With the onset of AI and the rapid development of technologies, preparing students with 21st century skills is more important than ever.
One principal who is keenly aware of this is Lisa Kirkland, who heads up Harrington Public School, located in NSW.
With an eye on equipping students for the future world, the school has been supporting and developing student agency across all areas of learning, as well as staff mapping and designing lessons that not only meet syllabus requirement but support a broader exposure to the world students live in.
Below, The Educator speaks to Kirkland, who will address the upcoming Educator Leaders Summit on the topic of preparing students with 21st century skills.
TE: In your view, why is this topic so important for education leaders?
LK: The topic of preparing students with 21st century skills is more than important – it is an imperative. At no other time in recent educational settings have the changes external to school moved so rapidly. If schools don’t move out of their pre-industrial mode, our students will be lacking in the accountabilities they need to function in their economies. I see the role of the principal and schools to be the advocates of change that most departments across Australia are now promoting through policy, system and curricula.
TE: In the context of the issues you are addressing at the summit, what are the biggest challenges that school leaders face?
LK: Leader need to see that using technology in schools shouldn’t be about the technology replacing an old behaviour or mindset, such as apps become worksheets, websites become textbooks. This is ok but it shouldn’t be the basis for working technologically – it needs to be about how to develop the technologies, utilise coding, explore the development of coding sequences to problem solve and create. Schools will need to reflect on whether they are developing technological thinking or just replacing old behaviours. Our kids can learn to play games, use an app or research without time being allocated for this at schools, but this is what they do outside of school anyway, and often from a very young age.
Leaders will need to then support their staff to not substitute technology for what they’ve always done but use the technology to build the capabilities and accountabilities of their students. They will also need to look at the teaching of soft skills to ensure our students become ethical, compassionate informed citizens who can make decisions not just whether something can be done/created but whether it should be.
TE: If you could give one piece of advice to school leaders relating to this topic, what would it be?
LK: Be Brave! Take the risks and lead innovatively. I strongly believe our education departments are providing us with the reforms and policy to develop our schools in to the environments that truly do embrace 21st century learning. Reflect often, collect evidence to measure the impact of changes you are making, continually connect with your staff to support them and allow them to try new things in an environment they’ve created that allows mistake and failures but continually strives for the highest quality teaching and learning for our students.
The Educator Leaders Summit, which is now endorsed by NESA for 6 hours of professional development, will be held at Dockside Sydney on Friday 17 August. To view the summit’s schedule, please click here.