Background

During last term I offered a long-retired colleague the opportunity to run a 'master class' for my year twelve English and History students. It was a sensational success - for my students for sure, but also my colleague who had been coming to terms with the loss of his wife some months before. It was also a success for me. It got me wondering about what I could offer young people and those who teach them; lessons from forty-five years of work on building sites, factories, schools and private practice. It seemed to me that several experiences, if brought together in some way, had considerable application to today's challenges in education. The experiences are:

  • a general disillusionment with formal schooling as I experienced it
  • a lifetime of 'making things' - cars, houses, boats, even an aeroplane
  • more than three decades of engaging kids who didn't like school in activities that resulted them funding overseas and interstate travel, snow skiing, and yacht charters - 34 of them and counting
  • early exposure to the potential of ICT to enhance the learning of 'digital natives'
  • a long-standing fascination with personal development, from James Rohn in the early eighties, to becoming the first Australian qualified in a new school of psychology - one that has massive implications for teaching and learning.

The challenges, as I see them, include:
  • an increasing sense of disillusionment with formal schooling - young people, teachers, administrators, politicians and the public
  • not enough purposeful hands-on activity. Edward deBono coined the term 'operacy'; the skill of doing, and has advocated for years that it should be alongside literacy and numeracy in importance
  • not enough opportunities for young people to commit to the learning process on their terms and for reasons that make sense to them
  • increased availability of computers in schools without a corresponding rise in teacher expertise for effective ICT-based learning
  • tardy recognition of the role emotion plays in everything we do - engagement comes down to feelings. Without an emotional commitment, teachers and students go through the motions; a sense of career for the former, and a reluctant compulsion for the latter.

A reflection on these show a pretty close fit with my experiences, and C21 Ideas I believe, is an appropriate, engaging, and worthwhile response to the challenges school communities face.