How Does Your Practice Reflect the Modern Context?

For all of the discussions we have shared in these posts and beyond in our Changeleader Community and in Change School, the cold hard facts are that many educators are reluctant or rather, immune to change.

The irony of this comment is that for the most part, anyone reading this post has already self-selected as an exception to the rule, and certainly those that are part of the previously mentioned communities, by their very commitment to the dialogue there, are in fact contrary cases.

But let me be even more specific. What puzzles me most is how we can now be so aware of the increasingly rapid changes in our world around us, yet be so oblivious to the implications they have for classroom practice.

We’ve often written about context as the Modern Learning lens that provides relevance to practice, but I’m yet to be convinced that there has been much shift in classroom practice that has impacted the learning experiences of students on any real scale.

Our “adoption” of computers in schools over the past three decades is the most recent and prominent example of superficial and trivial responses to the modern context as we repeatedly saw computers being used to do old things in new ways. It was about a change of medium rather than any serious change of practice.

So why is this so? I think there’s possibly a continuum of behaviors that might in some way explain the reluctance of so many to respond to the modern context.

  1. Some educators are still in denial. These are colleagues who fit into one of two categories. Either they’re aware of the changes in the world around them and believe traditional practice made it possible, or they’ve been living under a rock. In both cases, there’s obviously a bit of work to be done to enlighten them.
  2. Awareness of the modern context is one step. Understanding the implications for classroom practice is much more difficult. Where do you start? Spending some time exploring beliefs around learning and how they align with modern contexts provides the best foundation to build on, mixed in with a serious dollop of unlearning or at least challenging some of the assumptions that existing practice has been based on.  Are those assumptions still valid?
  3. I’m aware of the modern context, I understand the implications, but I don’t know what to do next. For educators at this point, this is the time to open the door to deprivatization; taking the lonely artisan out of their single classroom and inviting them into a shared practice environment. It’s about making time for observation and reflection, and it’s about extending learning networks and connections to people who can better inform new ideas and share insights into modern practice. It’s also about a shift in previously held beliefs around authority and control combined with concepts such as student agency built around a philosophy of inquiry. Small steps, long professional conversations, and transparent practice.
  4. I know what I should do, but…. Changing practice requires letting go of what you know. This implies unknowns, uncertainty, and risk. A harsher view calls out mistakes and failures, but along the way, a lot of learning about what works and what doesn’t. For most, this will take a lot of time, not days or weeks, but months and years, and along the way, they must have supportive leadership that “has their back,” and is committed to bringing the wider community along the change journey.
  5. I’ve made some first steps, so what comes next? Changing practice is not a unit, a course or a module but rather an essential part of a change culture in a school, and it should always be thought of as a journey. It’s about being professional learners who are continually reviewing their practice with colleagues and seeing changing practice as the norm.

One final thought which frankly I think is the elephant in the room around any change in practice that truly reflects the modern context.

This is hard work. It’s messy, unpredictable, it takes a lot of time over a long period, and there is no recipe or script to follow….and it calls on deep knowledge, professional autonomy and shared wisdom around learning that has previously been taken away from educators in many countries.

But at the end of the day, for all the challenges and uncertainty that comes with this rapidly emerging modern role  for teachers, there is a personal and professional reward that those who have been there say makes every second worthwhile.

What do you think? Are you on this journey and want to share some of your experiences, or maybe as a leader you have some questions or comments. I’d value your thoughts or feedback below.

Five for Further Reading

    • Escape the Echo Chamber– First, you don’t hear other views. Then you can’t trust them. Your personal information network can entrap you just like a cult.
    • The Future or Past of Resumes– Seems we better keep a close eye on what employers think matters when reviewing job applicants. It’s about who you ware, not just what you’ve done.
    • The Realities of Automation and Education– Did you know that 60% of young adults train as apprentices in manufacturing, IT, banking, construction and other fields in Germany, compared with 5% in the United States? And if you want the latest on jobs and the impact of the modern context on jobs in the future, here is the OECD’s view in serious detail.
    • Even I Don’t Understand These Tests– When your country’s Chief Scientist wants your national High School Exit Test abolished, maybe its time to listen?
    • Saving the World from Code– Just when you thought the coders were in control, well they’re not. This Atlantic article explains why, in some serious details, but worth the read.

    And for a bit of bedtime reading. If you really are interested in the origins of AI, you might find this extract via MIT of interest…or it will send you to zzzz.

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Bruce Dixon

Modern Learners and Change School co-founder Bruce Dixon has spent the bulk of his career developing programs that assist governments to make effective use of technology across their education sector. His strategic work has enabled governments to better manage large scale personal technology deployments, and ensure outcomes that drive both school improvement and ultimately transformation.

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