The changing face of education has always been a topic of discussion. Currently, however, a number of reports in the news seem to be focussing on what is the future of education and what might it look like for our students.
Thinking about these questions I recently sat down with Mr Daniel Berry, Mrs Amanda Brown, Mr Daniel Ramsay and Mrs Justine Brightwell, teachers at St Stephen’s, to chat about how they have seen the educational landscape change over their careers and what the future might hold. The following two-part series reflects some of the main discussion points from our conversation. I hope you find this as informative and interesting as I did.
· Mr Daniel Berry – Year 5 Teacher at Carramar with 12 years experience in education and 3.5 at St Stephen’s School.
· Mrs Justine Brightwell – Carramar Secondary Maths Teacher and Assistant Dean of Makaria with 17 years in education and at St Stephen’s School for 12 years.
· Mrs Amanda Brown – Digital Learning Mentor at Duncraig Primary with 15 years in education and 11 years at St Stephen’s School.
· Mr Daniel Ramsay – Secondary English and Drama Teacher at Duncraig with 16 years in education and 6 at St Stephen’s School.
The growth in the use of technology across all years and ages has been perhaps the biggest change in contemporary education with devices now the norm. The accessibility of information, virtual reality and the rise of gamification are no longer the exception in a 21st century classroom. The need for instant answers was something all teachers mentioned. “The instant nature of gaming and the online world has reconditioned students, parents and society in general to seek instant feedback and rewards” Mrs Brown said, a sentiment echoed by Mrs Brightwell who also made the point that “the fast paced, noisy and action-oriented nature of gaming means many students find the pace of reality in a classroom as ‘boring’, something that we as teachers need to be more aware of. We need to look at how we engage, stimulate and excite kids to want to learn when everything is so fast paced”.
An interesting insight came from Mrs Brown who said that her job as a Digital Learning Mentor did not exist when she started teaching 15 years ago. “When we started teaching, people weren’t expecting constant feedback or access but now everyone has instant access to information around the world, something that is expected from educators”.
Each staff member praised technology for “opening up the world to students, especially in a primary context”, as Mr Berry said. “It extends the classroom and we use a lot of the flip learning style and I can see this growing in the future”. While the conversation around technology really focused on how it has opened up the world of learning, all four teachers agreed that with every positive there are always some negatives. The most common thread was in relation to the amount of information that students received and many students were so into gaming their sleep and relationships were being affected.
Mr Ramsay said, “the challenge for teachers now was providing students with what the internet can’t provide…teachers are becoming more relatable, engaging and it is all about the relationship.” This sentiment was supported by all four staff and this was one of the strengths of St Stephen’s School.
The second dominant theme centred on how the emotional and social needs of students have changed as they navigate the modern world. We have moved from a much more didactic way of teaching where content and facts provided the core of instruction and that was what education was about to a more holistic approach.
The understanding around student wellbeing and the importance of helping students become more resilient, compassionate and confident are very much part of the 21st Century teaching agenda. Students come to school with a range of issues and as Mr Berry and Mrs Brightwell said “the emotional aspects of children’s lives affected their ability to learn and often determined the way they approached their teaching”.
“For some of our kids,it’s no longer about let’s teach them the curriculum today, it’s about checking they are safe, are they OK and to chat with them about what’s going on and what we can do to help”. This comment from Mrs Brightwell was another recurring comment. The reason that many parents choose St Stephen’s is for the point made by Mrs Brightwell; the care and relationships. As Mr Ramsay so eloquently put it “it goes back to being relationship-centred and where care and learning go hand-in-hand which is something we do really well”.
The second part of this conversation series will look at the expectations that our community have around education and, moving forward, what the future of education might look like.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Mrs Donella Beare