STEM Education Summit
Prof John Fischetti: Co-Constructing the Learning Journey with our Children
As we move forward in these disruptive times, a new vision for learning, teaching and leading is required to maximise our purpose to educate all of our children so that they are inspired and are prepared to lead a great life. That trajectory challenges many “old school” approaches that may promote obsolete pedagogies and assessments.
About this talk
What if we designed schools so that they were passion-based and focused on developing each child’s uniqueness, special abilities and to prepare them to be ready for a journey to “the moon and beyond” in terms of their aspirations?
This is the question Prof John Fischetti explores in this talk.
About the Speaker
Professor John Fischetti is Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Education and Arts and recent Dean of Education and Head of School at the University of Newcastle.
He is currently President of the New South Wales Council of Deans of Education. John received his doctorate in education in professional development, school reform and educational leadership for change in 1986 at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Previously he completed Master’s work in Secondary Education and holds a BA in Economics and American Government from the University of Virginia. John holds his teaching certificate in secondary social studies and has taught high school history, economics and political science.
Prior to coming to Newcastle, John served as Dean and Professor of Educational Leadership at the College of Education and Human Development at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.
Watch full video below
Peter Dalmaris: Hi, everyone. And welcome to Professor John Fischetti, who is about to explore schools that focus on developing each child's uniqueness and special abilities preparing them for a journey to the moon and beyond.
Peter Dalmaris: John's talk is part of the STEM Education Summit, a unique one of a kind event where educators from around the world come together to share the best insights on the technologies, methodologies, and philosophies they use to teach and inspire the next generation of amazing humans.
Peter Dalmaris: I'm Peter Damaris, an online educator, author of Maker Education Revolution, and co-founder of Tech Explorations.
Peter Dalmaris: Professor John Fischetti is Pro Vice Chancellor of the Faculty of Education and Arts, and recent Dean of Education and Head of School at the University of Newcastle. He's currently president of the New South Wales Council of Deans of Education. Prior to coming to Newcastle, John served as dean and professor of Educational Leadership at the College of Education and Human Development at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana.
Peter Dalmaris: In his talk, John will challenge many old school approaches that may promote absolute pedagogies and assessments. In particular, he'll explore the idea that schools should be places where children can explore the passions and develop their uniqueness. Places where children are encouraged to discover and pursue their aspirations. John, thank you for joining me. How are you today?
John Fischetti: Peter, it's great to be with you and all the participants in this exciting conference. I'm doing really well.
Peter Dalmaris: Awesome. You are at a beautiful place. I can see behind you. That's where you live, actually.
John Fischetti: Yeah. We live in the heart of the CBD of Newcastle, Australia on the southeast coast, as you know, and it's a gorgeous, gorgeous autumn day here. And while most people are hunkering down and trying to work from home, we get every now and then a chance to go out and go down to the ocean and be around the Nobbys Beach, the Newcastle Beach. And it's just a great place to be. We're very fortunate.
Peter Dalmaris: Amazing place, yeah. Like, I'm living up here in a mountain, so it's a totally different environment to you, but sunny day trees, clean air, what more can you want, really?
John Fischetti: Yes.
Peter Dalmaris: So, John, I know that you've prepared a really interesting presentation, but I'd like to kickstart your presentation with a question. I was doing some reading of some of your work on the web. I found one of your papers on IntechOpen, and I found this very catchy quote. So, you say that, "We need a different kind of teacher for a different kind of school." Really catchy.
Peter Dalmaris: It seems to me that you are calling for radical change in education, so I'd like to ask, how different do you think the teachers and schools really need to be? And more important, why?
John Fischetti: Well, Peter, this is the heart of the presentation today, and I'm happy to engage not only today, but with any participant in offline conversations about the journey. Because what we know is that the way in which most traditional schools, at least in the West, were developed was primarily, in the early days, as a way to educate the wealthy property owner's sons, so that they would be literate and numerate in order to take on the family business from the fathers when they passed. And that might have been the big plantation or the big business.
John Fischetti: As we move through the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th centuries, there were more egalitarian approaches to schooling, which were about serving a common good and developing the opportunities for every child to have these amazing chances to sort of be beyond literacy and numeracy to just explore themselves. It mixed in with the development of the industrial revolution, which, when it came up, created opportunities for immigrant populations to come into different countries and serve at the lower level jobs.
John Fischetti: Countries had to decide, who got the education that was about that inspiration and that opportunity, and who got the jobs that were going to be at the menial level. And schools took a fork in the road, and many schools went to a coverage of material, didactic teaching, assessments that were really driven around sorting people out.
John Fischetti: And so, the schools of most of the 20th century that many of us on in this conference would have been part of, we have a new generation that's come along just since that also will be part of it, our younger generation, really, are coming from a schooling area that was about sorting, and assessment for sorting, was about compliance and passivity and rules, and was about the sort of deconstruction of human intuition, and actually the reconstruction of creating a mass population to conform to the social norms of the time.
