New Pedagogy Activated by Technology Transforms Classrooms

Technology and the web have created new 'freedom to learn' for both teachers and pupils
School change beginning to happen more quickly and easily

Toronto, January 24, 2013 - A new report published today by leading education academic Professor Michael Fullan, reveals a greater partnership between teachers and students that is beginning to happen naturally as a result of increasingly pervasive technology in schools. This partnership connects learning with each individual's interests beyond the classroom. Prof Fullan's and his co-author, Maria Langworthy's report, A Rich Seam, highlights an increasingly rapid change taking place inside and outside the classroom towards "deep learning". The authors show how these new developments combat student boredom and provide exciting new learning opportunities for both students and teachers.

By focusing on deeper learning, evidence in the report defines an opportunity to develop connected and creative problem solvers who use technology to learn collaboratively with other pupils and their teachers. When students and teachers embrace deeper learning, the opportunities to learn in the classroom expand beyond the boundaries of existing curricula. Instead of just mastering basic knowledge and theory, there are opportunities for pupils to put that knowledge into practice and even to implement their knowledge and solutions in the world beyond school.

In this context, Fullan suggests that traditional teaching and testing methods risk alienating students and teachers, pushing them "out of school," and calls for teachers and pupils to embrace the opportunity technology affords, including the increasing freedom to learn anywhere or anytime.

Report sponsor Sir Michael Barber, Chief Education Advisor at Pearson, cites School 21, a UK free school led by former Blair advisor Peter Hyman, as an example of encouraging deeper learning. When School 21 needed a new building they didn't just rely on outside architects. Instead, teams of students from School 21 submitted designs for a new classroom where they would be excited to learn. The winning design is now being incorporated into the new school plans. In this way, the students learned about real life problem solving and took ownership of their own learning environment.

This is one example of deeper learning, which can serve as an inspiration for schools around the world. The report recommends for students, teachers and policy makers to take the following actions to embed this 'deep learning':

  • For students - to define their own learning goals and push their teachers to be fellow learning partners.
  • For teachers - to adopt an approach to try to learn from and with their students.
  • For policy makers - to reduce negative accountability in favour of pedagogies and assessments linked to deep learning.

The report identifies three factors which are combining to allow "deep learning" to happen on a massive scale. These are:

  • New Pedagogies that represent new learning partnerships between and among students and teachers. These include deep learning tasks and the use of pervasive digital resources;
  • New Change Leadership based in a new theory of inherent change that is more organic and spreads rapidly under the right conditions; and,
  • New System Economics that deliver the new outcomes in a high yield manner relative to cost.

Report co-author, Professor Michael Fullan, of University of Toronto said:

"Deep learning, enabled by technology, is an increasingly common phenomenon taking place inside and outside the classroom. In the new world, individuals have the freedom to learn any topic that interests them, at any time of the day. This changes the role of schools, and creates opportunities to focus learning on projects and topics that inspire students.

"More needs to be done to grasp the opportunities being presented to make sure pupils' desire to learn can flourish."

The report is the first in a new series published by Pearson, in partnership with leading education research institutions. A Rich Seam is published in partnership with ISTE, MaRS, and Nesta.

Pearson’s Chief Education Advisor Sir Michael Barber commented:

"Education leaders around the world committed to whole system reform can measure their success by the improvements that are visible everyday in the classroom. Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy offer a clear and inspirational view of what this classroom could look like: a place where every student is engaged and inspired by their learning.

In systems around the world we can already see this taking place in certain "islands of excellence," for example School 21 and other free schools in the UK. The opportunity, driven by new change leadership and new education economics, is to scale these isolated examples across entire systems to make them accessible for every child."

Mette Hauch, a teacher from Hellerup School, Denmark who was interviewed as part of the research said:

"When pupils are teaching their peers, they seem to go more deeply — they take it a step further.

"Teenagers are a tough crowd. They have a lot more to lose. They take so much more ownership over it; and it makes them so much more proud if they can do it."