Their Space Education for a digital generation Hannah Green Celia Hannon

School’s out

The current generation of decision-makers – from politicians to teachers – see the world from a very different perspective to the generation of young people who do not remember life without the instant answers of the internet or the immediate communication of mobile phones. It is these decision-makers who shape the way that digital technologies are used in the system and who set them up to limit their use and role in everyday life. This is a short-term solution to a long-term change. In an economy driven by knowledge rather than manufacturing, employers are already valuing very different skills, such as creativity, communication, presentation skills and team-building. Schools are at the front line of this change and need to think about how they can prepare young people for the future workplace. But it is not just about schools – parents, young people and society in general have a blind spot in terms of recognising and valuing these ‘softer’ skills. P15

There is still a big gap between ‘digital natives’ and the generation of teachers whose childhood preceded digital technology. I no longer have to ‘teach’ my students how to navigate computers and the internet, while there are still teachers in school who do not use email.

The majority of young people simply use new media as tools to make their lives easier, strengthening their existing friendship networks rather than widening them. Almost all are now also involved in creative production, from uploading and editing photos to building and maintaining websites. However, we discovered a gap between a smaller group of digital pioneers engaged in groundbreaking activities and the majority of children who rarely strayed into this category. Meanwhile, contrary to society’s assumptions about safety, this generation is also capable of self-regulation when kept well informed about levels of risk. P10

We are likely to be over worried, when we, as teachers, are out of our comfort zones.

Learning from digital pioneers Most young people use technology to facilitate the kind of social interactions that we all recognise. However, there is a smaller group of digital pioneers that is pushing at the boundaries of conventional practice. For every focus group we ran there was a ‘leader of the pack’ who was one step ahead of the other children. These individuals have strong digital identities and are making the shift from consumption to creation. A range of characteristics is common to this type of activity – self-motivation, ownership, purposeful creativity and peerto- peer learning. Chapter 3 examines these characteristics in more detail and explores examples of schools that are building on this type of learning. These schools and headteachers are transferring elements into the classroom without assessing or institutionalising informal learning. Start with people not PCs In order to see change across the system, there needs to be a shift in thinking about investment from hardware towards relationships and networks. In the last ten years we have seen a staggering change in the amount of hardware in schools, but it has not had a significant impact on teaching and learning styles. So what does this mean for schools? It means that they need to really listen and respond to their users. Schools often fail to start in the right place – with the interests and enthusiasms of their students. They also need to recognise the new digital divide – one of access to knowledge rather than hardware – and start to redress some of the existing imbalances. Finally they need to develop strategies to bridge formal and informal learning, home and school. They should find ways that go with the grain of what young people are doing, in order to foster new skills and build on what we know works. P16/17

I am always very interested in capturing the smaller group of ‘digital pioneers’, as it is these folk who will push the boundaries, create the interesting work, and act as teachers to both me, and others around them.

Chris wears a dark blue Nirvana hoodie. His curly red hair covers his eyes. ‘Have you ever read a manual?’ we ask. He smiles. ‘We haven’t even seen a manual’, he says. Do you find out how to do things online? ‘No, not really. Mostly we learn from the older people in the group.’ They don’t seem to need much teaching. Once they have the confidence they can master the basics on programs like iMovie completely intuitively. These children are not the class nerds – knowing your way around a computer no longer detracts from your popularity. Quite the opposite; everyday use of sites like MySpace and services like MSN are all part of having a healthy social life. P18/19

As Gillinson and O’Leary conclude, ‘increasingly employees need initiative as well as intelligence, creativity as well as qualifications’.10 P22

S Gillinson and D O’Leary,Working Progess: How to reconnect young people and organisations (London: Demos, 2006).

Unlike the learning acquired through textbooks, lectures and classrooms, the learning that takes place through these multiplayer online games is referred to as ‘accidental’ learning or learning through doing.13 p23

Learning through doing is primarily what I do, it is an exploration, a creative process. If I proscribed my lessons beforehand, they would not be very creative. Leaving sessions open ended allows the accidental to happen.