John Fischetti: Morph to where we are today in 2020, what we need for the future is a vastly different kind of graduate. We need someone who explores new knowledge for the sake of their inquiry approach, can see across the disciplines, is excited about the journey of the integration of technology into our lives, sees the connections of international and global exchange, is optimistic about the problem solving of things like climate change or overcoming the pandemic issues we face now and will face into the future.
John Fischetti: So, in that, we need a different pedagogical approach rather than teachers as sage on the stage or direct instruction masters to guides and coaches and facilitators of exploring with children their future opportunities. That means we need a very different kind of teacher for a really different kind of school.
John Fischetti: And that's the challenge, how do we flip from an old school - there's a right answer and just see if you don't know exactly what it is - to a new school, which is the opportunity to really think differently about what learning, teaching, and assessment really is.
John Fischetti: And that STEM mindset is what I'm just as interested in as STEM skillset, because not every one of us will be in a STEM career. It's really important we develop STEM skills. But the STEM mindset is for everyone, regardless of what they do in their future. And I think those overlap, but I think that's the challenge we have is to convince all educators and our whole population that the future of teaching and learning can't look like it's looked the last 200 or 300 years where we're preparing people for the past, not the future.
Peter Dalmaris: Right. So, what I take from your answer is that, it has to be really radical, and as radical as a society switching from the agrarian revolution into the industrial revolution. And then, that they probably are under the cloud revolution or information revolution.
John Fischetti: As radical as the change from the printing press that Gutenberg and colleagues at the time created, creating the opportunity for books for everybody, that Google was for information exchange. So, a radical change for what schools need to be about and the whole role of schooling when we bring people into a place physically, not just when we do things online.
Peter Dalmaris: I guess, again, following your thoughts as you connected the industrial revolution to how schooling changed over those years, I'm thinking that at that point in time, societies needed individuals with specific numeracy and literacy skills. But most of them were to be able to fill factories, to be able to take instructions from the factory supervisor.
Peter Dalmaris: So, you needed to scale that type of education into huge numbers, like millions of kids coming through the system each year. So, more like cookie cutter type education, where that system doesn't work anymore because we no longer have pretty much any such occupation that requires cookie cutter type of education. So, you need people with imagination with the ability to use the amazing tools that we have today, especially called the internet and all the applications that are running on it. So, that's radically different.
John Fischetti: Yeah. What you're describing is a training mindset where we teach people like robots what to do and when to do it. The good news is, we have robots to do that now. And if any job still exists that you might not have thought of, Peter, they will be replaced. Including driving vehicles, in the next 20 years, is obsolete. We may not like to hear that, but it's obsolete.
John Fischetti: So, any job that is automatable will be any job that's routine, any job for which a machine can do it better, has already been part of what the industrial revolution taught us. We used to hire children - or not hire children, just make children go beyond thread machines and fix the threads when they broke in a textile manufacturing firm. Once that machine got better, we didn't need that child doing that, so we had a place we could send them called school.
John Fischetti: If we think about it, we don't need checkers in the supermarkets. We don't need taxi drivers, we need taxis. We're going to need very few of the training type of jobs. What we need are really good thinkers, problem solvers, collaborators, and people who are optimistic about taking problems and solving them before their boss even knew they were problems, which is not necessarily the empowerment notion of education that we've perpetuated over the last, at least, couple hundred years.
John Fischetti: With that, comes an egalitarian and equity mindset as well, that we have to value every learner for who they are as an individual and respect you, Peter as a learner, different than John, where both our goal is to find our potential and stretch for it, but not assuming that we're equal learners. We have different strengths and we can learn within from each other, but we're also not in competition with each other. We're actually in collaboration with each other and we can learn with each other during this journey called school.
John Fischetti: That's a different reality because we've been taught, particularly in elite places, that if there's only one gold ring at the end of this, you and I got to climb over each other to try to get there rather than redefine the problem. We actually don't need a gold ring. We need a solution to the major issues of our times. And we need kids excited about their future who take education as this sort of beyond a rite of passage. This incredible way to prepare yourself so that you can be resilient, excited, inventive, and brilliant in this thing that's ahead, which we can't quite predict, but we know those skills are going to help us get there and get through it.
Peter Dalmaris: So, speaking of the future, you just kind of know what skills are going to be needed. Those are not going to be the skills that robots can take on, so anything can be automated will be automated, so we know that about the future. So, the risk, what's left or the people with the characteristics that you mentioned, ingenuity, for example, imagination. And that means that all these cookies that the system used to produce in the last couple of hundreds of years, all these cookies have to be different now going forward, all kinds of shapes and flavors.
John Fischetti: That's right. And it's about the humanity and the human experience as well because what we will have the privilege of doing is making human choices. To this point, the tools that we've had, something like this pen or something like a shovel, they worked for us. We told them what to do. We get in the car, we drive it.
John Fischetti: So, the tools that we have becoming available now are tools that will tell us what to do, when to turn off someone's life support, when to turn right because it's turning right for us, when to sell our stocks. Automated money machines are now running the markets to the world, selling and buying based on pre-loaded programs. So, we already have a lot of this going.
