Referring to the latest PISA results, David emphasies that Australian students have fairly low levels of engagement. As Australia moves towards a standardised testing culture (teaching by worksheet) he is finding that more than ever, educators are feeling the need to fix the problem themselves.
“Educators are developing a level of independence that is a little challenging for governments,” says David. “I find it enriching that we’re no longer looking above us for policy to enact. We’re at a really interesting point where some of the old paradigms are breaking down.”
Speaking at a recent Dusseldorp Open Learning Forum, David pointed to how technology is enabling our personal learning networks to grow faster, wider and more extensive than ever before. Yet schools continue to mimic a 19th century model of education and seal themselves off from the world.
David believes the solution to engaging more young people in education lies in bringing these two worlds together.
David used the example of Martha, a Scottish girl who at the age of nine started writing a blog about her school dinners. When Jamie Oliver promoted the blog, it went viral. The school tried to close it down, which incited another viral campaign. People suggested the school focus on improving their dinners and leave Martha to her blog. They did. Martha’s blog is now a book and the proceeds provide students with their lunch everyday.
“There’s a powerful motivation that comes from having your work being seen around the world,” says David. “If you open up the world to a child’s learning and open up that learning to the world, it gives learning a power and authenticity that is not currently present in schools.”
David urges educators to look to which elements of technology are firing up our young and to also turn to what is occurring in the alternative learning space for inspiration.
“Educators try something a little edgy, a little non-mainstream when they seek to engage young people who are in alternative learning programs,” says David. “That’s when the really interesting stuff happens. We need to bring those learnings into mainstream education.”
After speaking at The Dusseldorp Open Learning Forum, David opened up discussion by challenging attendees with the provocation, ‘Who is successfully engaging students and how are they doing it?’
Big Picture Education Australia was one of the organisations that featured in the ensuing discussion.
Rather than a one-size-fits all approach, Big Picture Education believe true learning occurs when students are an active participant in their education and when school-based learning is blended with outside experiences.
David agreed, adding that by empowering students based on their interests and allowing more autonomy in the what, why, when and how they learn, genuine engagement can occur.
Big Picture Education Australia is one of the many alternative learning programs that can be found on Dusseldorp Forum’s re-vamped Learning Choices website.
A valuable repository of alternative learning programs, Learning Choices is the only national intel hub for the alternative learning sector.
Featured programs provide inclusive, innovative and flexible spaces for learning and offer vital pathways for young people to return to or remain in school.
The really exciting stuff is happening on the edges.
To learn more about David’s innovative solutions for mainstream education purchase his book, Open: How We’ll Work, Live & Learn in the Future.