New Zealand teachers should seize the chance to redesign the education system, a visiting American educator says.

K12 Lab director of community and innovation of Stanford D School Laura McBain is in the country this week.

The Lab experiments with new education models, challenging teachers to change the way they teach to reflect the world now.

She is hosting workshops with educators in both Wellington and Auckland, as well as working with New Zealand company 21C Skills Lab.

McBain said the “unique cultural context” of New Zealand made it an interesting case study.

“There’s 2000-odd schools here, all of whom have their own ways of innovating. Creativity is embedded in the culture here.”

She said the country was a “bright space” for innovation.

The current education system review being undertaken by the Government had a host of opportunities, she said.

“The education system was designed for an industrial world, not the future we live in now.

This is a great opportunity we have now.”

She said education was no longer about “creating university students.

“It’s a unique opportunity to re-design the education system so more people can thrive and succeed. And succeed in the many numerous definitions of that word – success means something different for everyone.”

McBain said changing the way people teach was crucial to adapt to our current world.

“It’s a new era of the world right now, it’s here. It’s not slowing down and our education systems are sadly ‘out of date’.”

The burgeoning driverless car market was one such area of rapid expansion.

“Our routine jobs are becoming automated. In a year there will be driverless cars on the market. We can’t stop that. What happens to the drivers? What do we do?”

Teaching now needed to be about developing generic skills — not specific technical competencies — that underpin many jobs, she said.

“The unique part that design plays in this is how we develop these individuals. We need to start teaching about ethical considerations, human-centered design, and inclusivity.”

Using a design thinking model, rather than a traditional school model, learners could identify challenges, gather information, generate potential solutions, refinine ideas, and test solutions, she said.

She said the sector struggled with how best to support educators using a new education system design.

“Regardless of where you are in the world, America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, that is the question. How do we support the teachers?”

McBain said educators wanting to gain creative confidence needed to know they were not alone.

“You need time, space, different ways to unlock that confidence. There is no right way, but there is a lot of support.”

The Lab shares experiments and resources online to help educators.

“We have design challenges that you can print out and try in your class. You don’t have to start from scratch.”

However, she said educators needed support to change their mindset.

“Mindset needs to change. To do that we need the right conditions – we need to support people to make meaning, create a sense of belonging.”

McBain is currently working on new experiments in education about the implementation of new technology, and reducing school trauma. She is also looking at how to bring about systemic change, and how we spread and scale innovation.

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