What the resource is:
A one hour Teachers TV programme of the 2006 RSA Edward Boyle Memorial Lecture given by Professor Stephen Heppell delivered on 26th April 2006. The programme features an edited version of the presentation together with some of the subsequent questions and answers and a post presentation discussion with a group of teachers. Professor Heppell, who has been described by the Guardian as "Europe's leading online education guru" (2004), outlines his views as to the way education could develop in this country and others in the next ten years.
The aims of the resource:
The RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce) aims to remove the barriers to social progress by driving ideas, innovation and social change through projects, events and lectures. The Annual Edward Boyle Memorial Lecture provides an opportunity to contribute to this process, the focus for 2006 being on the impact of technology on education. This Teachers TV programme is therefore intended to inform those unable to be present at the lecture of its content.
Key findings or focus:
Heppell considers the 21st century to herald the ‘learning age'. In the 20th century, he argues, we built big things (railways, universities) but the focus for the 21st century is ‘helping people to help each other'. Our education system should therefore reflect this, rather than the 20th century model which was designed to deliver learning. At present Heppell is involved in the ‘Learnometer Project' which is attempting to discover what gets better when money is invested into education. He has identified trends in education: for example, a move from conformity to ingenuity, from one-size-fits-all to personalisation, from individualised to community and collaborative learning, from interactive to participative and, most significantly from national to global. A feature of 21st century learning is the notion of transparency - knowledge of teaching and learning is no longer secret and sacrosanct, through technology parents and children have access to the same resources and information as teachers. He cited Teachers TV as an example. He argues that schools need to become more autonomous to be successful. However, building autonomy with quality assurance attached is the biggest challenge of the 21st century. The cross pollination of ideas between teachers, schools and communities is at the heart of educational innovation and technology, suggests Heppell, is the tool which will enable this to happen.
Heppell argues that universities present the biggest barrier to innovation. They confuse quality assurance with quality control, standards with standardisation, creativity with productivity. What, for example, should a 1500 word equivalent assignment look like in the 21st century? How does managing an online discussion, editing a 10 second video, making a podcast or critiquing ten websites equate with 1500 words? When at least two thirds of the population ought to be eligible for higher education, why do we have such a high drop-out rate in the first year of university?
The four Cs are Heppell's key - Creating, Critiquing, Collaborating and Communicating. In his view, "The old stuff won't do any more".
For Heppell, project based learning is more significant in the 21st century than discipline based learning. Technology should not be used to refine the educational approaches already in use; it should be "harnessed to let children go as far and as fast as they want". For example, with a Portfolio GCSE (P.GCSE) a child could explore related aspects of javelin throwing and present this for assessment. Children should be given a voice to help shape the future of their education. Teaching should become a fully doctoral profession with teachers exploring and sharing hypotheses about ways of improving the quality of learning. At present, in the UK, the average readership for a doctoral thesis is 1.8 people. Technology provides the means by which scholarly findings can be shared, explored and developed - i.e. by helping everyone to help each other. A mobile phone now possesses more processing power than the average primary school of ten years ago. Teachers are ambitious for their children but they cannot move forward by using 20th century methods. No one comes back from the dentist saying "Why can't it be like when I was a kid?" Schools should reappraise what they are doing to determine whether it is for convenience or effectiveness - developing the habit of reflection on practice would be a good starting-point. "Teachers know exactly where they want to go, they just want the gates open to allow them to get there."The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
The RSA lectures are highly prestigious and as founder of Ultralab, Professor Stephen Heppell has gained a deserved reputation for being at the forefront of national and international developments in the field of education and technology. As a former teacher trainer and co-founder of the Association for IT in Teacher Education (ITTE), he has a grounding in the role of technology in the context of teacher education. His ongoing involvement in innovative projects helps ensure that his views are well informed, relevant and current.The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
All tutors and mentors engaged in ITE should watch this programme, regardless of their subject or age phase focus, to enhance their understanding of possible future scenarios for education. Heppell's views on the intransigence of Higher Education are highly significant, particularly with regard to the limitations of current assessment modes and the role of scholarship in education. It is to be hoped that this will stimulate debate and encourage a reappraisal of learning and teaching methodologies. Furthermore, if teacher educators are to be successful in developing the next generation of teachers, being aware of Heppell's views on the impact of technology on today's and future learning, teaching and assessment approaches should help to inform their practice and those of their students.The relevance to ITE students:
Watching and engaging with the content of this presentation would encourage ITE students to question accepted practices and consider ways in which their own and others' teaching could develop to take advantage of the affordances offered by current and emerging technologies. Many of the issues which are raised warrant further investigation particularly as they tie in with trends in national and global policy. This presentation is both challenging and thought-provoking and hence deserves to be incorporated into aspects of all ITE provision.Reviewed by:Richard (Rik) Bennett