From the Principal’s Desk – 9 February 2017
Educating for the Unknown – Part I
Imagine bringing a great-grandparent back to the present and asking them to communicate on a cell phone in ten different ways. Now, fast-forward two generations ahead and try and imagine a world where cars drive themselves, devices self-diagnose when you are ill, your bodies energy helps power devices in your home, clean-burning biofuels move the world, biotech drugs made from living cells will cure dread diseases that we are unable to fight with confidence at the moment, your clothes are cleaned without water, your shopping is delivered and stored in your home by a robotic helper, your house self-cleans and friends that you can talk to, hug and touch in your lounge right now are actually sitting in another country and you are interacting with holographic images. And the list goes on and on …
It’s difficult to understand the jump in thinking as we are really trapped in a paradigm that speaks about how we live in the here and now but the speed with which the world is changing is remarkable and our children’s world will continue to evolve and change and will operate completely differently to the one we live in now. It’s very challenging to imagine as very little can be predicted. Everything from warmongering, digital innovation, hard-talking leaders, global warming and robotics; the world is already a place where people who have nimble ways of thinking critically and who behave in solution-driven ways will be the catalyst for problem-solving and improving of man’s social and environmental conditions. The challenge is we can’t accurately imagine the future or the circumstances our children might find themselves in the future but we carry a responsibility of preparing them for it!
This term, the primary school teachers are meeting to explore and build on our base of innovative approaches to teaching to raise our awareness of latest research and its application to classroom practice and in this way, seek to continually improve the quality of the teaching and learning at ISH. A significant part of our conversations is how education has to adapt and change to support our students moving into the unknown. We know from research that a solid skill base is critical for children to function in the workplace. This is the ‘easy’ part of teaching – practise = better mastery and this element of teaching and learning always needs to be a core focus for our children at school. The world’s knowledge base double every 12 months and predictions are that within the near future it will double every 12 hours! With so much knowledge available at the press of a button, it only has value if it is connected to real life and proves itself to be significant and relevant. If you can’t use knowledge, what’s the point of knowing something? So, we need to offer students the big ideas with well-designed engagements and allow them to connect the important knowledge. Knowledge should also not be the beginning and end of teaching and learning but in most education systems it is still prioritised. The thing is, when a child can take their skills and knowledge and apply it with understanding to a new situation or use it to solve a problem, you know that the skill and knowledge bases have value, not the other way around. Just because a child can do something or knows something does not mean they understand it or can transfer it. The same is true for any adult too. We constantly need to be asking: Is what my child knows and what they can do of any value?
It’s challenging for educators to understand that a large knowledge base with no connection is a useless burden to place on students. It has to have connection, particularly within a real-life context, to breathe life into it and make it meaningful. We need to teach children to take knowledge apart, examine it and put it back together again while making informed opinions and looking at knowledge through different lenses (perspective, change, causation) and asking questions that result in resolution.
Communicating effectively and working efficiently with different people in varied situations and having the technical skills to work in a variety of environments. These ideas may be far more useful than the mindless regurgitation of factual information in an exam. We want to be working with our students in ways that develop empathy, creativity and curiosity so that they inquire naturally and move smoothly between analysis and synthesis, working with knowledge in ways that demonstrate deep understanding. I have always believed that the teaching profession is a ‘tricky trade’ but I relish the challenge of taking our students and being a part of their lives as they move through the processes of preparing for a future that we can’t yet imagine!
Yours in education
Mr G. C. Kitching
Head of School