Educating Gen Wi-Fi

Holiday professional reading comes this time in the form of Educating Gen Wi-Fi: How to Make Schools Relevant for 21st Century Learners by Greg Whitby. It was a very readable summation of the changing shape of education written recently in 2013. As a result of the timing it acts as a book that presents a compelling case for change in education, but given the wave has been rolling for some time, it is able to provide a lot of case studies that contain interesting stories and some fantastic student-voice.

I’m not certain who the book was targeted at. It contains chapters that are based around the different stakeholders: learners, teachers, parents, as well as chapters dedicated to the hot topics: pedagogy, assessments and learning spaces. Their was a lot of Primary School focus, but lots relevant for the Secondary environment. Sometimes oversimplifying complex problems and not really engaging with what I think are the hang-ups, but to counter that the book was often based in the practical which kept it relevant and useful. The general thesis of the book is summed up by the following where it is made clear it is the pedagogy, not the technology, that is the driving force in this shift:

The role of technology in learning is to engage students and to enhance the efforts of teachers. It is the skills that are developed, not the technology itself, that is important. We must keep our eye on the end game at all times — delivering relevant learning to set our children confidently on the path to lifelong learning to ensure they are equipped for life and work in today’s world.

One section of the discussion centred around collaboration. It was under the more umbrella section of ‘to teach you must learn’ and touched on professional relationships and methods of collaboration. One such method was PLCs (Professional Learning Communities) which as described felt very similar to the cluster groupings that IES proposes. I’ve always been a bit hesitant to be enthusiastic about this kind of development and reading this book clarified a lot of my thinking around why. In my position now I have an online professional community which I am growing and I have a practice that is being regularly reflected on and I am investigating new approaches daily. I’m not stating this to claim I’m the world’s best educator – I’m not – but I am doing already the key elements that clustering and PLCs address. They establish a community, a place to ask questions, and encourage reflective practice and an opportunity to inquire into other’s best practice. I have already achieved this in my journey and so I am cautious of how much impact a cluster can make on my students’ learning and on my teaching practice. I need to walk into a two way cluster street, not a one way collaboration. This is what I feel happens in my Media Studies cluster, where teachers that are confident and have successful programmes running are not attending, as a result I feel my input significantly helps others but I get little in return. Navigating this needs more thought.

Whitby outlines his excellent list of attributes for today’s best teachers. It’s a great summary. The best teachers for today’s students:

  • Are inquisitive
  • Take responsibility for improving their teaching through their learning
  • Work in partnership with their students
  • Never blame the student
  • Are innovative
  • Accept that failure is part of learning
  • Are in tune with their students
  • Recognises individual differences in students
  • Makes connections between different learning areas and relate learning to the real world
  • Look at the evidence
  • Challenge every learner, and themselves, to aim higher.

In the discussion of assessment – the same old assessment of learning, assessment for learning and assessment as learning definitions were used to structure an interesting discussion. What struck me was the concept of making the PB (personal best) a tangible aim for students. Awarding a PB when a piece of work is better than all the other pieces they have done that year sounds brilliant… Something I will definitely take award and add to my feedback vocabulary.

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