It’s not the hardware, it’s the ‘headware’ (ELH2008)


Bernajean Porter gave the opening keynote on ‘Raising a Generation for Greatness’. She spoke about a three to four month window of opportunity for change to take place when an opportunity comes along, before the mould on the jelly sets, which followed up nicely from Bruce Dixon’s opening, which talked about the once in a generation opportunity that the government’s investment in 1-1 computing.

She also described the USA context, which she referred to as ‘no child left untested’, a nice point given our government’s recent sabre-rattling about standards and accountability.

Porter spoke about our ‘unprecedented mission to shift cultures and gears in our classrooms’, about the power that we’re putting in the hands of our students, and what we’re doing with that power.

She raised the concept of ‘participatory cultures’ and showed us examples of students who’ve learned how to move forward in their learning without waiting for permission from their teachers, about the gap between what some students are doing and what their schools and teachers expect and allow. Her examples, of students doing great things for their communities, were examples that were all outside the school system and she argued that we should be trying to activate this kind of learning in our students in schools and a passion for learning.

One way to get this passion was her idea of whole days of ‘inquiry’; where students choose their own topics and are given time on them, something we’ve been thinking about for a new Year 9 program. She argued for some small space in schools for students to find their own interest and passion and how disengaged some students had become in traditional schools.

It’s not about the hardware; it’s the ‘headware’. She gave an example of a school district that spend six million dollars rolling out whiteboards but hadn’t changed the instructional strategies or pedagogy at all. It was just a more expensive story. She argued for a different story, for looking beyond the ‘stuff’ to who owns the learning: the teachers or the students, and also who owns the questioning in the classroom.

One of the references she left us with was Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. It’s online here:{CD911571-0240-4714-A93B-1D0C07C7B6C1}&notoc=1

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