Know when to forget and when to remember

Changing what we do in school has always been at the core of my being as an educator. From the beginning of my career I embraced the use of educational technologies and the pedagogical changes that they inspired. My current role has me working to integrate the International Society for Technology in Education standards into my organisation’s larger curriculum framework. At one point in the past I may have been that guy who wondered why a teacher bothered to use pen and paper when they had access to a digital tool like Google Docs. I may have shaken my head at their reluctance to take a risk with a new idea.

Remember what has come before. Image courtesy of Pixabay

Over time I’ve come to think differently.

A big challenge with change makers, especially those pushing Edtech into curriculum, is that they tend to be a little, if not a lot evangelical about their latest and greatest tool or  approach. A serious challenge with this evangelical blindness is that it leads to what Abrahamson (2004) called “creative destruction” (p. 23), or a complete obliteration of whatever happened in the past. Change makers make a grave error when they do not recognise the collective wisdom of curriculum and pedagogy that has come before them. There is little doubt that there is a need for transformation in our teaching in learning in 2019, but change makers need to be smart about their relationship with the past, and they need to know when to forget and when to remember (Hargreaves, 2007, p. 226). You will hear a lot of contemporary reformers talk about the need for skills focused curriculum that pushes content knowledge aside, stating that because of the fingertip access students have to information on the interwebs, students do not need to learn it. These same reformers will tell you how the future needs creative innovative problem solvers to take on the issues of the future. Ironically, by forgetting to know knowledge, these reformers effectively cut off the new generation from our cumulative cultural knowledge base. All great innovation has been built on the knowledge base of the thinkers in the previous generations. So without that knowledge, innovation does not exist. Very often the traditionalists are seen as the greatest challenge in educational change, but if the past and the future are not balanced and integrated for maximum sustainable effect, change will melt into last year’s enthusiasm, as the latest thing takes it place. Redesigning curriculum and the way we do school can be a huge positive uniting force in a school, but the challenge is to take the time to develop new curriculum with a sense of the past informing the present in a sustainable manner.

Abrahamson, E. (2004) Change without pain: How managers can overcome initiative overload, organizational chaos, and employee burnout. Boston, MA, Harvard Business School Press.

Hargreaves, A. (2007). Sustainable leadership and development in education: Creating the future, conserving the past. European Journal of Education, 42 (2), 223. Retrieved from

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