Tuesday 17th May 2016

Are pencil cases likely to be a thing of the past in the John McGlashan College classroom?

Head Prefect Lochie Chittock and I recently attended the Association of Boys' Schools New Zealand Conference in Wellington and apart from the usual issues of leadership and school culture, the hot topic was the future of the pencil case in the classroom. Discussion centered on the domination of computers in the classroom which has recently been challenged by a number of educationalists and academics. In many schools such as ours, every student has a device and while these may be very useful for sourcing information the primary influence on the education of any student will always be his relationship with his teachers and his classmates. We must continue to prioritise the development of the skills required in adapting to change, communicating, working in teams, problem solving, analysis, reflection, self-management, creativity, innovation and critical thinking. All of these will be crucial in the job market of the future.

Schools are continually challenged by the digitisation of society but to get the best for our students at McGlashan their education must not be driven by the content we teach, but rather by how our students learn. Concepts identified in the latest research are: the over-reliance on qualifications rather than skills, the value of interpersonal skills, the importance of learning to adapt and change, and that schools must build closer links between work and education. At John McGlashan College we continually examine our classroom teaching practices. We focus on relationships, engagement, achievement, leadership, empathy and well being. Students do not necessarily need to have 'smarts' in the conventional sense, but instead, be adaptive, responsive and willing to learn new ways of doing things. Our job is to ensure that our students develop skills which will give them to ability to re-learn in the future. Crucial to the success of this type of learning is to provide boys with a multitude of opportunities to demonstrate and build on what they know by employing big question topics that require them to think flexibly and seek knowledge rather than be delivered knowledge. Success comes when they are encouraged to apply what they have learned in one subject area to new situations in another so that they begin to see how their class work relates to their own lives. We need to teach them to listen, adapt and think.

Regards, Neil Garry