Tag Archives: 21st Century Education

What if I could change history?

What does it take to change history? The present and the future are not set in stone. This flux and uncertainty is a wonderfully powerful idea. Change one thing in this interconnected world, and the outcome of history can be completely different.

A Sea Change Lars Bo 1963

A Sea Change by Lars Bo, 1963

This blog post is inspired by the excellent BERA (British Educational Research Association) post by Luke Billingham https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/could-the-study-of-historical-contingency-help-to-enliven-students-critical-citizenship based on his article in The Curriculum Journal, about using historical contingency to enhance the teaching of critical democratic citizenship. As Billingham writes, “to say that something is contingent means that it “could be otherwise” – it is not necessary or inevitable for it to exist in its current state (or at all)”.

I started thinking about how we could use this concept in primary and secondary classrooms. Moving beyond the rights and responsibilities of national citizenship, the applications to global citizenship education are exciting. When all of our actions now have a global impact, historical contingency could be a significant component in combatting apathy and cynicism to engage students to create a better world.

World_Globe_clip_art_small

I was a secondary history teacher for many years and well aware that understandings of historical contingency are part of scholarship in the subject, but haven’t previously thought of connecting it directly with teaching democratic citizenship. In itself this is a good lesson in why educators must keep reading, learning, sharing and discussing! It also shows how skills crossover and synthesizing cognitive competencies are important in trans disciplinary learning, an increasingly important feature of 21st Century education. Billingham effectively transfers the historical skill of analyzing the past, with added philosophical thinking, to consider what it means to be a citizen today and the impact we have on the future.

The idea that we can challenge historical inevitability is empowering and encourages student agency. By thinking ‘what if?’ in historical narratives, students can understand causation and argue why things happened in the past. When we apply the question of ‘what if?’ to today, it enthuses student voice and action with the power to change the current narrative. Our history is being written now. And we can actually create an alternative.

Historical contingency for critical citizenship can be integrated within history or citizenship curricula in secondary classrooms. In primary classrooms it can be a cross-curricula component in global citizenship education. It includes deliberations of philosophical problems of free will and cause and effect. I have put together two primary school lesson ideas below which integrate historical contingency.

Back to the future

If I could go back in time, what would I change?

This is a hypothetical writing and discussion activity. If you could go back in time, would you change anything? This activity could be done in conjunction with a history unit or as a stand-alone exercise. I have made a graphic organizer as a starting point.

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 6.14.36 PM

 

Why did you come to school today?

This activity, based on causation, could be adapted for written or oral skills development. Ask students to make a chain of cause and effects which led to them to arriving at school. It encourages deeper thinking about the past and their own history, and place in the world. How does the country you live in make it possible to go to school?

cause and effect chain

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Filed under 21st Century education, global citizenship, Philosophy

Leading Educational Change

“This isn’t a theory. There are already points of disruption across the whole planet here and I’m just encouraging you to believe in it and to try to move our systems into the twenty-first century”.

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 global forces and education

We know that globalization and technology are influencing and changing educational practices around the world and the values that underlie them. Education has been caught in the economic force of integrated markets, production and consumption. Yet education is also contributing to this force, for skills and knowledge delivered by schools, drive the global economy. In turn, the global forces influence educational institutions. It appears that globalization has blurred the boundaries, not just of nation states but also the foundations of the value and aims of education, while systems and government policy slowly try to respond to the rapid socioeconomic changes.

 factory education

National education systems have been criticized for their slow pace of response to global economic change. Educational systems are historically built within the industrial paradigms and many still operate in an anachronistic pyramid structure. Children are still being prepared for integration into the old industrial social order, sieving the ‘intelligent’ children from the ‘dumb’ children, creating a factory for national development. Yet the industrial model is obsolete. Nation states are no longer homogeneous and populations are mobile,

“Each of the approximately two hundred countries on this earth is a destination, transit, or source country of international migration, or a combination of all three”

Süssmuth, R. (2007), Our Need for Teaching Intercultural Skills, in Suárez-Orozco, M. (ed.), Learning in the Global Era: International Perspectives on Globalization and Education, London: University of California Press

This calls for education to prepare students to adapt linguistically and culturally. It also insists on effective, relevant teaching and learning.

 what’s important?

So what should we teach and what is of societal value? What are the skills that children need? At the nexus of educational, socio-economic and environmental change is the hope for transnational values to address global concerns. We all face unequal global development and human rights issues, challenges of environmental sustainability, cross-cultural interaction and conflict. Dialogues on the search for transnational values highlight the problem of cultural interpretations of ‘value’.

Comparative education is essential in discussing what and how to teach. Finland and Singapore are currently being held up as exemplary education systems because of PISA scores and commitment to teacher development. Yet cultural differences means that you cannot transplant systems. We can, however, learn from them. Here is an interesting article on comparative Singaporean and Finnish systems-

http://www.todayonline.com/commentary/singapore-should-not-be-finland

 How can I lead educational change?

“I’m just a teacher and this is the curriculum” and “This is the way I was taught and I know it works” is not going to cut it- sorry. Teachers are at the front-line, leading the way in twenty-first century learning. The responsibility lies with teachers to keep up with societal changes, educational developments and technological change. Building a professional learning network and being brave is a good starting point- making time to read and analyze research, discussing new ways of learning and reflecting. We need to think critically about what and how we teach. What skills are we developing? Above all we need to give students a voice in teaching and learning. In this way, we can be leaders of change ‘from the ground up’.

“We are not the future. We are right now” Shelley Wright

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Filed under 21st Century education, comparative education