John Fischetti: But in the future in particular, determining the sex of babies, deciding where the next agricultural land is best suited, we'll have algorithms determining that for and with us. And in some cases, machines making decisions and telling us what they did. That puts the human experience in both an opportunity and jeopardy mode.
John Fischetti: And if schools don't get kids savvy enough, we could be making moral decisions that jeopardize the future of humanity. That's not science fiction. It's happening today. And so, in that sense, the urgency of this is to rethink it, because while those machines doing those things are helpful, we can't let them run humanity into the ground. And we could see the moral decisions that are being made all the time that now we need to claim back.
John Fischetti: And we're going to have to make decisions not to do things as well as to do things. That's not an easy thing. Fire, when it was discovered, both is a great thing, it warms you up, it cooks your food, but it also can burn your house down. And so, we're going to have to decide that we like two of those three options and we're not going to choose the third.
Peter Dalmaris: Well, John, we have about like ten minutes in, and you've just thrown out so many gems and value bombs. Like, I'm thinking much of the discussion in education has to do with the economy, right? If we're not better, smarter, and more innovative, our economy is going to collapse.
John Fischetti: But you just framed it at the next level up, like you're talking about humanity is going to be taken over by machines. If we're not careful, if we don't elevate our own brains and our own humanity to the next level of our evolution, machines will be making all the decisions. Humans will be obsolete.
John Fischetti: Yeah. And I think the urgency is now to get a handle on it while we're still in charge of most of the tools in front of us and the moral decisions that will come from that. I think we can negotiate that. But we also can't afford to lose another generation to disengagement, which is the polite for either boredom or students left out.
John Fischetti: And particularly immigrant students who come to a country who don't speak the language first are often left out. Students with special needs are often left out. Certain countries totally left out. We have students who learn differently, left out. Students who are gifted - gifted by a definition that probably means only three percent, not just because of your children. Some people have a definition, "My child is gifted because they're my child," rather than the true definition - those kids are often held back because the school boxes they can't think out of and those kids are already out of the box.
John Fischetti: And so, what we have to do is think about this notion of not young people getting ready for school, but the school getting ready for those young people. That's a whole different approach. And by doing that, you have to know them, know their strengths, be able to facilitate their learning. We have to invest in the supports, new technologies can really adapt and help us with that.
John Fischetti: But our goal isn't to provide workers for a new economy. Our goal is to provide really well-educated people who will make choices with their lives. And the result will be really well-educated citizens who make good choices, who pay their taxes, and stay on the right side of the road or the left side of the road, depending on which country they're in. And, also, as a result of that, feel really good about themselves. They're happy. Their families are supported.
John Fischetti: And, by the way, then that boosts the economy. So, the economy is a result, not a purpose. And, unfortunately, a lot of leaders in government have to maintain a sort of jobs and growth notion of why we do anything. That's a result of what we do. If we teach children well, they're going to be happy, they're going to be well educated, they're going to get a better job. And the rest is then going to benefit all of us.
John Fischetti: So, the economic benefit is a result, not a purpose. It's a moral purpose of education and an equity purpose more than an economic one. Even though I know that sounds counter to the traditions of most ministers in the world today, we'll still give you the economic result, but let us be a human purpose first.
John Fischetti: That's what excites me about the STEM mindset that we finally now have converged what we thought was right with where the economy needs us. And where the research would tell us and the learning science tells us with this challenge, because technology will do the easy part for us now where we actually don't need a teacher to do the facts and the figures and the rights and the wrongs. We got plenty of adaptive technologies that will help us with that now.
Peter Dalmaris: Right. I don't want to delay anymore, John. Let's get into your presentation.
John Fischetti: So, there are several different titles I have for this presentation, depending on when people want to see me. I like the road that is indicated here, because I'm not sure if it's a road to nowhere, or road to somewhere, or it's over there, somewhere over the rainbow. But this is this notion of we know we need a different kind of teacher for a different kind of school, and we're going to take us there.
John Fischetti: And I think this helps form where we are heading for leaders. And I call leaders teachers, principals, educational policymakers, tech organizers, and entrepreneurs. Anyone who's part of this conference is a leader in education in their own way.
John Fischetti: I thought I'd just play a couple of seconds of Greta Thunberg, who most of you know is a Swedish 17 year old, who's probably one of the most influential people in the world. I'm just going to play a few seconds of her speech last year with the United Nations.
Greta Thunberg: This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us, young people, for hope. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?
John Fischetti: I don't know if that's the message you want to give out to our participants today, but I've got to tell you this was Greta pretty switched on. And it's interesting, there's a few people in the world we know just by their first name, like Oprah, like Shaq, maybe Kobe, and there's Greta. She's so famous we only know her first name. I'm not sure if most of the participants actually know her story. I'm going to let her father share that with us.
Svante Thunberg: When she decided to do this, we said quite clearly that we would not support it.
Interviewer: Why did you say that?