Rather than harnessing the technologies that are already fully integrated into young peoples’ daily lives, schools primarily have a ‘battening down the hatches’ approach. Responding to concerns
about the safety of social networking sites, most schools block MySpace, YouTube and Bebo. Mobiles, iPods and other pieces of equipment are similarly unwelcome in the classroom. Meanwhile, teachers often do not feel confident using hardware or software – many know less than their students. Unless they follow their own enthusiasm, they are unlikely to have the skills – teacher training requires only basic competency in email,Word and Excel. P24

This is certainly true at Sidcot. But to allow this access creates problems for the school. There must be a balance. An example that I use is the life drawing class. Many schools would not offer life drawing, as they would object to the nudity, and worry that younger teenage boys would not be able to take this seriously. Having run life drawing classes for many years, I find the opposite, my younger teenage boys take these classes very seriously, and they are very successful and creative sessions. Over the years an ethos has developed around the life drawing class.b

ICT in schools is predicated on the ‘top-down’ understanding that we know how children should be learning from technology rather than seeking to learn from their existing practices. P25

The focus on exam results, whether on a direct or value-added basis, as a way of measuring both school and individual teacher performance, means that other skills and competencies fall by the wayside. P25

Instead of pumping more investment into the system, we need to capitalise on the existing resources. And these existing resources are the students themselves. P25/26

In the same way that we should see young people as active and valuable participants in designing their own learning experiences, we should also see them as critical participants rather than passive consumers of media. P26

all these quotes strongly support the way in which I think we should be encouraging the use of computers at Sidcot.

Finally this shift in understanding is important at a time when mobile digital devices are becoming far more sophisticated and more widely available. Through this we will see the tangible divide between formal and informal learning becoming increasingly blurred. The range of hardware and software available is changing very quickly. Schools need to be aware of the options and understand how to build on them and make the most of them. These changes offer real opportunities for school leaders to envision the future of learning in ways that build on the life styles of young people. P27

The notion of filtering and blocking internet access does not make as much sense when students can bring their own devices into school, that connect to the internet with no filter.

We argue that the answer does not lie in absorbing informal learning into the formal school environment, but in isolating positive elements of informal learning and creating spaces and places to build on these in more formal settings. P28

One girl explained that her fluency working with html code, uploading videos and music and manipulating images was all the result of her commitment to maintaining her MySpace page. P37

If digital activities tend to be self-motivated then they are also likely to be ‘owned’ by the individual child or group of children. It is clear that possession of their creative output would be damaged if an adult
were to set the parameters of their activities. P47

This quote strongly supports the way in which I want to work with digital media in school.

The government response to Paul Roberts’ Report of 2005/06 in November 2006 highlighted the importance of creativity with a purpose,54 and this principle was in evidence across all forms of digital creative production we encountered. Digital pioneers always had end goals in mind, although these were unlikely to be recognised by any formal assessment system. Their aim may only be finding an
audience to critique their work or designing a game rather than playing one. Three children we met at a youth group in Chelsea who learnt how to use a complex piece of computer software had their own distinct motivation. They wanted to be able to record and edit a film of a dance their friends had rehearsed for a festival. Having this objective made their learning more purposeful: ‘It’s more fun when you’ve got something to show for it at the end, isn’t it?’ P48 Government Response to Paul Roberts’ Report on Nurturing Creativity in Young People.

It may be easier for me as an art teacher, to be offering an environment in which students can be doing ‘real’ work, but the allure of digital media can surely be used across the curriculum to engage students.

Our research has shown that we should have greater confidence in young people than we currently do. They have higher skill levels, awareness and self-reflection than they are usually given credit for. In order to enable all young people to make the most of the skills and capabilities they build up through their interests and passions, schools need to value those skills and provide a space to reflect and build on them. Crucially this does not mean absorbing that learning, but building on and going with the grain of how young people are already doing it. This chapter outlines how schools need to reframe and understand three sets of relationships – between students and their formal learning, between young people and their wider social networks, and between school and home, in order to release the potential that digital technologies offer. p 53

Investing in relationships In order to see change across the system, there needs to be a shift in thinking about investment. Rather than investing in hardware, schools need to think about investing in relationships and networks. p54

The standard model of teaching with 30 children in a classroom with a teacher at the front remains the same. This is because fundamental behaviours have not changed. The potential of new technologies will be realised only if the relationships and behaviours that underpin the school structure also change. p54

This model of teaching has not really changed since the Victorian schoolroom. I am sure that there is a place for lectures, perhaps with large groups, but I am very keen on exploring alternative ways of teaching. If we can work collaboratively as teachers, the environment and opportunities that we can offer can be much more exciting, and we can be supporting each other.

