I was part of a staff meeting at my school this week on the topic of 21st century learning. One of our leading teachers spoke to us about a PD she had attended which talked about the move from traditional learning to student centred learning. We were given a handout highlighting the differences between the two states of learning although I see it as more of a continuum. While few of us would consider our style of teaching to be firmly ‘traditional’, a number of constraints work against us to adopt a truly student-centred approach and thus we end up being somewhere in the middle. The pressure for students to achieve high scores on NAPLAN weighs heavily on most classroom teachers’ minds and makes it difficult to allow the freedom needed to let students explore according to their own interests in diverse areas. The large class sizes that most classrooms are subject to also make individualising learning challenging.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. While there certainly are obstacles to be overcome, we are not restricted to the ‘traditional learning’ end. As part of this staff meeting, I also presented information recently gained from Release 2 Ultranet training. Release 2 focuses on learning tasks and the ability for teachers to create tasks online for students to complete, then being able to comment on and assess them. Parents can then access their student’s information to have a ‘real time’ reference as to how they are progressing. Putting aside the multitude of technical glitches and a clunky interface (which is a blog post in itself!), this functionality can be used to provide more individualised learning. Some teachers have already been doing this for years, using learning management software such as Moodle however the Ultranet makes it mainstream and will push all teachers towards this more student-centred approach. Obviously technology does not change poor teaching by magic into great teaching but the tools are there and accessible to all – let’s hope teachers take advantage of them to deliver the type of learning our students need and deserve.