The good news is you’re probably already at stage 4. Here are the five:
And here’s what they look like:
Remember stability, clarity, security? Early 2020? Feels like decades ago don’t you think? The curriculum was known and effective. Things were generally clear. We knew what to do, how to do it and (if we had the time to think about it), why we bothered. Concerns were: Ofsted, Year 9 (or Year 6), and keeping the staff room cup-washing rota viable.
March 2020. We fell off a cliff. Chaos. Completely unknown territory. We had no idea at all what to do. The curriculum became erratic or non-existent. We couldn’t get to it because of two barriers:
Technical: How do we/they get online and what do we press when we get there?
Pedagogical: How do we do what we did so well in class when all we have is a tiny rectangle in which to do it?
OK. So it wasn’t good, but after the shock we took a peek at the new landscape and began to play around with our new tools: Zoom, Teams, Google Classroom, Jamboard, Mentimeter, Desmos. We crossed into the curriculum by using the barriers within our lesson design – a bit of technical skill, a bit of remote pedagogy, a bit of the literacy. The new gold standard was not wall-to-wall live teaching but creative learning design.
And here we are now, February 2021, about to return to school. We’ve worked hard, we’re exhausted, but we’ve learned so much about learning – because we’ve had to. The barriers are significantly thinner. Well done you.
But how will we preserve our learning back in school? How will we use this opportunity we’ve had to grow personally and professionally?
So here’s my hope for the future. A richer curriculum. See the grey rings? That’s a legacy of the barriers. A reminder that struggle teaches, failure strengthens and frustration breeds success. The curriculum can be enriched because of this lengthy, uninvited and exhausting training course on which we’ve all been delegates: COVID-19
How well do these stages match your own experience? Did you miss any? Squeeze others in between? Linger too long? I hope we don’t ever go back to stage 1, but at least if we do, this time there’s a roadmap.
The ‘blended’ in ‘blended learning’ means combining in-class with online teaching. It can be synchronous (live) or asynchronous. It’s touted as one way to be lockdown ready. I propose it’s the only way to be 21st century ready.
It’s not something to do ‘while we get through this’. It’s a permanent redefinition of learning. What it offers is long overdue: a necessary kick start to finally break from the educational practices that fuelled the first Industrial Revolution, to fully prepare students for the demands of the fourth. We need to get this right.
There are three ways to come at blended learning:
1. Plan learning for in-class then transform it to work online. 2. Plan learning for online then transform it to work in-class. 3. Integrate all learning spaces then plan the learning.
Embarking on 1 and 2 risks a frustrating ‘good enough’ short-termism. 3 lays deep foundations where learning is central, not the tools or methods of its delivery.
1. Planning an in-class lesson to work online prompts the search for web tools that will replicate face to face activities. This will only ever partially succeed. In-class will never be the same as online. We’ll never achieve the full authenticity of a classroom where we’re all breathing the same air.
2. Likewise, planning an online lesson to work in-class is equally doomed. The range and flexibility of web tools cannot be replicated in the ‘real’ world. Online collaboration, editing, access to information, creativity – these and more are in a completely different league to their in-class counterparts.
3. The third approach separates learning from the debate about online vs in-class. It challenges us to take a different, long term view:
Think big about how and where learning happens. Take time to bring your philosophy of learning to life.
1 and 2 fuss about which mug to use. 3 considers the quality of the coffee.
Places where learning can take place are combined into a whole. School, library, bus, bedroom, street, in-class, online. Learning doesn’t stop with a school bell or start with a log on.
Online happens to be a place where we can collaborate and create. In-class happens to be a place where high quality discussion takes place. Research in the library; debriefs on the bus; texting in the street. Learning is bigger than school and bigger than online.
Effective learning is independent of the tools or spaces used to bring it to life. We all have a philosophy of learning. Mine cites eight evidence-based features that underpin learning design:
High Order Thinking
These are not tied to a room or a screen. We can build learning relationships online and face to face; we can think visually at a screen or in a forest; feedback can be verbal, written, emailed, texted or videoed.
