Sunday, January 11, 2015

Education Has Changed A Great Deal Since I Began Teaching...Or Has It...?

Day 11 of the Reflect and Renew Blog Challenge from Reflective Teacher @TeachThought 

"How has education changed since you began teaching?"
Now this is an interesting question.  My initial reaction was, of course it has and yes, it has, but has it really changed THAT much and in what ways...

Images like the one below always make me stop and think about how much we've really changed globally.  I think that we're extremely lucky in New Zealand that we have so many forward-thinking, and sometimes 'disruptive' educators involved in our students lives.

Source: Huffington Post 

A key focus over the past ten years in this country has been on the development of Modern Learning Environments or MLEs.  The images below show what's possible and in 2010 I was fortunate enough to be part of developing an MLE in a previous school.

CORE EDUCATION: Blog Post - MLEs, examples
Kamai School 

It's not all about the furniture though.  Unless there's also a shift in the pedagogy of the teachers, and learners, then it's just a very interesting environment with some pretty cool pieces of furniture.   

I began my career in 1999 and from the first day technology played an enormous part in the learning and teaching process.  Even then, however, I was very concerned with the 'why' of the tools I was selecting for the students to use.  At that stage it was very much through teacher selection that tools were availabel for students.  As students became more aware of the tools available and started exploring to find and use their own tools, it became very much a shared process.  We always had to be clear about why we were using a tool, however.  Even back then it had to have a purpose and I think that's even more important today as the number of available tools has grown exponentially.

I've always shared and created the learning with my students so there's not been a lot of difference in that area for me although it was a huge battle in the beginning.  I fought against the use of worksheets for a start and trying to implement some of the digital learning was extremely hard as so many still viewed the technology with suspicion.  This included some teachers as well as some parents.  It was a case of just keeping going and showing what could be possible through evidence from the classroom and the learning.

Now we're in 2014.  I love that so many schools are embracing and promoting change, in learning environments along with the pedagogy to back it up.  I still have concerns that this is not happening fast enough for the benefit of our students.  They are entering a world where they must have the skills necessary in order to cope with the fast pace of change and yet there are still teachers in our profession who refuse to work and learn on a computer...and they get away with it.  For me that's wrong and it's the students who will suffer.

I've experienced seeing queues of teachers on a Monday morning photocopying the week's worksheets.  This is also wrong.  This is possibly one of my real frustrations. 

We've changed a lot in the past 16 years that I've been involved in education but it's not consistent locally or globally.  Some would argue, that the constant testing is a step backwards and that we run the risk of teaching to a test rather than teaching the skills we need our students, and us, to possess to thrive in the 21st Century.  We have a long way to go I think but I'm always positive that change is possible.  One of my education heroes is Sir Ken Robinson whose work I've been following now for many years.  He sums up what's needed, and what is absolutely essential, I believe.  I've included two of my favourite presentations.


  1. Justine, your classrooms are simply amazing! I agree with your worksheet thoughts, I use paper but I am very mindful of what's on that paper. I don't just copy a worksheet when I can create an activity that will be meaningful for students. Thank you for your posts.

  2. Thanks so much for your kind words. I'm always inspired by the teachers I meet in this country. I'm enjoying reading your posts too. Catching up on mine and on commenting on others. :-)