Schools and education systems across the world are desperately trying to reinvent themselves.
There seems to be broad agreement that, for the most part, the way we currently do school is not preparing our learners for their future.
There is a lot of thinking happening about what future learning might look like but the problem we are yet to solve is how to move on from our current educational paradigm.
But, every now and then we get a glimpse of what our future-state of education might look like. It is these glimpses that help us think about how we might realise our future dreams for education.
Sign Language Interactive Cards (SLIC)
Meet the SLICNZ team – Harry, Ned, Georgia, Riley, Mason, and Kara. They are Year 13 students at Pakuranga College and together they have come up with a pretty cool idea to support the learning of New Zealand Sign Language.
The reason I am choosing to tell their story is not only because it is New Zealand Sign Language Week, but because it illustrates so many of the things we aspire to include in education.
SLICNZ is a Young Enterprise team who, like all teams in this programme needed to come up with an innovative and entrepreneurial idea. A couple of their team, Ned and Harry, work part-time for LifeKidz an organisation that runs after school and school holiday programmes for children with special needs.
A lot of the kids in the LifeKidz programme use Sign Language to communicate. As Ned and Harry began to learn Sign Language, they also began to think about how useful it would have been if they’d grown up learning Sign Language.
And thus was born an idea for the SLICNZ Team.
In Year 12 the SLICNZ team made these Sign Language Key Chains.
They sold some but realised that with only three signs on three different key rings it was going to take a long time and a lot more key rings to have an impact on Sign Language Learning.
They knew that if they were going to achieve their vision of raising awareness and building people’s capability in Sign Language Learning they needed a bigger goal.
They decided to aim for getting sign language included in the curriculum for Primary Schools. The vehicle they came up with to do this was to create a set of playing cards that incorporated some of the most frequently used signs.
SLICNZ came up with a prototype of the cards and took it to a local primary school to test. They had five or six rough designs which they adapted to come up with a final set which they then took to a local designer.
The cards which are now available for purchase have been a huge hit, with the team struggling to keep up with demand. (They are also coping with the pressure of NCEA in our COVID world). They are also continuing to grow and develop their idea with a special Māori Edition for Te Wiki o te Reo Māori week and a new set of cards incorporating more signs.
I asked Harry and Ned what they had learnt from the experience. Their reply:
Be way more ready than you think you are going to need to be.”
So in what way does SLICNZ give us a glimpse of what learning in the future might look like?
- It was an authentic learning context that had a personal connection to some of the team
- It solved a real problem using a proven business method (design thinking) to go from an idea to a marketable solution
- The students tested their solution with Users (some of the local primary school children) before going into production
- They partnered with professionals (the designer) from the community
- They have re-invested the money they’ve earnt so far into developing more products
Real learning in a real context driven by an authentic and meaningful need.
The final point I’d like to make is that schools cannot do this type of work alone. They need skilled people from the community to come alongside and help.
How might you help educate the future generation?
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Carolyn is a weaver of futures who works with people and organisations to co-design solutions to complex challenges. She is the founder of Weaving Futures, a leadership growth and design thinking practice and can be contacted on 027 4349865.