Svante Thunberg: Obviously, we thought it was a bad idea putting yourself out there with all the hate on social media. Three or four years before she went on the school strike, she fell ill and she stopped talking, she stopped eating, and all these things, she stopped going to school. She was basically home for a year. Now, she's just like any other. You think she's not ordinary now because she's special and she's very famous and all these things. But, to me, she's now an ordinary child. She can do all the things like other people can, and she's happy.
John Fischetti: So, there's Greta's father, who is telling us a few things about her. So, the year prior to her strike to support the end to the climate disaster, she was classified a mute. If she was in your school - if any of our school colleagues are listening in - she would have been in a special education class in most Western schools. She wasn't eating. She wasn't happy. She was threatening self-harm. She was kind of not going well.
John Fischetti: And she got motivated by the climate strike and went to her town hall. And, you know, somebody brought her leftover food one day. She got this spark. She was willing to find her place. So, imagine a year before, here she is displaced, unable to speak. And now she's Time's Person of the Year. That wasn't in school. She got that mojo, by the way. She found it inside of her own calling, so to speak.
John Fischetti: And what Greta represents to me is not that she's that special. She's every child waiting to be inspired. And what she has found is her voice. Literally her voice that was taken from her when she felt discouraged, bullied, left out. And now, Greta, her future is to help us actually take seriously this climate change reality.
John Fischetti: I think it fits in, Peter, with this notion that for too long schools have been places young people go to watch their teachers work. And I think all of us in our own way - some of us overcame it - are victims of this passivity that schools tend to represent. That we go to school, we sit and watch, and then we either get encouraged because we're touted as the chosen ones or it works for us to bypass the system.
John Fischetti: But my pretense is that most young people today are getting switched on when they go home. That's when they're on Fortnite. That's where they're on Pinterest. That's where they're with their friends who are building music with their bands all around the world. That's when they're motivated as Greta is motivated to call out world leaders about this. Every child has that potential in his or her own way, not necessarily to be Greta, but to be who they are.
John Fischetti: And we're holding on to schools that we know rather than evolving the schools that we need. Because it seems like you want your primary school to look like it did for you, for your children. And, therefore, change to that looks very kind of out of the ordinary.
John Fischetti: And I think it's the big assessment that's been morphed onto schools in the last 30 years in the journey we were starting to discuss earlier, that big assessment, those international and national assessments, are primarily norm referenced. They're primarily assessing lower level skills. And they're providing us evidence that wealthy students do better on them than lower socioeconomic students, which means we really didn't need them any way. We could have predicted that just from knowing people's postcodes, which is quite unfortunate to think that the biggest learning we've had from 30 years of big assessments is, we know based on postcode the correlation with that and test scores.
John Fischetti: I've asked around Australia and around the world the question, of school people about 4,000 in the last year-and-a-half, "How many of your students are fully switched on to their schooling?" And switched on means they come to school, "Hey, Teacher. I'm ready to go," without necessarily saying that, they come ready to go to work at school.
John Fischetti: And this is the answer I've gotten from most of the world, and that is, that 50 percent or more of the current students are actually not motivated to do their best work.
John Fischetti: "How many of them are really set to go forward and take on that day's challenge?" So, we have 41 percent saying - this is over 4,000 teachers and leaders - basically their kids aren't coming ready. And some say it's about half, somewhere about half the kids that come to school every day aren't really coming to school to do schoolwork.
John Fischetti: And then, I asked the question, "How many of your staff are ready to come to school to teach?" And, again, this is not being critical, it's just being honest, that somewhere between half and three- quarters of the teacher's self-admit to coming to school to actually give it their best go. Now, this isn't a criticism of teachers. It's just a reality now that if we have half of our teachers and half of our kids, or a little more than half, coming to school ready, there's some work to do to change the framework of schooling.
John Fischetti: This is not scientific. I haven't validated this. I'm just saying, this is people just honestly texting in to me.
John Fischetti: In Australia, in 2017, the Grattan Institute issued a report that said 60 percent of all kids were generally productive, 20 percent were about partially disengaged.
John Fischetti: A lot of those are quiet. Some kids I interviewed in Newcastle a couple of years ago, who were young 12 year old girls, thought themselves sort of the silent ones. They're the passive. They were fine. They were passing. But they were just going through the motions and nobody was really knowing them in school. Ten percent are low level disruptive. And about ten percent are high disruptive, kids who are actually physically causing disruption in the school. The deputy principals know them the first week because they've caused trouble.
John Fischetti: So, in that, that's about 40 percent of Australian kids. And if we did this anywhere in the world our participants are from, we might find something similar. There are some schools for which this upper end is much more severe and some of our participants will be in schools.
John Fischetti: I look at this in comparison to a Gallup poll that was done in the United States in the same time period, where 70,000 employees were surveyed, including 7,200 teachers. And on the right, it shows that 52 percent of the United States workforce and 18 percent said actively disengaged. So, 52 and 18 is 70 percent of the population, said they were not really engaged in their work.
John Fischetti: And they were filling out a survey, so they were at least awake. They were willing to do a survey. And 30 percent said they were engaged. And they're probably at work doing this, by the way, so they're willing to be engaged, but not in their work.
