New Pedagogies?

jw4There is just no doubt in my mind that the curriculum we have today, overladen with facts and knowledge, reflects how we once needed to prepare people for the world of work. I recall meeting a friend’s dad when I was twenty. He worked in the UK government’s social security processing offices. He challenged me to name any village in the UK, for which he’d tell me the county it was in. I made one up to catch him out. For him to be productive in his work he couldn’t look up things like that efficiently—so he had to know it. Professor Nigel Paine, who headed up the BBC’s learning development UK operations, and is a Masie Thought Leadership Fellow, predicted that over a 10-year period the amount you had to know in work would halve, and that amount would keep reducing—as we are more able to take on additional work—because we can look things up efficiently. We don’t have to know it all.

This doesn’t work for all professions, of course, and we wouldn’t be too pleased to be operated on by a surgeon who had to ask where your heart was, or a gas engineer who had to ask about ventilation. But the point is that the needs of the work place and society have changed and continue to change. In the past we basically organized curricula to develop long-term memory and knowledge recall skills—and we developed techniques, or pedagogies, to reflect these needs. So, if my aim was to have you recall the kings and queens of England, I didn’t care too much if you wanted to discuss how much they brushed their teeth in medieval times, with your schoolmate. In fact I would actively discourage it, as it took time away from learning the facts.

Educators couldn’t do both—motivate a younger child with the smells and horrors of medieval living, and use it as a vehicle to stimulate an interest. Why is it that young people who follow sport so effortlessly recall the names of the players, or even of the person who painted the goal posts for a particular match? There’s probably not a teacher on the planet who doesn’t get this, but what they may not understand is how to organize time so that motivation and engagement are achievable. This is when the door should burst open, and a knight on a white charger bursts onto the scene with technology—of course! We now have a way to present authentic, personalised and collaborative learning, which gets to where we want to go. I probably don’t believe in New Pedagogies, but rather Old Ones that are now possible.

Jim Wynn is Chief Education Officer at Promethean and is responsible for the company’s education strategy. Jim has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT.

Jim Wynn

Jim Wynn is Chief Education Officer at Promethean and is responsible for the company’s education strategy. Jim has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT.
2 Comments on this post.
  • paul
    30 September 2013 at 7:39 pm -

    So true Jim. The oldest pedagogy of them all, constructivism, is so glaringly deficient in our education system, but as you say, can be restored using technology. No one has really cracked the code yet though, or have they….?

  • Baldev Singh
    27 October 2015 at 3:35 am -

    It is always refreshing to read Jim Wynn who is a “straight” talking education thought leader. The last excellent line of this piece on “old pedagogies” which are now possible is very true. We can now do things in our classrooms which we have always believed in but were difficult to do at scale. For example, everyone believes that formative assessment is powerful but this took a back-seat in many systems just because it could not be implemented at scale. I have seen teachers burdened by files/paperwork in their attempt to capture formative data in systems which say they are investing in “learning technologies”-very sad
    However, we now have technology that enables us to capture data and create powerful individual interventions.