Reframing Schooling for Today’s World (Greg Whitby)

‘It’s all about the cloud: anytime, anywhere’

Whitby was the first keynote of the AAIBS 2009 Conference. After a brief attempt at getting his audience to do the chicken dance, he began by talking about something of the bad press that education gets; that we somehow need a ‘revolution’ to make schools right. (Or politicians need one to get elected?)

However, he argued that disengagement of students was the key factor in education today, and argued that educators need to ‘re-take the ground’ on the education debate.

He argued that young people were disengaging because the structures, processes, procedures schools put in place no longer matched the world they live in.

Governments want a silver bullet. Educators need to be creative and collaborative about solutions and resist such simplistic approaches

How do you scale innovation in a school? Ingenuity is a better world than discovery because it involves bringing expertise to the problems

He argued that the laptop computer was not liked by students (?: not my experience) because the computer was always right (?:huh?) and that the Iphone was a step to learners constructing the knowledge (?) moving away from the hierarchal to the conceptual.

He lost me through this bit but then ended by saying that by marching kids into computer labs once a week and calling it ‘technology’, while all along they all had more powerful computers in their pockets which were officially ‘banned’ by their schools, was somewhat silly.

He then went back to reaffirming it being about the learning, not the technology. Okay, I was back. He then said it was about learning for this century and talked of the recent OECD work which described learning having four components:

Customised: 1-1 learning

Knowledge sources: Cloud, anywhere, anytime learning

Collaboration: between teachers and students, students and students, and teachers and teachers (Called in the literature as ‘de-privatising practice‘) Learning is a ‘mediated practice’

Assessment: here, he emphasised ‘assessment for learning’.

Whitby has an almost aggressive style of delivery, striding the stage and declaiming that change was coming and that it was all going to get harder but in the end I liked, and agreed with, most of what he was saying.

It got more interesting when he began taking about what these things looked like in real life; what do we do in real life in our schools on Monday?

Whitby’s new schools would have a different framework, different learning spaces, no bells, individualised and based around a conceptual framework not an industrial framework

Such models are more complex (that’s why we don’t see many schools doing it) and require some background ‘grunt’ in knowledge management systems to deliver it.

He also talked about the work of John Hattie, who I’ve been looking a lot at lately, who argues that the two biggest influences on student learning are the teacher, and feedback.


Whitby argued that teacher learning, especially about pedagogy, was often hugely ignored, and yet it was critical. The best form of professional learning is a workspace approach, not a workshop approach, learning with colleagues n a school. The systems that are making the biggest difference are building time for reflection on practice.

When I got back to work I found this YouTube video from Whitby, which discusses some of the concepts he was exploring here.

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