John Fischetti: And the 7,200 teachers on the left side here, 69 percent said they were not engaged or actively disengaged in their work. That's 70 percent of teachers basically saying they go to school not to teach.
Peter Dalmaris: So, to jump in here, what I can see so far is that regardless of which segment of society, like in the U.S., but I think elsewhere, you're going to get very similar numbers. But regardless of where you are, the numbers of disengagement versus engagement are very similar. So, it seems like it's starting from school and then it never ends.
Peter Dalmaris: Like, from my own experience and experience of people that I'm connected to, I get the feeling that all of us tend to go through life, or most of us tend to go through life, without actually finding our voice like Greta did. And that's something that should have happened, you know, ideally early on at school. And maybe that's our goal, isn't it as teachers?
John Fischetti: Totally right. And I believe this disengagement is a failure for the individuals, which is what you were just indicating. And it's a tragic loss of human capacity for young people to be relevant in this innovation age, where critical thinking, problem solving, adaptive reasoning, collaboration are actually core skills. Because if you're turned off from your learning, you're not engaging in those things which are actually the STEM mindsets that are needed for the future.
John Fischetti: So, in this new school era that we're heading toward, schools will not be places young people go to watch their teachers work. They're learning centers with student engagement at the forefront and personalized approaches focusing on the instruction and on the needs of the learner, which is a very different kind of place if you go back to the title.
John Fischetti: This is where I think, Peter, that VR and AI and immersive technologies that are spinning off in the very exciting world, some of which your conferences is bringing forward, will require the reinvention of content delivery and leapfrog the pedagogies we use. The pedagogy is the word of kind of the methods in which we deliver instruction to the new frontiers of thinking about how we master ideas and knowledge.
John Fischetti: And students in this approach are the center of the learning as they encompass the syllabus in ways that work for each of them, which is a different approach than it was for me when I went to school. Assessment from here will be formative and used to modify instruction to meet the needs of learners. In this dynamic environment, there's a new approach to classroom, and school leadership is also viable, so it takes a different kind of principal as well as a different kind of teacher.
John Fischetti: I think this transformation is just incredibly exciting, and we're on the verge of really changing the old school paradigm of teaching and learning where students sit passively in rows, completing acquired syllabus. They're told to do so with very little choice. And school leaders are going to need a new set of skills to help them create these learning environments to embrace the culture and expectations of the community because a lot of times the community is holding this back by assuming that doesn't sound like school as I know it, or where you're going is into a vague area, we're not quite sure if we understand.
John Fischetti: Whether it's a STEM or a STEAM idea - and I'll stick the A in STEAM - I used the teapot as an example for a different definition of STEAM. You know, depending on which thermometer you use, water boils at 100 degrees Fahrenheit or 212 degrees Celsius. If I use the Fahrenheit guide, most schools are somewhere less than 212. And in Celsius, let's say, most top kids are cooking at 90, 92. They're warm, they're hot, but they're not steam.
John Fischetti: What we're trying to do is get inquiry, and invention, innovation, creativity, and problem solving. And so, from science, it's inquiry. You could argue any of these from all of them. Technology, it's invention. From engineering, its innovation. From the arts, it's creativity. And from math, it's problem solving. And you put that together, you can get a kid who's at 90 degrees to 100 or 206 or 207 to 212.
John Fischetti: So, we're talking about for our top students right now, they're also the ones tuned out of school. What I showed you earlier wasn't the bottom students. I'm actually as concerned for our most intuit students that we create schools that they're actually excited to be part of.
John Fischetti: We mentioned this before, and I'll summarize, and this is just a way to desynthesize, literacy and numeracy might have been what mostly we drove schools, particularly as you mentioned in the beginning of this session. Adaptive reasoning, critical thinking, creativity, problem solving, collaboration, open mindedness, wellbeing, indigenous perspectives, cultural competence, global awareness, ethics, digital literacy. I'm just starting. And that's really now the heart of the core skills with literacy and numeracy.
John Fischetti: So, the role of a teacher has expanded from cover this book and complete these assessments and make sure they grow in their literacy and numeracy skills, to an entire array of amazing, equally core skills. And I don't think we would say global awareness is anything less important than numeracy in the world we're in today. Or that somehow well-being is less important than numeracy, because each of those has its own vital place in the well-rounded individual for the future.
Peter Dalmaris: John, just a quick question here. So, I really like your analogy between STEAM, as to the acronym, but then the 100 degree Celsius STEAM coming out of the pot. How can you identify the temperature of a student? Like, as a teacher, what can you see to gauge the students, I guess, engagement with whatever they're learning?
John Fischetti: Well, as you see, we finished today, I'll give one example of that. So, I'll hold that thought to keep people listening at least another 15 minutes, if that's okay. You may force me to the end before we're ready, but we'll get there. The teapot is on.
John Fischetti: As I mentioned earlier, I think that on the left side, if you looked at sort of a fuel gauge in your automobile, is, compliance, passivity, rules, and teacher-focused. On the right side - sort of where we're heading - personalized, passion-based, and learner-focused. So, somewhere in between all of this is the schools as they exist, and that's the journey that we're on.
