I am sitting here in my hotel room in a very sunny and warm Brisbane. No apologies for making you feel jealous! Thanks to the team organising the Edutech conference for inviting me to speak at this conference. I am looking forward to delivering the message I have which is about something we have discovered at Amesbury School - the importance of embracing paradox in our thinking if we are to meet the needs of EVERY student. One approach, or one perspective, simply won't cut it.
Unfortunately, binary thinking pervades education. As a school, we have often been the victim of it - the Sunday Star Times article in which some principals of "top" schools made lots of inaccurate statements about innovative learning environments like ours, is just one example. Put simply, these "top" principals were presenting ILEs as bad and traditional schools as good. On the other hand, some people see our school's focus on traditional knowledge, such as can be seen in ALF, as bad. They think learning should be less structured and not focused on such discrete traditional knowledge. Parker Palmer said, "We look at the world through analytical lenses. We see everything as this or that and....we fragment reality into an endless series of either-ors. In a phrase, we think the world apart."
At Amesbury School, we want to think education back together again. We believe that this binary approach is weakening education and it is weakening teaching and learning; and that neither approach on its own will enable us to meet the needs of EVERY student. In fact, what we need is a both/and approach. Children should be insiders in their learning AND they should be given the tools and skills of traditional knowledge. Unfortunately, education is not particularly good at both/and thinking, and paradoxical thinking is proving a huge challenge for those willing to give it a go. We believe that ALF is a tool that brings together both traditional knowledge and a progressivist approach. We intend to do some more work on ALF to ensure that both approaches are made more explicit and very evident in the cloud-based tool.
I will end my presentation with a plea to stop trying to push ideas we find unpalatable back into "Pandora's box"; and embrace the possibility that they might ALL be important to education today - that we might need them all to enrich the lives of our students and societies and ensure that each one leaves school as successful, lifelong learners.