Governments, including here in New Zealand, frequently rely on OECD data to guide policy-making decisions. In recent years, that data has largely been from PISA (you can access the 2012 topline results for science, reading and maths here) and TALIS surveys. In the last few years, reliance on OECD data has come under scrutiny for being too narrow in its focus compared with the weight it is given at policy level. For example, Hundreds of scholars criticise PISA (including those from NZ), The Pisa methodology: do its education claims stack up? and Does PISA still matter?
Encouragingly, there seems to be groundswell at the OECD to look at how their current programme might be reformed. I recently spoke with Prof. Barbara Ischinger and heard her talk about the need for the OECD to look more broadly at global competencies (see my post from #ConnectAU15), and they have been releasing interesting reports from their Innovative Learning Environments programme.
Thoughts on the technological revolution…
This month, Andreas Schleicher posted on the way digital technologies are integrated into learning internationally. Arguably, he is a little late to this discussion but full marks for getting there eventually….
In his post – Are schools ready to join the technological revolution? (May 29, 2015) – which must surely prompt howls of “too late, we kicked off the revolution years ago..” – Schleicher makes a series of observations related to possible correlations between technology in schools and student achievement:
- He suggests school leaders don’t have an accurate sense of (or an appetite for?) what is possible with technologies for learning, pointing out that “only around 37% of schools in Europe have high-end equipment and high-speed Internet connectivity, a figure which ranges from 5% in Poland to virtually 100% in Norway. But when asked, between 80% and 90% of school principals say that their schools are adequately equipped when it comes to computers and Internet connectivity.”
- He highlights links between tech use and poor student performance: “Students who use computers moderately at school have somewhat better learning outcomes than students who rarely use computers; but students who use computers frequently at school do a lot worse, even after accounting for their socio-economic status and other background factors.”
And he ventures some thoughts about the reasons behind these:
- He asks if “building deep, conceptual understanding and higher-order thinking requires intensive teacher-student interactions, and technology just distracts from this valuable human engagement.”
- He ponders whether “we haven’t yet become good enough at the kind of pedagogies that make the most of technology; that adding 21st-century technologies to 20th-century teaching practices will just dilute the effectiveness of teaching.”
He concludes by offering three points to explore possible causes (that many of us have known for quite some time…):
- “…education is a personalised service, so technology can only go so far in improving learning outcomes.“
- “the impact of technology on education delivery remains suboptimal because we tend to overestimate the digital skills of both teachers and students, because of often naïve policy design and implementation strategies, because of a poor understanding of pedagogy, and because of the generally poor quality of educational software and courseware.
- “technologies can support new, inquiry-based pedagogies that focus on learners as active participants.”
He argues by calling for government investment in “capacity development and change-management skills” by developing sound evidence (Best Evidence Synthesis, anyone?) and feed this evidence back to institutions.
HIs final point may state what we all know as teachers already but which governments don’t always bake into policy – “it is vital that teachers become active agents for change, not just in implementing technological innovations, but in designing them too.”
What might this mean for schools?
For me, his post raises some thoughts. It is encouraging – though possible slightly late in the day – that the OECD is coming to the future-oriented party and considering the role of digital technologies as a legitimate part of the landscape. The strong focus on teacher agency and advocacy for pedagogical conversations also aligns well with the widespread educational conversation that is occurring internationally around student-centred systems and inclusive models of education.
The post also prompts some questions for further consideration:
- Do schools leaders need on-going, deep mentored support – at a national level – around what student-centred, tech-rich learning could look like in ways that are effective?
- Do schools need to move on from technology as innovation towards conversations around what concepts, such as the Key Competencies, actually look like when deeply embedded in practice?
- Are conversations around future-oriented learning superficial and distracting us from some of the approaches to learning design that have been understood for many years but have still not been effectively embedded in teaching and learning (student agency, learning to learn and metacognition spring to mind..).
It’s all interesting food for thought – and good to see the OECD, with all its influence, finally at the table.
Image credit: ‘#hashtag La Revolution’ – Stefano (BY NC-2.0)