Don’t get caught in the twin traps of, ‘How do I make this work online?’ or ‘How do I make this work in-class?’ Instead ask, ‘What is my philosophy of learning? Which principles work best?’ Then, looking at all the tools and resources and places and spaces available to you and your pupils ask, ‘How do I bring this philosophy to life?’
29th December 2019 was just another Black Friday in Carnaby Street, London. But unlike its neighbours, the Raeburn clothes store was closed. A sign outside read, ‘Buy Nothing Repair Something’. The sign is now a poster inside the shop,
Today we are closed for business and open for creativity. We’ve disabled our online shop and closed our physical stores.
Raeburn’s design lab up the road in Hackney stayed open and offered a free community drop in repair service – of any brand or no brand of clothing.
Why is it that Timberland, The North Face, Disney and many others seek out Raeburn and, more specifically, founder and lead designer Christopher Raeburn? Why do they want to collaborate and co-create? The answer is simple: it’s the company’s integrity; approach to design and because of its care for our precious planet. Christopher says,
I think as a designer you have an obligation to consider what you are doing and why; ultimately, we want to make strong, sustainable choices…
Companies want his thinking. They want his why and his how more than his what. He’ll help them remake their own what (their product) into something that’s far, far more than it was before.
The Raeburn philosophy comprises 4Rs – the first eponymous, the rest world changing and we’ll look at them here in turn:
There’s a great deal of excess military clothing and equipment out there – unused, unusable or unsafe – and Christopher Raeburn hunts it down with archaeological rigour. It’s then taken apart and rebuilt.
Imagine a bomber jacket that was once a fighter plane’s parachute air-brake; a silk dress cut from a cold war battlefield map or a jacket that used to sit poised and packed as a Chinese air force parachute.
It’s all about value, about thinking in lifetimes not days. Each garment is numbered so you know you’ve bought one of a small run. You also know Raeburn will repair it free of charge forever, and when it’s beyond repair will remake it again: jacket to cushion to handkerchief to wallet is a wholly probable evolution over decades. Put simply, less clothes, lasting longer.
The principle: seek out the surplus, find the excess, bring it out of storage and make it into something new (but with a design nod to its heritage, its provenance).
RÆDUCED products come from new natural fibres; generally (GOTS Certified) Organic Cotton items, but also wool and silk. The RÆDUCED ethos looks at decreasing impact through addressing CO2/water/transport issues.
The principle: think long term across a product’s whole lifetime – its birth, life, journey, changes and death – and only then judge its value and its cost. And ask, just how many clothes do I actually need?
If it can be used again, use it again. Wool can be respun, cotton can be respun. Plastic can be gathered and reformed. Raeburn sell a cashmere sweater. Not quite 100% – a mix of Tencel (from wood pulp), Polyamide (reused plastic) and reclaimed cashmere. They argue, why use new when used can be reused?
The principle: Why is it sitting there in landfill? What can it become instead and how can this transformation best happen?
Raeburn brand thinking is inspiring, necessary, and scalable. Its transformative and transferable. That’s why, from this learning designer’s perspective it is so compelling.
In an educational environment veering dangerously close to a retro and reductive 3Rs ethos, we desperately need this kind of 4R thinking.
The Reading, wRiting and aRithmatic will take care of themselves – these skills are functional, foundational and easily acquired through systematic proven programmes – which will become ever more effective once we fully commit to and trust machine learning and artificially intelligent products.
But currently that’s all we seem to do – drill the basics – especially in primary schools. Children loose their childhood, their play, their chances to create. Design has been designed out of the curriculum; the future hobbled by a mis-remembered ‘golden’ past and troubled by an overloaded, anxious present. We must design and produce a transformation of learning through principles like Raeburn’s Rs.
Something to think about:
In your day to day teaching, what can be remade, reduced, recycled – practically as in actual materials and objects, or pedagogically as in ways of teaching and learning?
What are your 4 principles of teaching and/or learning?
I’ll be creating a series of resources this year linked to ethical design and principles like Raeburn’s. Look out on the website and in the monthly mailing.