John Fischetti: I've got a video I'm happy to share with others on this. I'm just showing a screenshot from it. But this old school is teacher-centered, passive, compliance, rules-based, sameness, assessment that's equal and sorting. So, everybody does the same assessment, and we use the results to sort people leading to success for some.
John Fischetti: Actually, the whole system right now is based on only a few will be really successful. That's what norm referencing does, it predetermines before we administer it, that there will only be about a third who will do well.
John Fischetti: In the new school, it's learner-focused and passion-based, and personalized, a fairness or equity approach, and assessment for and as learning, not of learning. Most of the assessments that you completed in school where of learning, not a part of learning.
John Fischetti: And that component is work that Tom Gorski has done around the world, and there's other great leaders in that area. But turning the assessment into a product, which is part of the answer to your question we'll get to by the end, is, how do we make that happen? With an attempt to try to seek, is it possible we could attempt to have success for all? That's our goal. Success is going to look different and not every child is going to be an engineer. But every child should have a STEM way of thinking about things that embeds the qualities of an engineer.
Peter Dalmaris: And I was just considering or thinking or remembering my time as a lecturer where we were told to put students in a bell curve. And if a bell curve looked a little bit weird, it didn't have the right characteristics and there was a problem with teaching.
John Fischetti: And as you're talking about this, I realized that we should have been using an infinite number of bell curves because we've got people that are totally different from each other and we can't just fit them into the same criteria that helps us create that infamous bell curve.
John Fischetti: And there's a couple of ways to do that. One is to use criterion reference instead of norm reference, where there's a standard. Like, the driver's license exam that most people have around the world, everybody going in the door, theoretically, could pass the test. Now, you could say the standards aren't that high, but we're willing to risk our lives driving next to someone who passed the test. So, that's criterion reference. We just wouldn't norm it. We'd say everybody has a go. So, that's a morally different decision.
John Fischetti: The other is to do what you're suggesting. It is have assessments fit for purpose for the individual to determine their capacities. That's where some of the new technology will help us because teachers need support to do that. It's hard to do that, to differentiate. But because we have smart tutors now that can review information, some students could be reviewing while the teacher is moving some kids ahead in a different way.
John Fischetti: There's ways to think about this that weren't possible even 20 years ago. And just imagine when the technology really moves holographic and we really get intricate new tools and even the features of the tools look more human through the robotic nature of the synthetic robots that will be available shortly. It'll look like a real tutor rather than just be a voice coming out of a box.
John Fischetti: So, this is my summary of where we're going. It doesn't mean it's perfect. It doesn't mean everything in old school is bad. There's a lot of us that did pretty well in that. It just means the metaphor for schooling is evolving in this direction.
John Fischetti: Where I went to school - I was born in New York City - I went to school in the public schools in New York through primary. Moved to Virginia in the southeast part of the United States. And where I went to school in the south in the U.S., we used to sit it and git it. That was the two pedagogy sitting and gitting, that's the way in which we rolled in school.
Peter Dalmaris: You have to translate that.
John Fischetti: Sit and git, that means you're passive sitting and getting information.
Peter Dalmaris: Oh, got it. Yeah.
John Fischetti: Sit and git. Come on, Peter. Come on now. You understood me.
Peter Dalmaris: Sorry. My South American is not that good.
John Fischetti: That's all right. My accent was probably weak. But a lot of schools still look like this, where we're in rows, we're sitting behind one another, and we're just waiting for Christmas. We just can't wait until the next holiday as opposed to we're engaged in real learning. That promotes compliance, passivity, and rules.
John Fischetti: And for our leaders to see, this is a road in the Everglades and it's about, "Hikers and bikers move to the side of the road when a vehicle approaches." So, what we're doing is setting our kids up to be compliant, to follow rules, to be suckers, actually, in the innovation age.
John Fischetti: In the U.S., where they drive on the right side of the road, this means those kids walking down the right side of the road are going to be sushi for these Florida alligators. We can do better than compliance, passivity, and rules. That's what we're promoting with the way in which we currently do school, sitting and gitting.
John Fischetti: I call it 2D, two dimensions, the 2D world of sitting and getting. And I don't think that's what our goals would be, to continue that mode. If we think about 3D - and I know in string theory, there's probably 11 dimensions I don't understand. So, I'm just going to talk about 3D because it sounds better than 2D - I want to use the example of Eliud, the Kenyan runner who's just this amazing marathoner. And you know what he just did when he broke the marathon record running with the special Nike shoes just recently.
John Fischetti: But a year before in London, he wore 3D printed shoe when he won the London Marathon. Now, the sole came out of a Nike factory, but all the upper part, the shoes fitting, its lacing, the part that makes it your shoe was printed for him.
John Fischetti: So, imagine in the future we don't go to a shoe store, we don't go online and order shoes. We go to the 3D printer shop because most of the people with a 3D printer will have the right materials to make the equivalent of this. And they have a mold of your foot already there, assuming you're an adult and you finish growing. If not, we'll have to keep changing it for our kids.
