Yet despite the technological revolution, Heppell says we (parents, teachers and governments) still value conformity and predictability. For example, he asks why we still group children in classrooms by year of birth, why not by interests? Why do we still build factory-like schools with corridors when students prefer small learning communities?
Heppell believes it is ‘catastrophic’ to impose an industrial model of learning on today’s students when their learning is being shaped and influenced by events that have never gone before e.g global warming, global financial crisis, record oil prices, digital revolution etc.
For him, the key to creating relevant learning is engagement and the question we all need to be asking in a Web 2.0 world is ‘how is what we’re doing engaging our learners when everyone else is vying for their attention?’
Admittedly, many educators struggle with this but Heppell says ask students what engages them and you will see how ambitious they are to learn and to make a positive contribution to the global community.
I have said often at conferences and in writing that while schools today face many challenges, the most significant challenge is making schooling relevant in the lives of every student – not just those who attain high marks or who have adjusted well to the school environment.
Young people are actively and deliberately disengaging from schooling as the primary place for learning when they discover new ways of learning and sharing ideas (often well mediated) in an on-line world.
What I do see is an increasing willingness and capacity of teachers to face this challenge head on and with outstanding results. Stephen Heppell’s work points to many other areas to seek this re-engagement with evidence based results. Some of these are really “outside the square” but we won’t find the answers in the past!