More Ladders, fewer snakes – NZ Institute report

This is an interesting report from the independent think tank – the New Zealand Institute - The report is focused on two proposals to reduce youth disadvantage. Reading through it a couple of things leap out  for me. Here is one that is critical

“Successful education requires more than just turning up at school. If students are engaged they will make the effort to learn but too few students remain engaged at school. By age 16, 36% are reported to be usually or always bored and one quarter want to leave as soon as they can, or already have (Wylie, 2009, p.2). ” - Executive summary

This is scary. over 1/3 of our students in year 11-13 are disengaged to the point of reporting boredom.

The report goes on to talk about eLearning as a potential tool for engagement, but states that elearning alone is not enough. I have to agree, there has to be a radical shift in pedagogy to accompany the implementation of elearning. There needs to be a focus on collaboration and communication, on higher order thinking. We need to consider to the assessment tasks we are setting, again I harp back to the comment I made a while ago…

… any question we ask that can be answered with google is a poor question.

The questions we ask, and in turn the learning experiences the students undertake must be higher order – creative, evaluative or analytical not Recall and simple understanding.

Engagement is not just academically focused – we know that students who exercise regularly, who have a balanced and appropriate diet will out perform those who come to school hungry, who are unfit, overweight or inactive. We must exercise on a daily basis, we know that academically and health wise this is vital.

Engagement means to that the students have ownership of their learning, they have tasks that are contextual for them, that they can see purpose and value in. The tasks must be relevant and have a degree of buy in on a personal, community or global perspective. Essentially there must be transparency.

To keep them engaged we must also make the tasks achievable and realistic, assessment focused and transparent and feedback must be learning centered, honest and timely.

If we too all of this, then perhaps we can change the poor engagement rates we are seeing.

Executive Summary - Executive summary

Full report - Full report

Perhaps those who criticize Orewa College’s decision to move their year 9 students to a one to one program with iPads should read the research.











Learning commons… Humm

If I asked you to imagine a classroom, it probably would be desks and chairs , a whiteboard and a rectangular room. If I asked you to imagine the people in their in all probability you would envisage students of varying ages and a teacher. This is how I would image a classroom.

Few of us would image a learning common, a classroom with out walls, multiple classes and teachers in a single space.

Its probably fair to say that learning commons, a large learning space which is shared between several classes simultaneously, are at first glance a daunting prospect for most teachers. But increasingly we are seeing this form of school architecture being incorporated into our schools. Certainly new schools in New Zealand are containing this style of learning space.

I think the idea is daunting because it would require me to change. You can not the traditional teaching paradigm, the teacher centric teaching model into these spaces, it won’t work. This is a shared space where you can not hold court without impacting on the learning of the other students, so how you teach must change.

This change must shift the ownership of the learning to the students, they must take responsibility for their own learning, they must be self motivated, organized and prepared. It becomes incumbent on us as teachers to be prepared and organised, we can not use the 6 step process of lesson planning – the last 6 steps into the classroom. Instead we must have clearly structured and outlined approaches to what,where and when we are going to teach.

Changing too, is how we teach, communicate and collaborate with our students. Learning commons facilitate a discover approach to learning rather than a delivery approach. The students must discover the knowledge they need as we can not stand forth and deliver – this lends itself to problem and project based learning.We must explore other avenues for communication with our students, as we don’t have the floor to deliver from, as this would impact on every one else in the space.

Changing to must be the assessment model. Most teachers teach as they do because of the assessment models that are in place.

So the change is the learning space brings for a number of changes to teaching practice, it becomes more student centric, its problem and project based, there is student ownership of learning, flexibility in how the students learn and how they communicate with the teachers. Shifting the students from being potentially passive learners to more active learners. Because of the change in the teaching paradigm the teachers spend more time facilitating and working with students individually or in small groups. Assessment too must change.

These are, in my opinion, good things but I do have to wonder if the spaces are created and there is an expectation that by proximity or occupation teaching practice will change. Are we seeing teacher training shifting to adopt this? Are further changes in assessment in the wind? Hummm, I wonder.

Infowhelm & Information Fluency Video

This is a cool video. Lee, my good friend and colleague has just produced this absolutely cool video on information Fluency and infowhelm. This is a brilliant resourse that sets perfectly the scene for 21st century learning, what we are facing right now and where we are heading. What a stunning clip.

