Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital AgeJun 22, 2022
2022 has been a momentous year for me because I decided to return to where things make the most sense for me as a curriculum developer - the classroom. My motivation for returning to the classroom came out of two years of homeschooling, helping my daughter and granddaughter cope with school lockdowns. The experience has completely heightened my belief in the primacy of school-based experiences. Even the fact that I have been out of the classroom for over a decade seems to have further consolidated my belief in the extraordinary power of education to bring about a sense of well-being, personally and communally.
In a matter of months, I've moved from casual relief teaching (CRT) to joining Victoria's Tutor Learning Initiative as a tutor in English in a large secondary school in which I observe the frontline of teacher shortages and gallant colleagues persevering in their commitment to making a difference to the lives of young people. I experience the drive to get back to normal as an urgent impulse. Yet, I also see that there is a growing realisation that things will never be the same. For one thing, the pandemic has exposed the grand illusion that we have an equitable Australian society. Hence, the need for the TLI programme in which I am employed. So, I am working in an urgent way to do as much good as I can, as I know that funding and circumstances can change in an instance.
I feel most fortunate to be in a school that has worked so hard to raise standards of literacy for its large number of students coming from non-English speaking households. I am particularly happy to be working with school leaders who have made me feel so welcome at the school. I don't think I'll ever forget though, how they courageously presented to staff that they must confront the evaporation of all the gains they had made pre-COVID.
At the same time, I remain mindful that school lockdowns proved beyond doubt that 'remote learning' pulled apart the social compact that comes when teachers mentor and coach our most vulnerable students. If ever we thought to understand the message of the cartoon below, the last two years have given us insights into the limits of online learning like we could not have imagined before March 2020.
However, I suggest it may have always been the case if we had been listening to John Hattie and others. Certainly, we now have insights which Terry Mayes and Sara de Freitas claimed back in 2007 in Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age that:
Technology can play an important role in the achievement of learning outcomes but it is not necessary to explain this enhancement with a special account of learning. Rather, the challenge is to describe how the technology allows underlying processes common to all learning to function effectively.
John Hattie and Greg Yates also drew the distinction between education and learning in Visible Learning and the Science Of How We Learn (2014) when they pointed out how the use of ICT resources does not "automatically facilitate either (a) deep and meaningful mental processing, or (b) alterations in the child's information processing."
Returning to teaching has, in fact, renewed my respect for the long hard road we've been on in reforming Australian education since the late 1980s. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that we have been trying to build an optimal bridge between teaching and learning cause by economic, gender and cultural inequalities. Consequently, with or without COVID, I find it helpful to remember the gaps as this 30-year-old cartoon I saw used by curriculum managers in the implementation of outcomes-based education in 1993 as the missed opportunities of our good intentions.