For a few years now, I've been advocating a different way to approach digital technology education in schools. I have lots of friends who are teachers, and I run a CodeClub for 9-11 year olds at Opāwā Primary School in south Christchurch (which our sons both attend, although they're still a couple years away from CodeClub) with a couple of teachers there. We talk a fair bit.
What I hear from them and other teachers I know (also at the Secondary level) is that most teachers feel swamped now, never mind having to learn to teach (as they perceive it) a completely foreign, unknown field of digital technology which changes at a blistering pace (even for those of us who specialise in it). They dread the coming "Digital Technology" curriculum. Dread. IT.
My proposed approach is quite different. It almost completely removes the onus from teachers to do anything other than what they already know: how to connect and share with kids. I want to avoid burdening already overworked teachers with more responsibility and more pressure to cram yet another curriculum area into each day. I describe a different vision in a talk I gave at the CITENZ/ITx conference in 2014 (hit "s" in a modern browser to see my speaker notes in a popup window). I think it would work, however, primary and secondary digital technology education is just a passion of mine, it's not my day job (which is another passion: tertiary education), so I haven't been overly effective at convincing others that my hypothetical idea has legs. Thankfully, I no longer have to.
A fellow from (serendipitously, my parent's home town in the US) Lancaster, Pennsylvania, called Charlie Reisinger, has solved the problem for me.
He has not only made a good case for almost precisely what I'd hope to propose, he's gone one (much much) better: he's been doing it for the past 17 years, in an entire school system, Penn Manor, with 5000 kids and 600 staff. For him, the vision is no longer hypothetical, it's a reality.
In a further stroke of luck (from my point of view) he's written a book about it: The Open School House. It's available for purchase, but it's also available under a CC-By-NC license which means you can read and re-use, adapt, and distribute it gratis, so long as you're not doing so for commercial gain and cite the original author (Charlie).
What he has achieved and document is nothing short of a benevolent, creative, empowering revolution. I encourage you to read his book. Not only does this totally change learning outcomes for students, it improves the situation for teachers and staff, and it vastly lowers costs which, in turn, can be reinvested into further learning improvements.
If you want a taste of what is involved, this short video provides an excellent introduction:
I want to see this happen in New Zealand, so I'm currently talking to people in Christchurch to see about launching a pilot on the south side of the city. If you'd like to help, please let me know!
I encourage any of you for whom this offers a beacon of hope in an otherwise bleak outlook, to join me in buying a copy of the book (mine arrived in the post this morning) to give to your local school board members, your local library, or if you're feeling bold, send one to the Ministry of Education to help inform them of this development.
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