John Fischetti: Like, I wear a size 12, Peter, but I'm probably 12.2. Other people, if you do a European number or other numbers, I might be a 41 or a 37 or a six-and-a-half, but you're probably not that number. You're squeezing yourself into a shoe that's a little too big, a little too wobbly.
John Fischetti: And if I had all of our participants today in the room because we did a traditional conference and I said, "All right. Peter's going to hate me, but I'm going to have you line up by your feet." First of all, that's weird, and we're not going to ask anybody to do it. We don't have to in this space.
John Fischetti: But you wouldn't be upset with me if I said that your foot is different than mine. My big toe is longer than the second toe, but some people's second toe is longer than their big toe. Some people's little pinky or piggy toe sticks out, some stick in. Some people have higher arches, some people coronate. There's a lot going on with our feet, right? So, wouldn't it be great to have a shoe that actually fit you? Not the one that's close to you?
John Fischetti: And my metaphor for this is trying to get education right for every child. So, what if we actually 3D printed the education that was right for every child? We put a syllabus out there that everybody takes in the same order and the same way. And there can't be really any questions. You're just going through the motions at school.
John Fischetti: So, what Eliud did was, he revolutionized the fact that you could get a shoe that was fitting for you. And I think if we can do it in the shoe industry, we could do it in the educational industry. And this would be about the goal of learning the design of schools built around the need of the learner rather than the needs of the syllabus. That's a whole different way to think about things. This is going to have to be led by a different kind of group of teachers who are willing to think that the design that we have for schools might be a little backwards.
Interviewer: Another example would be the streaming services like Netflix, just tripled its profits over this COVID time. But back in my day -
Peter Dalmaris: As did Zoom.
John Fischetti: Yeah. Back in my day, if we wanted to watch television and the favorite show we wanted to watch - I'm not sure if this was an episode out of the '60s of a show - would come on Tuesday at 7:30. That was your only chance to watch it. So, you got behind the one television that was available. You all had to squeeze in. And if you're running late, you just missed it. Sometimes there were reruns later in the year, but there was only one opportunity.
John Fischetti: Now, you can watch any show you want when you want it, on any device you want, wherever you want it. And if you stop, it remembers where you were and you come back right to that same place again. What's amazing about this process is that, if we took this mindset to the development of the syllabus, we would give kids the education that was right for them when they were ready for it, not when we just prescribe it.
John Fischetti: On Tuesday at 10:00 we'll have English, and at 11:00 we'll have science, and at 12:00 we'll have recess, and then you get lunch. We would give it to the way that works for them. And most of us have shifted our television viewing in the world, but our schools still look like this metaphor out of the 1960s.
Peter Dalmaris: John, I also wanted to mention here - I think it's important - the quality that we get today, let's say on Netflix, since that's the example you used, is mind boggling if you think about the high definition, that five channels surround sound. So, it's not just that it's totally adapted to when you want to do something and what is it you want to do, but what you get in terms of quality is unprecedented in terms of how good it is. So, it can take that into the education space as well.
John Fischetti: Good point. It also knows what you like and deals with your passion. It doesn't mean that's the only thing offered, but it also tracks your interest. And mostly in education, it doesn't matter. You're going to do the assessment the way it was prescribed to you, not the way it would work for you. Just even building in that choice. It's a really good example.
John Fischetti: Part of the philosophy of this, and this is a whole presentation unto itself, and there's different ones in different cultures, and some people might be offended by picking just one. I'll just pick one because of time. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, helped form the rationale for government funded schooling all around the world. People may not realize his influence if they're not from the U.S., but an educated citizenry is vital requisite for all our survival as a free people.
John Fischetti: What's on the line to me, is protecting ourselves from tyranny, despotism, anarchy. All are evils of bad education. Because miseducated people can go fall victim now much more susceptible to their Facebook feed, maybe a whole election in the U.S. was manipulated by bad information on Facebook. So, if we don't have an educated citizenry, we could be giving up the wonderful things that we stand on the shoulders of our ancestors for, which is the chance to have self-determination to choose our lives.
John Fischetti: The privilege it is to be with you today could be taken away because we won't be smart enough to say we don't believe that. And you see all around the world people who are yearning to have the chance to have a free and open education. So, this is how melodramatic a STEM mindset is to me, is the opportunity to think that we could protect freedom without needing to fire bullets. We're doing it through firing synapses.
Peter Dalmaris: I was just going to talk about this, and I'd like to comment, that in many parts of the world - I'm not saying that because you are American - having guns is what people think that keeps them free. But it's not true, right? It's your education that is your guarantee to freedom, especially if you want to live in a free society.
John Fischetti: And for your children, and there's at least a two or three generation bump. So, somebody finishing school successfully this year, their children and grandchildren will be better off. There's like a 100 year benefit to well-educated people. And in doing so, that's not only just about their opportunity to choose things cleverly on Netflix, they'll have a higher paying job, they'll be healthier and won't tax the health care system. Their children will be less traumatized by the evils of poverty, or some things that happen sometimes in families that have undereducated stresses on them.