Here is the URL:

21st Century Learning spaces

The more I have considered teaching and learning in the 21st Century, the more convinced I am that our teaching and learning spaces must change to reflect the paradigm shift we are seeing with 21st Century learners and educator.


Classrooms have improved since the 19th Century, but essentially they are designed for the same traditional mode of teaching. These classrooms are:

  • teacher-centric
  • designed for single to many communication style
  • lack flexibility
  • are poorly designed for collaboration and communication
  • have limited support for technology
  • rigid in design often unable to be adapted for any other purpose
  • individual focused rather than group focused.

We have seen improvements in the facilities within the classroom, Classes now have better desks and chairs that are more comfortable and of different sizes to accommodate the physical differences in learners. Classroom walls with spaces to decorate and display student learning. The introduction of technology like data projectors, audio and visual systems, better lighting and light control. But all of these are still in the same 20th Century mode.


A 21st Century curriculum, with 21st century learners and educators would be limited and very restricted by such rooms. If we look at the characteristics of the 21st Century Learner, this will provide us with an indication of what our learning spaces should look like.

21st Century Learners are:

  • Technology literate and adept
  • Media savvy
  • Flexible and dynamic
  • multitasking
  • communicators and collaborators
  • interactive and networked
  • reflective and critical
  • instant
  • creative and adaptive
  • student centric, life long learners & anywhere anytime learners
  • have Multimodal learning styles

Our classrooms to must encompass these characteristics.

Access to technology and media:

The 21st Century classroom is networked, adequately provided with a rich internet connection to support media streams, personal (skype) and group (video conferencing) communications. Able to upload and download students work and research to suitable structures to support anywhere anytime learning and collaboration. Facilities need to be in place to enable media production, whether its video, audio or text/image based.

Consider this. Many projectors have the facility to support wireless networking enabling the users (teachers and students) to easily connect and then switch between users. How many projectors have this enabled? This flexibility is essential for the 21st Century learners.

Classroom design:

Traditional classrooms are design for a teacher centric delivery mode. 21st Century learners are collaborators and communicators. So the classroom must be designed to enable group collaboration. They must have the flexibility in furnishings and technology to be rearranged with ease and speed. Switching rapidly between individual and groups, presentation, communication and collaborative modes. From these grouping learners and educators must be able to connect, collaborate, share and report – projection and video conference, present and report back.

Classrooms must be able to adapt to different needs of the classroom – space for the students to work quietly and reflectively; space to operate in small groups discussing and debating; space to meet collectively to report, discuss, plan and teach.

Display spaces:

Students will need access to real and virtual display spaces. Whiteboards, pinboards, collaborative learning spaces online, conferences etc. They will need easy and instant access to media systems that they can use to view materials and share their own.

How many classrooms have student whiteboards – how many of us use whiteboards (interactive or traditional) as weinteract with our colleagues in meetings, particularly if we are visual learners.

So what is the classroom of tomorrow like?

I feel that these spaces will probably be multiple rooms within the one learning space. Small meeting rooms attached to the major learning space with an array of facilities (IWB, AV conferencing, whiteboards, networks and collaborative spaces like tables). These rooms would be used for reflective spaces, planning, meeting, collaborating (face to face and online modes) etc.

The main learning space would be a fluid environment – furniture easy to move and manipulate arrange and rearrange to suite the needs of the task or learning. They would ideally have multiple display systems which are easily linked and controlled, allowing teacher control as well as student connection. Access grids are an example of these. They will have to be larger spaces. Learners will not have individual desks rather will have their own spaces.


These spaces need to reflect the audience. They need to be comfortable and appropriate to our learners.

This is not going to be cheap. Larger spaces, more of them with better facilities and resources, connectivity and capacity. This is going to require a quantum change in classroom design. There are questions to be asked like can some facilities be shared – small breakout rooms between classes etc.

Fundamentally there must also be a change in the direction of teaching too. If such a facility was available in your school, who could use this? Would your teachers be able to adapt to this space or would they revert to a more traditional mode of instruction.


Learning space design in 21st Century –

21st Century learning environments for all –

Next generation learning spaces –

Learning for 21st Century –

21st Century Learners – and their approaches to learning –

Designing spaces for effective learning –

Standards for the 21st Century Learner –