Deeper learning and the digital revolution

bill nyeI recently read this call to action by Michael Fullan,  and Andy Hargreaves, Call for Action, Bringing the Profession Back in. What I am looking for these days is a connection between technology, new pedagogy, and deep learning. When speaking at a conference in Lillestrøm, Norway last week in November, I emphasized the importance of networking for school leaders. We need to be better at sharing best practices, starting conversations around the topic, and learning from each other. I like the idea shared by Bill Nye, the science guy, who I was lucky to see at the TCEA conference in Austin Texas. Never underestimate what you can learn from fellow educators/school leaders. My thoughts these days are that you can not look into deeper learning without changing the pedagogy and using technology. Only then can you unleash the power of innovation and inquiry, not only from the students but also the teachers. It is interesting how Fullan talks about the new and old pedagogies and how the world is not black and white. There are many aspects of the old pedagogy we want to preserve. The clue here I guess is conversations, collaboration, and sharing best practice. And to remember;  “When you open the classroom to the rest of the world, the teacher becomes more important than ever”, My takeaways from the publication here:

Eventually, the global education reform movement strategies became exhausted, students became disengaged from school, teachers took flight from the profession, the public became alarmed, and the U.S. and similar nations woke up and smelled the coffee. At the same time, the digital revolution revived the possibilities for deeper learning beyond mere memorization and test taking. This provoked the public, the profession, technology companies, and start-up entrepreneurs into rethinking how students can and should be more directly engaged in undertaking and sometimes leading their own learning. Add in the worldwide epidemic in mental health problems among young people, along with the greatest global refugee crisis in 70 years with all the challenges that brings into many classrooms, and we get more than an inkling of why deeper learning that engages the whole child has come back on to the educational agenda. But not all new pedagogies are good pedagogies. There are bad new pedagogies that perpetuate superficial learning or little learning, alongside good new pedagogies that develop deeper learning. For instance, many low-cost online learning companies in the U.S. that try to bypass teachers altogether have appalling records in terms of student achievement results. Excessively “independent” learning that sometimes masquerades as personalized learning can be exciting and engaging for learners who are already motivated, but  when students who have a lot of dislocation and distraction in their home lives are literally as well guratively left to their own devices, narrowing the achievement gap for them and their peers remains a distant digital dream.

What we seek are good new pedagogies for deep learning. These have a lot in common with good old pedagogies, so we need to makes sure we recognize these older pedagogies, value them, and engage the teachers who practice them in moving everyone further forward. It’s a factual mistake and a strategic professional error to dismiss all existing classrooms as places of fuddy-duddy factory learning. But while the best old and new pedagogies overlap a lot, the new ones have three additional features that distinguish them. These features are also ones that engage and energize teachers as well as students and promote their joint learning and development in the process.

  • Good new pedagogies are often student driven. Teachers don’t do all the work to get students collectively engaged by spending endless hours devising brilliant multiple activities and projects for them. Sometimes, as Richard Elmore (2004) once said, the most dedicated teachers can teach too hard, and this can get in the way of them stepping back and following the learning a bit. In good new pedagogies, students have a voice. They come up with their own ideas and follow their own paths. They surprise you — and surprise is one of the most delightful emotions that make teaching so fulfilling and worthwhile. They learn to make good judgments about what their work is worth and take more responsibility for its quality. They ask difficult questions sometimes, like the 7-year-olds who put an iPad on the principal’s desk with a presentation on how their classroom learning environment (yes, using that very language) could be improved to enable greater collaborative learning.
  • Good new pedagogies are often activist. Students take up evidence-based campaigns to get local companies and local government to clean up ponds and rivers; they become advocates against bullying or in support of students’ LGBTQ rights; and they study and take up causes in relation to indigenous issues even when they do not themselves live in communities with indigenous students and families. The good new pedagogies turn students into passionate change agents (Fullan, 2016)
  • Good new pedagogies make positive uses of digital technology. They use live online polling of student responses, gaming strategies, simulations, real-time feedback on Twitter, and continuous online interaction with parents, just to mention a few (Cho, 2016). When you can get a photo on your smartphone of something your child made just as they made it, or a completed assignment in your inbox when you’re at home or at work as a parent, with an opportunity to respond, how much better is this than the decoding of performance scores, or the awkward conversations in which parents and teachers engage at report card time?

Having more student engagement and student voice, engaged in activist and other projects that provide continuous and honest feedback online and offline, is a powerful stimulator for teachers’ well-being. This is what Learning Forward advocates: Every teacher learning every day. In deep learning, we are beginning to see students and teachers, individually and together as people who, in the words of New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (, “engage the world to change the world.” Student well-being and teacher well-being, mutually connected, are key to
individual and societal development. This is the time to bring the profession back in to play a central role in the development of students as learners who are able to cope with turbulent times and to be leaders and change agents who will help shape the future.

For all teachers

  1.  Forge your own collaborative professionalism. Regardless of what others are doing, you have a responsibility to find and foster your own PLD. Remember that our definition of PLD is about deliberately learning something new, developing and growing personally and professionally, and doing this individually and with others. In the words of Education International, the international association of teachers unions, “teachers have to own the competencies they teach” (Education International, 2016).
  2. Seek deep learning with and through students, teachers, and parents. Become engaged in the good new pedagogies (and good old pedagogies) of inquiry, engagement, and activism to make learning deep and connected to the world of today. In this context, pursue the equity hypothesis in which those students most disaffected in the current system are the ones most likely to benefit. Treat students as change agents as well as protégés.
  3. Go outside to learn inside. Leadership from the middle (your peers in your own and other schools) provides new opportunities for accessing new ideas and having a greater impact in your own situation as well as with those with whom you are collaborating.
  4. Make your world bigger. Given worldwide developments in the last half of 2016, the big picture (societal development), and the small picture (the place where you work) are fusing. Everybody knows that something is amiss, afoot, and adrift, and nobody seems to know what to do. This puts education at the forefront of figuring out the future of humankind. It’s time for the levers of educational change to be seized by the full spectrum of teachers — those under 35 and even under 25 as well as older teachers. Make yourself part of this life-changing and world-changing movement, but do it with other
    educators and students, not just by yourself


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