BETT conference in London, January 2014

I attended the BETT conference in London at the Excel centre last week. Anyone who was there will know that it’s the biggest education trade fair in the UK by a country mile.

Michael Gove caught the headlines with his madcap plans to replace ICT with Computer Studies including programming for Primary school children. To me his plans seem ill thought through and unnecessarily rushed. Training teachers on such a large scale on such a short deadline (for next school year) puts education managers under ridiculous pressure and distorts prioritites. Policy is being driven by politics with election year approaching. Utter stupidity. I suggest Michael Gove pays heed to Richard Gerver, whose analysis is refreshingly honest and pragmatic, with important lessons for all of us involved in education management.

BETT conference
Richard Gerver, is an interesting character. He’s not an academic, he’s a teacher with hands on experience of turning around a failing school, Grange Primary in the UK, where he was Head Teacher from 2002 to 2007. His book, Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today (Continuum, 2010), is an inspiration. It inspired us as we set up The Olive Tree Primary School in Sitges near Barcelona, in the same year. He has now moved into consultancy, advising companies, corporations and institutions on managing change. He’s published his thoughts in his 2013 publication, Change (Penguin). Required reading for anyone who takes the issue seriously and wants to think about how we adapt to what is now a constant: rapid technological development affecting how we live and work and learn.

Richard spoke at BETT, and it was a pleasure to hear him do so.

”Systems and structures change nothing – people do!”. That’s a great place to start.

Richard insists that it is not content that matters in the learning process, it is how we understand and take ownership of that process, as learners, that counts. Adults, just as much as children, need to learn to change and adapt to the environment within which we all exist, one which is in a state of constant flux.

The digital age has enormous potential. In our working lives we need to take responsibility and self-manage our learning. As educators it is our responsibility to raise awareness of the importance of self-management. Work and Learning are not separate entities. They go hand in hand. The classroom is an extension of our working lives, not something external to it. Learning is a constant and it needs to be seen as part of our working lives, interacting with it and changing to adapt to advances in technology.

Once learners understand the potential of the digital future and accept that change and adaptation are simply parts of our everyday lives, then resistance to change disappears (or at least is diminished). Learners will become innovators themselves and should be allowed to bring their own innovative and creative energies into the classroom. Let them loose on technology and innovation and you will see them blossom.

Sharing knowledge and ideas, encouraging experimentation and allowing people to make mistakes without fear of ‘failure’ or negative judgments is critical. That is why the focus on content and testing of ‘knowledge’ of that content is outdated. Evaluation of ‘success’ on a course needs to incorporate one’s ability to solve problems which we face in our real life experiences and to find creative solutions. That’s why we focus our courses at Go English on acquiring competency, not on demonstrating technical knowledge of grammar stuctures. Grammar is a tool for communication. The objective is communication. So the ability to communicate effectively is what we should be measuring in our evaluation systems.

Thank you, Richard, for sharing your ideas with us and inspiring us to accept change and to take responsibility for our learning.

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One comment on “BETT conference in London, January 2014
  1. I’m glad you enjoyed the BETT conference. It seems like you got a lot out of it and that theme of adapting to change that Richard Gerver focused on is a massively important one.

    I spoke at this conference last year (under the broad topic of international education) and benefited from other presenters ideas greatly. It’s fantastic to find that you have a really informative blog too!

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