Hidden behind all the great teaching, not-so-great teaching, lectures, educational reforms, policies & theories that I’ve learned and experienced from personal research, University study and on practical experiences at various high schools, is the reality that the *ideal* or prescribed educational goals set by politicians and educational leaders is NOT the same as the daily reality in schools. There is a gap between the school reform initiative and what really happens in classrooms.
We all know how important fostering critical thinking is in schools and how it can positively impact a person’s lifelong learning skills. “Critical Thinking” is thrown around in educational policies, curriculum, syllabus documents and by teachers and principals. Yet is this skill really taught in schools? A simple way to define critical thinking is to question things, to not take things at face value, to explore it, consider it, analyse it and then make up your own opinion and solidifying that opinion with real examples, facts or resources. To have students practice this skill takes time, it takes time away from a loaded curriculum full of content specific requirements. I have been in private schools that have been so absolutely focused on the student’s grade outcome, mainly focused on achieving a University placement, that when I asked these students to think critically they were practically looking for the “spoon” to feed them! I have been in public schools that are plagued with behaviour management issues where the idea to let the students question things just seems too dangerous of an activity – what if they question the teacher? During my practical experience at a high school last week I added as much critical thinking type activities as possible and it was very interesting to see the difference in student’s responses. The great thing about this type of critical thinking is that it allows for a lot of student-driven, student-choice type learning and I think this is a beautiful thing. 🙂
If you were to simply immerse yourself in the ICT & Education stuff (policy documents, National & State websites/initiatives devoted to promoting the integration of Education & ICT, Education leaders and Government rhetoric in the media) you’d be excused to think that our children and young adults in Queensland were learning in the most innovative and wonderfully digital environment. Unfortunately, they’re not! The realities of what is really happening at schools (over all, there are always lucky exceptions here & there) is so disconnected to the “talk” that it can be quite a shock when you step into a school and see the truth. I have seen primary and secondary schools with computer labs that have broken equipment (including broken chairs & tables), no data projectors and out-dated computers. I have witnessed students being “rough” with equipment where they feel no obligation of ownership. I have seen schools with expensive Interactive Whiteboards in EVERY classroom and yet teachers only knew how to run videos on it (a DVD/TV would be cheaper!). But worst of all, the “innovation” of integrating ICT and the opportunities of “authentic learning” by integrating ICTs is so difficult to aspire to when so many wonderful ICT tools/resources are BLOCKED (ugh, don’t get me started!). Just because we ensure every kid has access to a computer doesn’t automatically mean an enhancement in learning. The slippage between the idealistic notion of integrating ICT and the realities of many classrooms is big. I want to see this change and I hope I can be part of this change in schools eventually.