My TEDxCanberra Audition: Learning for the Real World

I’ve spent the last few days putting together a brief audition video for TEDxCanberra – it was suggested by another teacher that I give it a shot, and I figure I’ve got nothing to lose. I’ve been doing a lot of investigation and work recently around a model of education that has students working directly with the community through projects that are interdisciplinary – an approach similar to Challenge-Based Learning, Project-Based Learning and similar models.

The audition video is on YouTube, and a quick search for TEDxCanberra will show you other potential speakers and topics.

While it’s not the greatest piece of video I’ve ever done, I think it gives a good enough picture of the message I’m sharing. I’ve seen too often in classrooms and schools activities and lessons that just don’t engage kids, but if you talk to these same kids about what they do outside of school and why they enjoy it, each time one of the key things they mention is the fact that they are involved in something. That aspect of being a part of something bigger is severely lacking in most classrooms, and there’s no excuse for that anymore. With near ubiquitous Internet access, mobile computing and information at everyone’s fingertips, we should be challenging our students to be solving big problems, and helping them make sense of the world around them to formulate answers that consider their values and ideas.

To do this effectively, we need to stop working within the artificial boundaries created by subject disciplines, learning areas or year groups. I hear colleagues saying that the Australian Curriculum prevents us from being able to do that, but that’s a narrow view of what schools can do. We have significant flexibility when it comes to implementation of the Australian Curriculum, and nothing published by ACARA suggests that subjects need to be taught in isolation. In fact, reading the curriculum documents, it is fair to say that there is an expectation that teachers look for links across subject areas to create richer educational experiences for our students.

So, it’s my hope that I get the opportunity to expand on my audition further, and to share that message with as many people out there who’ll listen. The research supporting more collaborative and holistic approaches to education is everywhere, yet high schools on the whole are reluctant to consider structures or models that vary from the existing rigid, timetabled structure of single subject courses. No one learns like that in any real world situation I can think of.

I challenge you, the next time you’re reading, watching videos or anything else, to switch off after an hour and do something else, and not return to any thought-provoking ideas that may have been stimulated previously. You’ll realise pretty quickly that sometimes you need more than an hour to really engage on any sort of real level with that topic, and in other situations, 15 minutes might be all you need.

Our students know this, yet we force them to work with a system that is older than most of our grandparents. It’s time to change – it’s been talked about for years, but talk without action may as well be silence. We do a disservice to the youth of today and the future of civilisation by refusing to consider alternative approaches to “school”.

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