Reflections on Reading ‘Futurewise’


I recently chugged through “Futurewise: Educating our children for a changing world” by David N. Perkins. Chugged because it was not the easiest of reads as I have been reading lots of educational change books recently and initially this book seemed to be singing the same tune as the others. That is it’s time to drag the existing school system into the 21st Century and create 21C learners who have the skills and abilities to be adaptable, creative, curious, resilient, innovative…. I could go on but your get the picture. To a degree this book is telling us this however there is more to it. I see it as a bit of a ‘how to’ guide with many examples relating to other areas of innovation and creativity where people are making wiser decisions with the tools that surround them. I guess that’s it for the traditional school, we are not making the most of the tools that are around us. We have the Internet and many believe that this equals the new way of teaching and in many places this IS what is happening. Traditional ‘chalk n’ talk’ lessons are have been replaced with “Google this…” in the hope that students will see what is out there for them and just go with it. However if they do not have the skills and abilities  to do more that just Google it then they may as well be in a content dumping classroom where the teacher just hits unload for an hour. This account of the traditional school model may seem simplistic but you get the picture.

So what did I learn from reading David N. Perkins “Futurewise”? Firstly, lifeworthy learning which basically means what is worth learning? He returns to the idea of the quadratic equation and what is the point of learning it, he discusses how this could be justified as the pandoras box of things you need to know by teachers. Throughout the book the quadratic equation idea comes up and there are 6 trends that can be applied to lifeworthy learning: beyond 21C skills & dispositions; beyond traditional subject disciplines; beyond traditional interdisciplinary topics & problems; beyond regional perspectives; beyond mastering content; and beyond prescribed content.

When combined these trends can shape the way education could be for learners.This means developing learners who are inquisitive and know how to use the tools at their disposal. This means teachers getting on-board and finding out for themselves what IS lifeworthy learning for them.

Secondly, the concept of big this includes big questions and big understandings Perkins explains that this forms part of the inquiry process. Big includes the trends in society and ensuring that learners can hack the pace of what they are presented with. Big know-how, knowledge and ideas. Insight into the content we are receiving to help us move forward and unpack what we are hearing. An understanding of the actions that we can take to make a difference in a wider context that just our own, think local/act global actions. This include an understanding of ethics and leads to opportunities to varying degrees. Growing and allowing for learner agency is what comes out of big.

We have heard this before but as secondary teachers we must remember that we are teachers of students first not teachers of subjects. Why are tertiary teaching institutions in this country not getting this? Some are having a go but it seems in a very rigid tick box fashion.

Hey, I’m not telling anyone anything new that hasn’t been heard before, just my thought from reading ‘Furturewise’. Have a go get through it I think I will go back for a second look to gain even more insight in a few months or a year and then she how my own teaching practice reflects the 6 trends that are discussed in the introductory chapter.

After writing this blog entry I think I would re-phrase my opening sentence about ‘chugging’ through the book to read ‘I have just finished my first digestion of Futurewise and I will be going back for more’

Kia pai to rā!



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