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Recently, I made a list of what I think my perfect school would look like. As I began developing the list, I was struck by two things: Firstly, how most of it was about making school more student-centered, and secondly, that I didn’t mention technology once. For me, this second trend bears a little more fleshing out. I would never say that there is no place for technology in education, far from it… But I think the place of technology is to support a more student-focused, relevant and engaging methodology. It is the ‘how’, not the ‘what’. For me, technology in the ideal school plays a supporting role – and it is a vital one, since my dream school relies on it to work, but it is still only there as a means to support the growth and flourishing of our students.
The specific technologies will change and evolve, but once a school has reliable and fast Internet connectivity, other technologies can grow around it. Just as if our students are given primary status over the syllabus, everything else will fall into place.
Finally, some of these ideas you will recognise as eminating from leading education gurus such as Sir Ken Robinson. For this, I make no apologies: I have embraced the learning revolution! With that in mind, here’s what I think the ideal school should be like: (Please feel free to comment and add your own below.)
The perfect school:
The primary focus is on tinkering, experimenting, problem-solving and making mistakes, rather than getting content into heads. ‘Remembering’ is very much a required skill, but it is closer to the bottom of the pyramid than it is currently in most schools. The whole school environment is challenging, supportive, caring and aimed at personal growth. Students are encouraged to feel as proud of their failures and the lessons learnt from them as they are of their successes. The teachers are passionate about upgrading their skills and embracing the most effective methodologies. The priority in lessons is about engagement and collaboration. There is a focus on helping students to discover their ‘element’, or the thing they feel they can spend their lives doing. (This is what ‘creativity’ in education really means.) There is no hierarchy of subjects. Art, Drama, Music and the Humanities are treated with the same reverance as Maths, Science and Languages. Subject boundaries are also blurred and intermingled. Lessons are customized to the individual, rather than a one-size fits all. Students have a significant amount of input into the design and delivery of lessons. Learning spaces are orientated and arranged around the comfort and learning of the student, not the priorities of the teacher. Enrichment opportunities, running both parallel to the school day, and taking place after school are an essential part of the learning process. I acknowledge that teachers can implement many of these in their own classrooms very quickly, but the most important ones require a systemic shift. I would like to challenge our school leaders to ponder this list and to attempt to put in place the policies and procedures required to make every school the perfect school.