is important, I have worked in brick jungles and its oppressive. The use of vege gardens, trees etc. can improve the overall vibe and provide valuable learning opportunities. Within the classroom is hard.. I would like to see larger learning spaces instead of the small boxes that just fit 30 desks and chairs. This would allow for greater collaboration.
    4. Personalised learning allows for every student to have learning experiences that reflect their interests and recognise where they are at and have activities that allow them to develop from their beginning point. I think this is possible and does occur. However, ideally students could have a curriculum that suits them and the learning opportunties may be different for all students in the room.. I don’t know of this is possible.
    5. Depends on the day and the class! I am still weaning myself off ‘sage on the stage’ mode.. so sometimes that is what you will see. In year 12 you will see my experiment with the flipped classroom. In yr 11 Ext. English you will see my use of learning spaces (sometimes.. lots of campfire!!!). Yr 9 have been my major experimental class we just finished a PBL project so you would have found lots of collaboration- I have also established the PH test with this class- so when they come in every lesson they PH is on the board (P- purpose of the lesson.. I am trying to frame it in terms of a DQ, H- How we will achieve the purpose). Yr 7.. I still have lots of tried and true worksheets and old school stuff that I do with them.. I am planning to move away from this with the AC next year.
    6. I have been slowly experimenting with it. Ideologically I see the value and it reflects what I want to achieve for my students.. but I am struggling to let go and I still have concerns about the coverage of content.
    Ultimately though the skills of collaboration, seeking and acting on feedback, investigating and taking pride in the presentation of your work are essential.
    7. Stable Internet, computer device, devive with film, camera ability
    8. Sounds great- the ultimate in cross-curricular, with relevance… can’t see it ever happening. It would require major cross KLA mapping of outcomes and content.. my head hurts thinking about it.
    9. Real learning involves students being able to connect what they are learning to something that they already know, see as important or of interest to them. It is not passive, real learning requires students to actively think and make those links and to ask questions to clarify their understanding. Direct instruction will usually only do this for those students who are motivated by scores or have a pre-existing interest (if we are talking about content). I think direct instruction is essential for processes and structures.
    10/ 1.Teacher collaboration is essential for improving the learning of our students, we need to keep motivated, enthused and model learning. I love the analogy- you wouldn’t go to a doctor that hasn’t read a medical journal since leaving uni.. why should you send your child to a teacher that hasn’t changed their practice since then!
    2. When students leave school they will work in a truly globalised ‘flat’ world- we need to open it up earlier
    3/ creates an authenticity to the learnning experience

  19. 1. What skills and knowledge do you think are essential for students to have acquired before they graduate from high school?
    • Self-reliance – for life skills, (ie not on parents/teachers)
    • Understanding of need to be self-motivated learner
    • Skilled at reading & writing – in particular for academic purposes should they wish to pursue Uni – do I sound like a person who is currently marking Pre Service Teachers’ essays?

    2. Do you think that learning to program/code is as important for young people as learning to read and write?
    • Unsure of need to code. I would want to know that the young people were in need of it for their life’s journey

    3. How can schools (including public schools) reshape their physical environment to make it more suitable for students in the 21st century?
    • Make the outdoor areas suitable for lessons-..take the kids outside, please. Learn in the real world.
    • Provide some ‘safe’ and ‘quiet’ spaces both inside and outside for those who need to be away from crowds for a bit.
    • Un-do the ways in which classrooms are set up…if you can, do it now. I do for Uni teaching. Each time I go into a room, I re-set and ask the students ‘how would you like it to be today?’

    4. What really is ‘personalised learning’ and is it truly possible to achieve it in our schools as they are today?
    • It would be ideal would it not…now?
    • The BIG end of schooling time is so exam focussed (at the moment) that kids start learning for ‘the test’
    • It sickens me how it’s been brought into primary schools and that some school are doing pre-Naplan… for goodness sake!!

    5. If I came into a class you were teaching, what would I see?
    • A conversation between the students and me
    • Some fun added and some laughter too.
    • Sharing of stories to add meaning to the teaching
    • Physical activity of some sort so there is no excuse to ‘fall asleep’

    6. What are your thoughts on inquiry-based or project-based learning approaches in schools?
    I would love to see it and hear more about it.
    • I know that you are teaching that way and that John Goh’s teachers are encouraged to do this.
    • One of the students in my Uni class is stoked to be at John’s school for prac this term. In Year 6.

    7. What are three tech tools to which all students should have access?
    • An aid to learning which works for them. Not everyone needs an ‘ipad’ but someone might need assistive tech via one
    • An ability to search safely via Internet
    • The realisation that everything on the web stays on the web…

    8. Should we get rid of subjects like ‘Maths’ and ‘English’ and
    replace them with courses in ‘Sustainable Living’ or ‘Food Security’ or ‘Entrepreneurship in the 21st century? Why or why not?
    • The reason I hesitate at this one is who defines what the alternative titles contain within their content and meaning?
    • However, I do believe EVERY teacher needs to remember they are teaching a PERSON not a subject.

    9. What is your response to those who believe that ‘direct instruction’ is synonymous with ‘real learning’?
    • I had not heard of this well enough to comment.

    10. Can you provide us with your top three reasons why teachers and students should share their learning beyond the four walls of the classroom?
    • Humans need to connect. This is why twitter has always been part of my PLN
    • I love the idea of class/group blogs too – have read different ones and always commented back. So they know “someone” is out there.
    • Tell the world. Unless a parent has actually seen and heard what is going on these days in schools HOW can we possibly beat the experts in education who are employed by the papers/tv/radio run by media moguls.

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  22. Bianca, have you seen the work we are doing in newcastle? Setting up a big picture school??? We are starting with about 80 kids. Enrolling for 2014. A nsw dec school!!! Very exciting times!!

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