In 2010, the primary school I was Headteacher at, gained 7-grade ones in an ESTYN inspection. Additionally, several sector-leading examples of practice at the school were highlighted after that inspection by ESTYN and the Welsh Government. Shortly after, I reflected on the previous twelve months (which had been hectic, to say the least) and challenged myself to take the school to the next level. But how?
After talking to a group of eleven-year-old pupils, something became very clear, very quickly. These pupils, using technology, peer support, networks of collaboration and mobile online resources were able to build an education for themselves anywhere and at any time. A decade ago, outside the classroom walls, information for your average eleven-year-old was scarce. In 2015, this information can be found in abundance. Google, YouTube, online blogs, Google Hangouts, social media, the list goes on and on. Therefore, pupils need to see their teachers as modellers of learning, master learners, risk-takers, facilitators, collaborators, creators, and top it off those teachers have to be tech-savvy. We have to change as educators, and you should be excited by that, embrace the challenge and reap the rewards.
In my opinion, you need to have a love of learning, be able to model effective learning systems, to be brave enough to take risks, to be innovative, and most importantly, become a facilitator of learning. The 21st-century classroom, where technology is as accessible as paper and pen, allows you to personalise learning like never before, develop independent and creative thinkers, and allow your pupils to drive their educational journey with you co-pilots, rather than passengers.
A little while ago, when my young daughter wanted to make a paper aeroplane, she handed me my tablet device and asked me for help. Her instinct was such that she knew what to do when she didn’t know what to do. We ventured straight to YouTube where we had several videos to choose from on the first page of results, and she soon found one which she liked the look of. Within minutes she was pressing pause on the video, as we built the aeroplane together step by step. I taught her how to rewind or play the video as we progressed and an hour or so later we were testing her prototypes outside. Welcome to the world of the 21st-century learner. The point I am trying to make here is that technology is allowing educators and learners to deliver pedagogy and ways of learning like never before! However, without the teacher’s brilliance, allowing the right opportunity and in the right context within our classrooms, the magic never materialises.
In March 2014 I stepped aside from my Executive Headship, my Welsh Government Advisory roles and as manager of the international award-winning LIFE Programme, which delivered transformational change across Wales, to set up an EdTech company called Aspire 2Be. The last ten months have been unbelievable and as a company, we are now working with schools, local authorities and governments in helping with the vision, strategic planning and implementation of transformational technologies in learning environments.
The key component which is consistent with all the successful schools I have worked with and continue to work with is outstanding teachers and leaders. So when we ask the question, “New Year, New Tech?” for me it’s all about outstanding teachers and leaders having the vision and bravery to embrace 21st century learning.
Key-stage three pupils today have access to more information through their smartphones than I did in my entire library in university as a student. Yet, a high percentage of secondary educators still ban pupils using smartphones in their classrooms. Talk about missing a trick, alienating a generation and turning pupils off school! What society needs today are people who can ask good questions, come up with creative solutions, critically examine those possibilities and then work out which creative solution is most likely to be effective before communicating their solution effectively enough to motivate others to action. As far back as the 1900s, wise old owls like Albert Einstein said, ‘Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think’.
Learning institutions that are thriving int he 21st century have classrooms that embrace the social, physical and emotional aspects of learning. Always remember that technology is simply one part of this effective environment. A creative curriculum, highly effective pedagogy and mobile technology together create the surroundings where pupils, like my daughter, feel valued, challenged and effective. We need to realise that some of the best teachers my daughter will ever experience will be virtual and online or sitting on the other side of the world.
Prepare yourself for the 21st-century learner who now enters our education systems.
View Simon’s book on Amazon at www.bit.ly/digitalfreak
Simon Pridham @Simonpridham123 is an ex-Naace and international e-learning award-winning Headteacher who has also spent time as part of Welsh Government digital task forces and as the WG Professional Digital Advisor. Twelve months ago he formed Aspire 2Be – aspire2b.eu. His book Freaked Out is the first interactive paperback on the market and has been shortlisted in the Education Resource Awards with the winners announced in late March 2015.