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And he said, “Let’s Bring Classrooms into the 21st Century …” January 29, 2012

Posted by Editor21C in Directions in Education, Early Childhood Education, Engaging Learning Environments, Primary Education, Secondary Education.
Tags: , , ,

from Jane Hunter

In this entertaining post Jane Hunter continues to examine how technology can effectively underpin many teaching approaches which lead to ‘deep learning’ and great learning engagement for young people in our classrooms.

I want to start this blog contribution with a game – it’s called “Guess Who Said This?”

Look at the dots point below and see if you know who said the following at a breakfast meeting late last year in the USA?

  • You begin with the conviction that every child can learn.
  • You set high standards.
  • Think of it this way. If we attached computers to leeches, medicine wouldn’t be any better than it was in the 19th century, when doctors used them to bleed patients. You don’t get change by plugging in computers to schools designed for the industrial age. You get it by deploying technology that re-writes the rules of the game by centering learning around the learner.
  • There is a crisis of imagination.
  • Our children are growing up in Steve Jobs’ world. They are eager to learn, and quick to embrace new technology. Outside the classroom they take all this for granted – in what they read, in how they listen to music, in how they shop. Outside the classroom, they take it for granted that people will compete to meet their individual needs and expectations. The minute they step back into their classrooms, it’s a different story. It’s like going back in time. With the right technology, we can do the same for education.
  • Let’s be clear: technology is never going to replace teachers.
  • What technology can do is give teachers closer, more human and more rewarding interactions with their students.
  • At the same time, technology can give children lesson plans tailored to their pace and needs.
  • Digital technology gives us the means to transform the dismal status quo – and to do it quickly.
  • Put simply we must approach education the way Steve Jobs approached every industry he touched. To be willing to blow up what doesn’t work or gets in the way. And to make our bet that if we can engage a child’s imagination, there’s no limit to what he or she can learn.

If you said Rupert Murdoch … then you are correct! No prizes or free iPads I’m afraid … sorry!

I was shocked that I found myself agreeing with much of what he was saying, as usually his views are the antithesis of mine.

Terrifying! Really?! What!!

Murdoch’s address was drawn to my attention by one of the teachers attending a day of cross-case analysis for my doctoral work. This study examines a purposive group of ‘imitable teachers’ (ones worthy of imitation) and their conceptualisation of technology integration in the classroom (are they possibly the ‘Steve Jobs of teachers?).

One teacher in the study previously worked with IBM as a programmer, another is a qualified film maker, one has a PhD in learning design, and the fourth teacher is one of the first teachers in NSW to have a serious amount of digital technology in her classroom BUT what happens is all about what her students create using it!

Students in the classrooms of these teachers build cardboard cars powered by alternate energy sources – we are talking rubber bands n’ balloons; they produce scanned puppets to assist writing long and imaginative narratives with highly sophisticated vocabulary; others storyboard and create powerful short films, while some groups carry out investigations into challenging and serious topics, eg. What gives flowers their colour? What are people putting in our food?

What’s interesting (and so much is compelling here with this post being only a taste of the whole story), is that there is a strong alignment between each teacher’s ‘inside life’ and ‘outside life’. But that doesn’t mean all of the teachers are highly focused on using technology every ‘waking moment’ both at school and at home.  Sure, some know how to program a computer and set up a school server, however others don’t have the latest mobile phone, an iPad, nor use Twitter or Facebook.

What these teachers do share is a deep understanding of how digital technologies enable young people to learn how to become better at learning more about their learning. As one said, “children know heaps about learning – it’s what they do!  The technology helps them to learn more about their learning – to really look at it – to talk about it and be better at it – digital technology in the classroom supports making learning tangible”.

In observing and speaking with these teachers’ students, they really understand what their teachers’ intentions are, they have “fun” and what’s more, the teachers state: “we get to play too”! Such comments are repeated over and over and perhaps align with Craft’s (2011) notion of ‘playfulness’. Students in these classrooms have extended time in tasks, constantly ask questions, problem solve all the time, work in community and behave really well, and what’s more they don’t want to leave the learning space when the bell goes. Furthermore, in the well over 12 months that I have been in and around these NSW public school classrooms I have not seen ONE worksheet!

Are these examples of what Murdoch meant in 2011 when he spoke about bringing school classrooms into the 21st Century?

Reference:   Craft, A. (2011). Creativity and Education Futures: learning in a digital age. Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books.

Jane Hunter is an academic in the School of Education at the University of Western Sydney, Australia, whose research  centres on how teachers integrate technology into learning and teaching in primary and secondary classrooms. Jane is one of our most regular and popular bloggers. You can access her previous posts by searching ‘Jane Hunter’ using the ‘search’ button at the top right.


1. Rick Ackerly (@Rickackerly) - January 30, 2012

Thank you for bringing so many important soundbites about education together in one place.

2. Danielle Roddick (UWS Media) - January 30, 2012

Great article Jane! I foresee another SMH story in your future… 🙂

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