What if…

What if there was a way that we could create a way that every single school, regardless of where they are in the country (actually, the world!), had free access to quality resources and deep, powerful discussion about the future of education? What if there was a place or space where parents, boards of trustees, teachers and communities could think about what automation, climate change, resource scarcity, perhaps even artificial intelligence will mean for the students in our schools today? What if their views were not just shaped by shallow news articles here and there, or through fly-by-night professional development days, which quickly become hazy as we retreat to our busy lives?

Those following the news will know that the New Zealand Labour party has recently made major announcements regarding three years of free tertiary education for everyone. The New Zealand Herald elaborated on this announcement with Andrew Little’s explanation that “the plan was designed with the future of an automated workforce in mind … the nature of work is changing rapidly and our education system must keep up if we are to seize the opportunities of the future … to compete in the new economy.”

You may also have been following recent developments both around the world and within New Zealand politics around Basic Universal Income – an unconditional income for every single citizen. The Industrial Revolution saw the education system increasingly use work as the carrot on the end of the stick for motivation, especially secondary schools. What happens when this carrot is no longer an option?

And then, if the future of work and the effects of that is not enough in itself, we have not yet even begun to talk about climate change and what that means for the students sitting in our classrooms today. What will it mean for where they live, how they live, how they work and play?

Often in the busy day-to-day of keeping our heads above water in schools we forget the wide world beyond our school gates. Beyond a shadow of doubt, teachers and school leaders have their plates full. Yet just beyond the horizon of all this business there are major shifts in society, and they are increasingly demanding our attention if we hope to prepare our students for the uncertainty that lies ahead.

Fortunately, the ‘what if’ that we started this article with, has turned into a ‘how might we’ and before you know it, has resulted in exactly what we had hoped for – a way to provide anyone, anywhere with complete access to quality resources and discussion to think about the future of education with a few more tools in their arsenal. Perhaps even, a way to make change…

Over the last year, #edchatNZ has been developing a free online course, or MOOC, with the aim of developing participants’ capacities to discuss education futures in deeper, more sophisticated ways, whilst taking on a more active, informed role in experimenting with future-focused change. A lofty ambition; however, one for which we hold high hopes. This free, 11-week online course, available to anyone and everyone, launched on 25 April.

The project has seen a range of people and organisations contribute in incredible ways. #edchatNZ, Edge Work, Auckland University of Technology, and now even Open Polytechnic has contributed towards making this project happen. The course is hosted through Open Polytechnic’s very own, beautifully designed, learning management system – iQualify.

The careful curation and design of content and course work has seen contributions from a range of thought leaders across the country and world, carefully crafted by Danielle Myburgh and supervised by Jane Gilbert. Core Education have also contributed through their scholarship for studying what might emerge from this project.

Across the country, there are individuals across and within schools self-organising into study groups to support and challenge each other, but more importantly, to think and learn together. Individuals too have opted in and signed up to be part of this project, signing up for thinking about education at a much deeper level.

We have asked ‘what if’ and ‘how might we’; the only question remaining now is ‘what next?’ Will you join us on this adventure as we encourage and hopefully empower educators from across the country to really grapple with the kind of future we are building?

Source: Education Review


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