Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Key Competencies for the Future

A colleague recently joked that they wanted a synopsis as they handed me another book. We decided that a tweet was probably enough, but in reality trying to reflect on any professional reading certainly requires more than a tweet of contemplation.

KC4F is no different in this regard, there was plenty to consider, challenge and talk about with colleagues. Some of the staff at HNS will tell you that I have been discussing my thoughts and I'm hopeful that some may even snatch my copy to read it themselves. I was really pleased that @edubookchatnz was started by Terry (@beechedesignz) as this text wasn't even on my radar, he even followed this up with an interesting blog of his views.

I felt that my understanding of the KC's has been advanced considerably by the authors. I was guilty of treating each KC as an individual entity when it came to planning even though I recognised that they weren't mutually exclusive. But the real epiphany has come about in one particular KC, I have treated Language, Text & Symbols at absolute face value. I've sat through multiple PD sessions and my pre-service training but the concept of the multiple languages that we speak in never was mentioned. I'm not necessarily talking about about Te Reo, English or Samoan, rather the language of science, music or maths. Everyday my conversations take me through multiple languages, at a variety of levels. Conversations with my wife involve a lot of legal jargon, I'm the learner trying to comprehend what she is saying, discussions with colleagues take me through ICT/eLearning, and with my golfing buddies a different set of language, texts and symbols is used again. Do children need the skills to adapt, learn and be flexible through multiple languages? Ultimately, if they're to make meaning of the subjects they learn about, then absolutely, unless they'd like to lock themselves away and not participate in the world.

So what's a wicked problem then? I understand that poverty and food security are wicked problems by virtue of the fact there are multiple solutions, and that each solution raises many more questions. But the concept of a wicked problem has altered my approach to planning, in a future-focussed way I've tried to reimagine past or present units at my school. I believe it will shift the emphasis of the teaching/learning experiences to the benefit of those in my class.

Consider the following as an example:
Last year, we looked at Energy and there was much exploration and inquiry, but it was very content-driven. The future-focussed problem is clear - How is NZ going to meet its growing energy demands in the future? Multiple environmental groups advocate strongly against any new hydro, wind, wave or geothermal generation project. Fracking has been widely ridiculed in the general media and protested against by many. But our demand for energy isn't waning? Clearly, a wicked problem exists. I wonder what my class might have suggested if they'd been given the chance.

We are investigating culture next term, I see an opportunity for the class to investigate what NZ culture may look like in 10-15 years given current trends, demographic shifts. What was important 10-15 years ago may not be what is valued in future generations - so what will it mean to 'be a New Zealander'? There is ample opportunity to turn this topic into a future-focussed topic, I just need to find the right way to hook my class to this problem.

In a more lighthearted approach, I do believe that a wicked problem could be framed in sport. Many sports are facing challenges of time, decreasing numbers, competing priorities, changing demographics, parental concern over injuries, to score/not score and this is just at school age. How about concussion (and other serious injuries), role modelling, mega-events, social media and match-fixing at the elite or professional level. If there isn't a wicked problem in that lot I'd be staggered, most likely a problem that students of many levels would be motivated to explore.

So what's the tweet going to look like then?

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