Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Westley Field and the Future of Schooling - #ISTE11

It appears that I saved the best for the last. Westley Field spoke on the Future of Schooling Wednesday afternoon and although my brain had about all it could take from this fantastic conference in Philadelphia, I was certainly glad I hung around to the finish.

Westley is Director of Online Learning and IT Manager for the MLC School in Sydney, Australia.  A private school for girls in grades K-12, MLC is a future-focused school utilizing 1:1 technology tools for blended learning and collaboration.  The school's website proclaims that "...students need to be able to learn in teams, collaboratively, as a class, a section, a whole community or the city, in the outback and around the world,...anywhere and anytime."  Westley is one of the key leaders in making that happen and his philosophy of 21st century learning is out front in transforming K-12 education.

Last fall, Westley made a trip to San Diego where he presented to a group of technology directors from that area. The 99-minute video of that presentation mirrored what he had to say to us at ISTE this summer.  Titled: Emerging Technologies to Transform Learning in School, it's well-worth watching by school leaders and teachers everywhere.

Westley's philosophy of technology in education can be summed up by a response he makes to a frequently asked question:  Is this (1:1 technology) an integral part of the whole teaching process?

Absolutely. We are preparing students for both their working lives and their personal lives. Many current vocations include the integrated use of technology and it could be argued that technology has become integral to everyday communication. Restricting access to technology would be creating a false environment limiting the development of those skills required for 21st century living and learning. The technology is not as significant as the skills of communication, collaboration, research, independent learning, networking etc.

He also has a great response for those who might question technology in the classroom as a negative change that risks inappropriate behavior or wasting of time by students:

This is not a technology question it is a behavioral question. We have one rule for the use of technology in the school - it must be used to improve your educational outcomes. If students choose to use it in other ways then we regard that as a behavior issue not a technology issue. Limiting access to technology reduces the students skills in learning how to keep safe when using technology.

While much of his presentation focused on the steps schools and districts should take when implementing (or deciding to implement) a 1:1 tech plan and his school's Broken Hill and other real-world learning experiences, I found Westley's down-to-earth philosophy about 21st century learning both entertaining and inspiring. My favorite take-away was a simple yet profound statement of advice: Question everything. Is it helping move toward the future? If not, get rid of it.

Right on, mate!

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