During our week in New Zealand, we visited five schools with energetic and visionary leadership. Along with their dedicated teachers, they are working to prepare their learners for jobs that may or may not exist today. Studies indicate that 30% of the jobs that will exist in 10 years do not exist today. So how do we prepare our learners for jobs that don’t exist? We teach them the skills that they will need on any job: critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving.
The New Zealand Ministry of Education has provided fiber, internet access and WiFi for every school in the country. They established curriculum standards that allow schools flexibility in how they conduct instruction so that their learners acquire the required skills sets. Lemonwood Grove, Rolleston College, Rawhiti School, Te Pa o Rakaihautu and Stonefields School have similar yet different instructional practices. All of the schools have technology available to their students. Some have 1 to 1 devices. Most provide classroom devices for the younger learners while parents may be required to provide devices for older learners with BYOD programs. All had interactive monitors or projectors in classrooms. Technology was one of many tools that allowed learners to research, collaborate and create. The learners are taught how to do effective research and to recognize reputable resources.
But it wasn’t the technology that engaged their learners. All of the schools have created environments where students are excited about learning. They are taught goal setting skills and to have a growth mindset. Failure is viewed as a learning opportunity where students can pull themselves out of the “pit” with a “can do” attitude. Students are not just provided information to memorize but are taught how to use that information to complete tasks and projects. What the learners enjoyed most was the opportunity to create their own “passion” projects. Each school called these projects something different: “Breakthrough Learning Day”, “Ako Learning”, “MILO – Many Individual Learning Opportunities”. Utilizing the critical thinking, collaboration and problem solving skills that they had learned as part of their daily school work, learners are allowed the time to research topics that interest them. They must do background research, learn a new skill and have an end product (presentation, demonstration, production, etc.). They can work on projects alone or in groups. Their projects were artistic (drama, music, crafts), athletic (gymnastic, contortionist, best way to shoot a basketball), career research, technology (coding games), environmental (building sustainable gardens). When complete, they have a product in their portfolios that represented more than what they learned. It’s a part of who they are.