Monday, 30 January 2012

Learning@Schools and Co-construction

 CORE Education's Learning@Schools conference, two full days of challenging and extending my thinking and connecting with inspiring educators, finished on Friday. Here are some reflections on my learning from the conference.

Co-construction is a nice education-y word, and one that I thought I understood pretty well and was a reasonable practitioner of. However, several discussions during the conference seem to have conspired to blow apart my understanding of it somewhat. Following our meeting via Twitter (@samcunnane and @christianlong) and on this blog, my colleague Lorena Strother and I attended Christian's presentation on designing 21st C learning spaces. Our post-presentation discussion about the curriculum integration project was wide ranging and inspirational. One of the more immediately applicable outcomes was a decision to begin the project by letting the students design the arrangement of their learning space from the bare room upwards. This isn't the most obvious epiphany (!), but it feels like began to crystallise a significant shift in my thinking about how I teach.

Maybe it's better explained like this: I have a increasingly clear vision of what I want students at Fraser to learn or become: people who know what they're passionate about, and who are learning how to develop the skills to make a life in that area of the world and society. For those of you who are teachers, think of that as our ultimate 'learning objective'. Previously I've assumed that the best way to get to that 'point', or at least to head students in the right direction, was to set up a series of activities that would step them along the journey. I might co-construct how these activities would be done with the students, but essentially I expected them to take their direction from me. I assumed that essentially I knew the best way for them to get from A to B. What if (and being introduced to the concept of 'desire paths' during DK's session on the future of school design advanced my thinking in this area) my role is not to lay out the path, but to help the learners (myself included) find their way from wherever they are now in the direction of point B (recognising that where I thought point B was may well not be where they need to go anyway!). 

The upshot of this all is a move towards developing a point of connection, an intersection, between a whole lot of creatives (some of whom are Fraser students, and others whom are practicing members of the various creative communities), instead of just producing a magazine. So, if we assume that encultrating students into local and global communities of creative production is the end goal (and part of me now questions if even this is something I can assume, but for now we'll say it is), our new challenge becomes identifying within this what the 'problems' are that need solving so that our students become part of those communities. That makes the first weeks of school a bit different to the traditional "We'll be covering these standards, so get learning the answers"!

I suspect this post reads somewhat like a combination of jumbled ideas. Oh well! Check out the following for some additional (and more coherent) thoughts on the issue:

Teach your students to fail better, by Christian Long on ISTE

College Readiness: Learning Collaboratively, by Ben Johnson on Edutopia 

Ewan McIntosh at TEDxLondon, September 2011


  1. Yes! Great thinking Sam. It's difficult to pry oneself away from the traditional conditioning aye? But so exciting. Keep it up.
    Remember to share awareness. Have fun this week.
    kb :)

  2. You're totally right. It's so easy to fall back on the ways you were taught, and the ways you've previously been teaching. I have to keep reminding myself that I'm one of the unusual ones who the school system worked well for, and that even though it worked for me when I was a student the world has changed since then!

    It'll be great getting into it properly this week. We're starting off with a challenge called 'Hack your learning space'.

  3. Appreciate the hat-tip and conversation - thanks again for attending the conference and my session :-)