Future of education: part 1

Like many people, I’m fascinated by how education is changing.

My dad is a teacher, my brother is a teacher, my sister works in professional publishing – the books she commissions end up as textbooks in universities.

Education is family thing, I suppose, though I was hardly passionate about education when I was in it – scraped through with half-decent A-levels, dropped out of a half-decent university.

I particularly love the work of Sugata Mitra. I love the Forest Schools ideology. It’s interesting to me that the school I went to, a state school, is now an ‘Apple School’ where every teacher and every pupil has been given an iPad.

So it was exciting to be invited by Facebook to speak at The Sunday Times Festival of Education at Wellington College back in late June. Just that combination alone had my interested: Facebook + Education + Wellington College (very old, well established public school).

Just arriving was an experience – Katie Price (‘Jordan’) was being greeted by Antony Seldon, headmaster at Wellington and a proponent of progressive ideas about the importance of teaching happiness at school. Ellen MacArthur walked past and then David Willets MP (I think). Not my usual crowd – I grabbed sandwiches and ran.

What was most interesting was how Facebook had partnered The Education Foundation, who in turned worked with two UK schools – London Nautical College, a proper inner city state school, and Wellington, an extremely affluent leading private school, to use Facebook in the classroom.

Hearing those two teachers, and those two groups of students, explain how they had experimented with using Facebook groups to manage learning projects was cool.

It was very thought provoking.

These were my takeaway points:

- both groups had found it useful enough that they’d do it again – that was a surprise to me, particularly – if I’m honest – Wellington

- both groups talked about how quickly the kids (who were teenagers) moved on from ‘fiddling around on Facebook and getting distracted’ to cracking on with work

- the kids themselves expressed how they were sceptical that they would be able to use Facebook without getting distracted but had surprised themselves

- Last surprise: how the parents hadn’t kicked off either, again I would expect that to happen especially at Wellington – perhaps people are more open-minded than I expect?

Surprises all round…

What I took away was another sense of just how much education is changing and about to change more. Methodologies, tools, practices, expectations, it is really interesting. Terrifying and thrilling when I think about my two boys who are in school.

And Facebook’s goals are absolutely clear here: they are interested to see how their platform can be positively used in education by educators and learners, and they are open about that. I have a combination of emotions about that: caution, curiosity, excitement.

I guess this is just another piece of this great big shift that we’ve been thinking about and exploring together for a while now. Digital transformation in education…

One comment

  1. Carlos Saba (@kungfucarlos)

    Both fascinated and horrified by the idea of Facebook being involved in education. On the plus side it sounds like a logical way of getting students engaged in collaborative learning. There seem to be so many different tools and services being used by schools that it must be a nightmare trying to get students engaged it yet another online interface. Plus most of the school based software I’ve seen so far have the worst UIs.

    The scary part of this marriage is the idea of FB getting all that information about a student’s educational development. I can’t help thinking about Universities and potential employers being eventually being sold a student’s “Klout” score for academic achievement…

    The current system is definitely up for a revolutionary shift and FB-like tools that encourage students to work together and engage themselves more in acquiring new skills and knowledge are definitely a step in the right direction. I just hope Facebook doesn’t achieve a monopoly on the future of education. I have the horrible phrase “gamifying education” ringing through my ears…

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