So we need to think about users as designers. Schools need to do three things: start with the interests and passions of their learners; provide spaces to reflect on
and value the skills developed outside informal settings; and equip children with the right tools to make the most of those skills. Re-connecting with learners One of the key differences between learning that goes on outside the classroom and learning in the classroom is that informal learning is driven by the interests, enthusiasms and passions of the individual. This is the opposite of the approach in schools; too often teachers Start with people not PCs Demos 55 See (accessed 12 Dec
2006). assume they know what children are interested in. In fact, the only way to know for sure is to start with their interests and let them take the lead. This can be particularly effective when attempting to engage alienated young people who are having difficulty achieving within the parameters of the formal education system.59 p 55/56 See (accessed 12 Dec 2006).

There is a balance to be kept between allowing the freedom to encourage creativity, and instilling a work ethic.

Rather than thinking of themselves as only directors, teachers need to re-imagine themselves as facilitators. Technology in the classroom currently does little to promote this
shift; interactive whiteboards are too often employed as a high-tech version of chalk and talk. Children’s independent, exploratory behaviour when learning with digital technologies can conflict with this approach, leaving them frustrated with the pace of pre-planned lessons directed by the teacher. p58

This still conflicts directly with much school policy - lesson plans and schemes of work.

Pekka Himanen tries to explain the ‘hacker ethic’, the passion for technology that drives hackers to spend hundreds of hours programming code quite often for no financial gain. He describes the seven values of the hacker ethic as: passion, freedom, social worth, openness, activity, caring and creativity.73 p62 P Himanen, The Hacker Ethic (London: Random House, 2001).

Control of the Creative Portfolio The recent Roberts Report ‘Nurturing creativity in young people’74 recommends that every young person should be given the opportunity
to build up a creative portfolio alongside more traditional forms of assessment. This will be a resource for students who are achieving in different spheres to capture and share their work with potential employers, friends and higher education institutions. We argue that to gain real credibility, young people need to be given full control over who has access to this portfolio and when. Children are already posting an increasing amount of content on the web and this leaves them without the option of controlling who is able to view it, something which could have repercussions when they enter the workforce. Through the introduction of a Creative Portfolio we need to give them ownership of a system which allows them to identify their own milestones, tag their inputs in a number of ways and control levels of privacy and audience access. p64

I would like to develop online portfolios with all my art students at Sidcot.

The skills of memorising and recalling which are so integral to the assessment system as it stands today will be considered far less relevant for the employee of the future. The assessment system needs to be developed away from these skills of memorising and recalling The world has changed so why haven’t we? P 65

We remember best what we are most interested in.

towards the essential skills of evaluating information, synthesising different sources and using these to produce analyses rather than ‘right answers’. p65/66

We have argued that teachers are not trained to use new technologies adequately and this has a profoundly negative impact on their confidence. If digital media in schools is to move beyond the ICT suite and become truly embedded across the curriculum then all teachers need to feel empowered to use it creatively. School leaders need to build up support and professional development to ensure that all staff feel empowered to use the technologies that resonate with their students. Teachers need to be familiar with sites such as BBC Jam, MySpace and Bebo so that they can find new and engaging ways to work with their students. By extending their use of email towards an informal dialogue with their students about ongoing learning teachers can open up new channels of communication. P67

Almost all children use Wikipedia, but schools have been slow to react to the collaborative potential of this software. Collaborative projects, dependent on students contributing to, editing and reflecting on each other’s work, could be integrated across the curriculum from Art to Science. This type of learning experience would prepare young people for the workplace where such skills will be highly valued. P68

How do we assess individuals when they have been primarily engaged in collaborative work?