Learners at the Centre I

October 19, 2013
Stephen Tierney

Post is reblogged from Stephen Tierney’s personal blog as Leading Learner

Vision 2040 is fundamentally an idea about “Power Shift” in the first half of the 21st Century:

  • From the politicians, in a tug of war with the professionals, to a consensus implemented by highly trusted professionals.  This is possibly the easy bit for us to accept and endorse.
  • From teachers to students, where the learner takes centre stage in decision making about her/his learning both its direction and process.  This is more difficult and challenging as it’s never easy to let go particularly when there are high stake accountability measures circling above you like vultures.

To see this power shift as part of an extended journey I want to build on some ideas shared by the wonderful and engaging Professor David Hargreaves, a number of years ago, who always challenges the orthodoxy of the time and seems to have a “crystal ball capacity” for seeing the future direction of travel.

Henry Ford

“Any customer can have a car painted any colour he wants so long as it is black.”

Henry Ford in many ways epitomises the education journey of the 20th Century in England which has seen high quality education provided for all students.  I think it’s fair for people to question whether it is yet consistently good enough in all schools and for all students but compared to one hundred years ago we are in a totally different place.  This is the factory model of schooling.  Power for decisions sits at a national, local and school level, often in that order, and students’ experiences are very similar.

Dell Options

Dell is an example of mass customisation.  There is a glittering and dazzling array of options for colour of the machine, processor, hard drives and additional elements which allow us an element of control over the final product.  The key to understanding this is realising the ultimate power over what type of customised machine we can build sits with Dell, they are the ones who give us the options from which we can choose.  I’ve termed this, in schools, as macro personalisation and shown a number of ways this is realised in my blog post, Redesigning Schools: Masterchef II – Great Menus, Great Food, changes to the school day, lesson length, curriculum pathways options are all examples of personalisation but the power over which options students have sit with the school, it is not an infinite, unknown or ephemeral set of options.  This is a start and I believe that my generation of leaders will build this into a highly effective educational provision but it is Vision 2020 not Vision 2040.

Apple Website

Apple has taken the next step moving the market from mass customisation to mass personalisation.  On the Developer website there is information about how to prepare an app for review and also how to promote it to your potential market.  Apple has also released part of their programming codes – “the complete developer tools for building … apps. Includes the Xcode IDE, performance analysis tools, iOS Simulator and the latest OS X and iOS SDKs” – which is absolutely fantastic news as we are now able to take the lead in app production, if only I had the slightest clue what this actually meant.

The shift to mass personalisation of apps is only going to happen if enough people have the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes required of a good programmer that enables them to take and develop an idea and deliver it to the market.  The power only shifts from Apple to the individual when all these things are in place.  The power shift, and possibly mindset shift, required in schools and teachers sits around explicitly developing learners with the knowledge, understanding, skills and attributes required.  We tend to be better at the first part rather than the latter part of the list and I fear current educational policy is doing nothing to redress this.

Mass schooling was the gift given to us by a previous generation of leaders and mass customisation must be our legacy as we ensure Vision 2020 is a reality.  It is also for the current generation of leaders to provide the bridge to mass or what I term micro personalisation which will be the mission of a new generation of leaders some of whom we may have recently appointed to our schools.  They will take us to micro personalisation - the learner as a decision-maker at the centre of a multi-faceted, distributed and personalised education - and this is the essence of Vision 2040.  The ability for the learner to make decisions, be more self-directed and follow interests and passions will be at the heart of education by 2040 because this is what the World will need and demand.  Accountability and assessment systems will need to fit around the new educational reality and qualifications like the Extended Project Qualification will take on greater and more widespread importance:

“The test of successful education is not the amount of knowledge pupils take away from schools, but their appetite to know and capacity to learn.”

Sir Richard Livingstone, Oxford University, 1942

“The skills you can learn when you’re at school will be obsolete by the time you get into the workplace – except one: the skill of making the right response to situations for which you have not been specifically prepared.”

Prof Seymour Paper, MIT, 1998

There are two follow up blog posts that develop the themes from this post further, rather aptly named, Learners at the Centre II and Learners at the Centre III.

My initial blog post on Vision 2040 is titled, Reflections of an Apprentice 2040 Visioner.

Stephen Tierney In September 2013, Stephen became the Executive Headteacher of a Blackpool federation.  He is one of SSAT’s long standing advocates and his contribution to the early System Redesign and Four Deeps research is valued highly.