A Learning Revolution

By Greg Whitby, 14 July 2017
Greg Whitby is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.

Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Those of us born before the 1990s have had the experience, and some might say benefit, of living in two worlds. The pre-digital world was the word of VHS tapes, pay phones and typewriters. In the digital world we stream movies, carry what Steve Jobs called ‘lifestyle devices’ (mobile phones) in our pockets and share much of our lives online. It seems incredible to think that children born in the 90s or after have only ever known a digital world.

 

Their immersion in all things digital even prompted federal government initiatives like the 2008 Digital Education Revolution (DER). The program was aimed at delivering laptops to all senior high school students and ensuring schools and teachers had access to infrastructure and resources. It was a bold but in the end futile attempt at ensuring schools kept pace with technology.

 

The reality is that schools will never be able to keep pace with technology, which is why we have never really needed a digital education revolution. What we need in all Australian schools is a revolution in learning and teaching because the world our young people inhabit today is very different from the past and will be very different in the future.

 

Our response should be so much more than adding coding classes or buying more iPads for the school. We need to focus on how we teach today’s learners to become critical consumers of information, creative thinkers, collaborative contributors and independent learners. We need a learning revolution that recognises that young people are connected to the world in ever-changing ways and that so much learning happens outside of regular school times.

 

We all have a part to play in the revolution. For teachers, it means being flexible, and open to new ways of doing things and to continual learning. It also means being open to the challenges and opportunities of schooling in today’s world and to innovation, with all that entails. For governments, it means giving teachers greater control over their working lives. This includes how and what is taught in schools. It also means crafting education policy that is not shaped by expediency or political opportunism but by the needs of each learner. For parents, it means trusting in the work of teachers and, importantly, being open to learning about new ways of delivering learning in today’s world.

 

In this brave new world, we are all (digital) learners.

 

Greg Whitby

Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta

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