Tag Archives: Future Learning

Learning Will Be Disrupted

Alice (name changed to protect identity) officially attends Greenfields Primary, an outstanding school (name changed to protect its outstandingness) serving a diverse suburban catchment. 12 months into our global pandemic, Greenfields was still struggling to adapt. Remote learning comprised worksheets emailed home; blended pedagogy was tolerated – for now – ‘until we can go back to how it was before’; CPD was on hold ‘while we cope with the disruption’.

Alice’s dad, Mark (you guessed it) is not happy. His company switched online 72 hours into the first lockdown and since then they’ve wrestled with new technology, struggled with diverse work patterns and been frustrated by shifts in customer behaviour. But they stuck with it. They innovated, adapted and exploited the disruption – because they had to, because they needed to, because they wanted to. And now, they’ve emerged more productive, more agile and more creative than before.

Alice’s dad is not happy because if he and his team can grow through adversity, why hasn’t his daughter’s school?

So he talked to his sister Beth, a teacher, about her school, Bluesky Primary.

Bluesky Primary is RI and hard at work fixing that. A week into lockdown they’d realised a different approach was needed. So, they wrestled with new technology, struggled with diverse work patterns and got extremely frustrated by shifts in parent and pupil behaviour.

But Bluesky stuck with it. They innovated, adapted and exploited the disruption – because they had to, because they needed to, because they wanted to. And now, they’ve emerged more productive, more agile and more creative than before.

They LOVE face to face teaching. They LOVE remote learning. And, heaven help us if another lockdown comes, they’re ready. They’ll just flick a switch and seamlessly go online. They’ve developed a blended learning handbook (not policy, big difference); they’ve empowered pupils to be online power coaches; and they’ve recognised how this disruption has shoved them all into their children’s futures – and where else should you be, as an educator?

So, Alice, disrupting the system, subverting the normal, pushing the boundaries, began to attend her aunt’s school, Bluesky, remotely. Why not? says her father. Please do, says Beth. Alice engaged with high quality interactive teaching, made new friends, embraced her future. She didn’t bother completing the worksheets from her official school.

What if your school was open to all children? What if the quality of your interactive live teaching and your learning management systems defined you, rather than the number of worksheets emailed home?

What if the learning economy was so disrupted that your catchment area was global?

The elements above are true, just synthesised from different contexts to make a point. Since March 2020 I’ve watched pandemic disruption amplify and accelerate diversity. Sometimes this is good (teaching becomes better and more effective); sometimes it’s not (children who were behind find themselves further adrift). But the most startling amplification for me has been how teachers and schools that were already forward facing (Bluesky) have really seized disruption, tamed it and used it; and how those that were not (Greenfields) have stagnated, and done nothing new, innovative or interesting for their children.

Chew these over in the staff room:
– What kind of school are you in today?
– Are you preparing your children for their futures or for someone else’s past?
– How do you view ‘disruption’?

The 3Rs are Dead; Long Live the 4Rs

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:

Raemade, Raeduced, Raecycled garments

RÆMADE

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).

An air-brake, RÆMADE
Cold War silk maps. Archived, stored, found, RÆMADE

RÆDUCED

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.

New, digitally printed silk (from Moving to Mars)

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?

RAECYCLED

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?

Thanks to Jake and Marina for talking me through the brand ethos.

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.

http://www.thinkingclassroom.co.uk

Contact Raeburn direct for lab tours and workshops.

https://www.raeburndesign.co.uk/events/?catId=workshops

Bake Offsted

Wagon Wheel

My grown up children made this. In fact they made twenty of them. They are wagon wheel biscuits inspired by last week’s Great British Bake Off. They let me eat one and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And not just because of its taste and texture. My wagon wheel makes a point about assessment and inspection.

Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith would slate this biscuit (and fair dues my 19 and 22 year old would slate them back). This biscuit would not stop any shows or elevate any star bakers. It would fail. It would bomb. It would not meet the success criteria:

  • It’s blackberry and apple jam not strawberry.
  • Chocolate is missing from the sides.
  • The marshmallow filling is bought fluff.

But let’s see this in a different way. My adult children lead separate lives at different universities. They were home together for once and chose to collaborate. They used homemade jam; fruit from our nearby field. They saved time buying fluff. They reduced calories by skipping the chocolate sides. They compromised looks for taste. They created a complex biscuit after several fails. They had fun, they connected, they became kids in the kitchen again. It was lovely to watch.

Non of this would count in GBBO but it has great value to me. And there’s the rub with school assessment and inspection. What do you value? What counts? What REALLY matters for the children we’re launching into the world. Does Ofsted see or just look?

Public accountability for public money: a necessary safeguard. But it’s not sufficient for authentic future-focussed education. Ofsted is expanding its focus: looking wider; moving on from simple, absolute measures. But what will the new criteria be? How well will official aims match personal and global needs?

Future thinkers list many skills and qualities likely needed for 21st Century employability: a handful – maths, empathy, data literacy, negotiation, collaboration, cognitive flexibility. These and more should be the central focus of inspection. I worry that we do an exceptional job inspecting the 1980s instead of using formative comment to shape the future. Consider this; most of the children you teach this week will be alive in the the 22nd century.

Every biscuit is a success, it just depends which criteria you value. Every child is a success, it just depends how you see them and if you’ve done more that take a cursory look.