“The problem is that school is incredibly boring for students, and as it turns out, it’s pretty boring for teachers as well, because neither group is learning in the traditional school model.” – Michael Fullan, Canada
The fact that Michael Fullan was one of the first education heroes we profiled for Daily Edventures, just after we launched the blog at the start of 2012, makes good sense. Fullan is recognized as a worldwide authority on education reform, and his mandate – “helping to achieve the moral purpose of all children learning” – perfectly aligns to Microsoft’s mission. So I was thrilled to check back in with him recently to learn more about how his New Pedagogies for Deep Learning (NPDL) project is going.
NPDL is a global initiative launched by Fullan and Greg Butler, in partnership with Microsoft and number of other partners. The goal was to recruit 10 clusters of 100 schools to “identify, apply and diffuse new pedagogies for deep learning accelerated by technology.” In other words: create a global education reform movement. In just six months, school clusters in the U.S., Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Australia and Uruguay have joined, with many more in the process of joining.
Why is this movement resonating? According to Fullan, “The problem is that school is incredibly boring for students, and as it turns out, it’s pretty boring for teachers as well, because neither group is learning in the traditional school model.” NPDL addresses that issue by introducing a new kind of pedagogy, based on four core principles. First, learning must be irresistibly engaging. Second, technology must be accessible and easy to use. Third, the new school day is no longer 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – it’s 24/7. And finally, the school day needs to be steeped in real-life problem-solving.
All of this is enabled by technology, which according to Fullan, has entered a new phase when it comes to education. “In the last five years or even 50 years, there’s been a huge slowness on the part of public education systems and the public domain to accept innovation,” he tells me. “But we’re finding the opposite now…this is so attractive and the alternative — the status quo — is so boring, that there’s a natural connection for people to do something.”
Fullan believes – and I wholeheartedly agree – that there’s been a real shift in reform in the past couple of years. From “why should we do this?” to “how can we do this?” — and from a technology first approach (i.e., buying devices and then figuring out how to deploy them) to a holistic approach that starts with learning outcomes. It’s a shift that makes the work of the NPDL community extremely timely, as the work they’re doing is generating real-life examples of how to effect change in schools that others can emulate and learn from. “We like to go from practice to theory, rather than the other way around,” Fullan says. “We want to identify and multiply the number of actual examples (in practice) to stimulate others and get them engaged in the process.”
Efforts like New Pedagogies for Deep Learning are transforming education because they mobilize students, teachers, school leaders and parents around a common goal: preparing students for their next steps in a radically different 21st century economy. This is community-building at its best, and I can’t wait to see what this innovative approach is able to accomplish in the coming months and years. Here’s today’s Daily Edventure with Michael Fullan.
To learn more about Michael Fullan’s work: