This is the last in a series of articles about taking risks with Education Leadership, Learning and Teaching. The articles are based around a workshop that I have been doing with the same name for Scottish Local Authorities and the EIS.
For a long time I have maintained that you can’t innovate alone. All of our most revolutionary ideas from the last decade have been developed though collaboration rather than in isolation.
Collaboration also gives us the support for risk taking activities. It allows us to share ideas and digital tools allow us to collaborate more widely than ever before. It seems to me that these days virtual staff rooms increasingly provide more support than physical ones. Some of the most innovative risk taking schools that I have seen - don’t have staff rooms. They have spaces where children and staff sit together.
As well as innovating risk taking educators learn a huge amount from copying each other and adapting or ‘hacking’ other people’s ideas for their own local need.
In fact we learn most things in life by copying - just think about how you learnt to talk, walk and drive. This is one of the reasons why it is funny that only in education do we call copying (our most powerful aid to learning) ‘cheating!’
Lets stick with the theme of copying for the moment and consider it in relation to another common characteristic of risk taking leaders and teachers. The characteristic is the ability to think about the future and also the future needs of the children in their care.
Have you ever heard of a 3D printer? It is a printer that prints things out in 3D. There are places that you can go to and have feet scanned in (using a 3D Scanner) and the 3D printer will print out a pair of shoes (or football boots) for you. It is interesting technology and has started to make its way into a number of schools it has also found its way into the confectionary industry. At the risk of sounding completely bonkers I suspect that most homes will have a 3D printer by 2020.
Why is this important? Well, technology like 3D printing is starting to challenge our laws and interpretation of intellectual property. If the UK is serious about the ‘knowledge economy’ or a ‘digital future’ (two terms that I don’t actually agree with) we need to understand in education the importance of intellectual property and how modern technologies can be used to develop future economic prosperity.
We also need to make sure that young people are equipped with appropriate skills. Our skills agenda must be more than just vocational skills (I am not saying that these are not important) but our skills agenda must have digital literacy at its core. Again this is fundamentally important if we are serious about a future digital economy. If we are not serious about this then we need to stop talking about it and find something else to invest in.
At the heart of the skills agenda in education has to be good cluster working (nursery, primary and secondary schools all working together). Often we loose the education importance of such a relationship as we become focused on the difference between establishments (eg: Primary VS Secondary) rather than the importance of collaboration and working together. This is one of the reasons I am a huge fan of all-through schools - we need more of these even if they are spread over a split campus. There is nothing wrong with this - shared vison can narrow distance.
One of the reasons that all-though schools are important is that they allow a headteacher to invest in the education process where it matters. It matters the most in the early years and I am saying that as a secondary practitioner. In Scotland, research tells us that for every £1 invested in the early years we will save the taxpayer £9 in the future. All though schools allow staff to have a greater shared understanding of what it is we are actually trying to do in education. Ultimately we are trying to improve the life chances of children.
Moving forward we need more education risk takers. We need to recruit school leaders in an imaginative way. We need to use technology to share ideas and to support each other. We need to make sure that people can voice opinion in a constructive and kind way. We need to make sure these people are listened to. We need to flatten education and system hierarchy.
Most importantly we need to think simply and use a lot more common sense.