When Are We Going To Switch From Pens?
Ireland is in the news today and for something wonderfully positive – we have the highest birth rate out of all the EU countries! We are the most successful at having sex, you could say. Personally I love the fact that I live in a country that is so into children and babies, we may have lost lots (our sense of self during the Celtic Tiger years?), but we are still a nurturing country.
But the news is sweet and sour.
Whenever I think of little ones growing up, my thoughts immediately go to the education system. Will it be continue to be funded? Or will the leaders of today have the same strength of mind to continue to fund education as they did in the ’80′s? I hope so. I can live with my little one going to school in a building that’s maybe falling apart at the sides. But what’s crucial from my point of view is that the curriculum changes and teachers be trained to deliver a new set of skills, ones that are necessary to survive in the 21st century.
I despair to think about how we measure young people’s learning.
Pen and paper, 3 hours sweaty writing often irrelevant facts forcefully inserted into memories… that is so far removed from how we live today. I was at a lunch recently and the group of 2-5 year olds were kept amused once the ice creams had been and gone, by playing with the various iphones at the table. To watch 2 year olds flick through pictures, find the YouTube app, and be shown how to get to the learning games by bossy older cousins was a joy.
We must change the Junior Cert & Leaving Cert quickly. And we must train and reward teachers who deliver a new type of learning.
The success and rapid proliferation of the Coder Dojo movement is great to see. If you haven’t already heard about it, Coder Dojo was set up by a secondary school kid and one of the Good Guy VC’s, Bill Liao. (This is a great piece by Brian O’Connell in The Irish Times). It’s like an after school club where kids can hang out and learn to code, and it’s cool. In fact, the philosophy is ‘be cool’. As Bill said at his recent talk at dotconf, it’s amazing how kids respond to that. They know when something is ‘not cool’, and they desperately want to ‘be cool’.
The idea is that it’s about shared learning. Kids can learn how to do cool stuff on computers, and they teach and share with each other as well. There are success stories coming out all over the place, 9 year old Alan from Cork who is the best java scripter that Will Knott has come across. The 4 year old who signed himself up for it. Apart from these stars, I’m sure there are a great many kids simply learning and having fun, and importantly – getting to hang out with their parents while they’re at it.
I feel very strongly that we owe it to the babies being born today to change the outdated and irrelevant curriculum and take some bold steps that will set Ireland up to be a nation of entrepreneurs, global tech leaders, while still maintaining our culture of nurturing.
If you haven’t seen this before, it’s quite funny. Baby with magazine that ‘doesn’t work’. Happy baby making everyone!