John Fischetti: Actually, we're all better off the higher level of education everyone has. So, absolutely, everything is on the line with education. It's the key to unlocking the end of poverty. It promotes gender equity. It's about freedom and opportunity for the future for, not only ourselves, but at least two generations.
John Fischetti: I think this requires not flipping the classroom, which I hope none of the presenters at the conference will take offense. But flipping the classroom has been the last 20 years is vogue thing. Let's park things in the Cloud, and then when we come to school, we'll do applications. I love that. It's cool. But in my day that was just called homework. The English teacher assigned a reading and we just did that, and we came to school to discuss it.
John Fischetti: Flipping the school means every teacher, not just the STEM teachers who were doing inquiry and inventive problem based approaches, everybody is on the page of flipping up this model of schooling that we're trying to get it right for every child. Instead of the students revolving around the teacher, the school revolves around the learner.
John Fischetti: Now, I have a very funny definition of learning, and that's an equation which will resonate with some of our participants, knowing plus doing plus using when it matters. And a lot of what we do in schools is at the knowing level, some of it's at the doing. But actually it's about simulating and attempting to determine if, later on after school, any of this matters and you could use it then.
John Fischetti: Like, you're a polite person, Peter, I've heard you say thank you. Well, who taught you that? Because you not only know that and you've shown it, I saw you use it when it matters, like when we signed off the other day when we were talking about this presentation. That's a pretty kindergarten level of thing. There's more sophisticated things about knowing.
John Fischetti: But as we drive toward the last portion of this session, I really want to focus on how we can take more of the curriculum from the knowing level to the using when it matters. One of the things that I think will be sort of shocking, although maybe in these COVID times it's less, is that it takes 7 to 21 times of practicing something to end up being able to use it when it matters.
John Fischetti: Probably your own mobile phone number was one of those things you may not still remember because you don't call yourself. But it took me a long time to learn it because I actually don't dial it in. Like in the old days, we would have had to read it out. And now, I just let you enter it in, and then I just put it in a contact.
John Fischetti: But important thing is, most teachers introduce it using a didactic approach. They talk, students listen. Then, they ask students to do an activity or a reading or a lab or a simulation, maybe. Then, they have a discussion or something, and then there's usually an assessment. Because we don't have a lot of time to cover, we just basically cover things about four times. Maybe there's a review - okay - five. Maybe you do a retest if everybody failed, that's six.
John Fischetti: To learn something, we have to teach it over and over not the same boring way. But to do this, it's going to take to go deeper instead of wider, which is really the premise of this whole thing. We're going to have to practice.
John Fischetti: And in the interconnected world we're in, this is what I wanted to share. So, only five percent of all of us actually retain information from a lecture - That means everybody's already forgotten what I did 20 minutes ago - 20 percent from an audio visual, 50 percent from a group discussion, 75 percent when they practice, and 90 percent when they get to teach someone else. So, the pedagogical change we need of this different kind of teacher is, everything needs to turn into an activity where John teaches Peter, Peter teaches John and or someone else.
John Fischetti: It's not a difficult twist. It's an easy twist to have. Some people call it an AB pair or a pair share. But if we're studying something, if I ask you to explain it to the person next to you, then write it down, then explain it to another person, you get to 90 percent retention. If I just have you listen to me, you're going to forget it within two weeks.
John Fischetti: So, the problem we have in most schooling today is we actually won't recognize that our students have already forgotten everything they learned this year. Unless we went deeper 7 to 21 times and we got them to teach it to each other, or to an audience, or in problem or project-based learning, to a panel of experts, or they're presenting it for review, you start to beef up this stuff to real relevant.
John Fischetti: This is just another graphic way to show just within two weeks, you're down to basically nothing is going to be left in your memory banks. The trouble with our human experience is we don't remember what we forgot, you know, because we forget what we don't remember. It's like, "Oh."
John Fischetti: So, if I use an example, most people will remember their first kiss. They can tell me probably who they were with, I hope so. But they may not be able to tell me what they were wearing or what they had for lunch that day. But because of that moment, they were teaching each other how to kiss. They didn't really realize that wasn't part of the moment. So, that moment stuck in your memory forever. But almost everything else around that day, unless there was some other exciting multisensory moment is forgotten. And yet we remember that and think we remember everything.
John Fischetti: That's why eyewitnesses are actually terrible accounts in traffic accidents or other things. People just don't remember stuff. And the extra part of this - yeah. Go ahead.
Peter Dalmaris: Sorry to interrupt, John. To my mind, as you're talking about this, it's like you're bringing up the learning to mastery, the importance of learning to mastery, not just learning to pass an exam. And what is mastery, really, is to be able to both do, of course, when something is appropriate, use your knowledge when the time is right, and teach someone else. And it takes a lot of time to get to mastery. It doesn't happen after one or two lessons.
John Fischetti: Right. So, we're going to have to try to teach less and teach what we do very deeply. And most syllabi in the world allow that. Many teachers who are novices are afraid not to cover what's expected, but actually it's mostly big concepts. And there's lots of choice in how we do it. And as long as kids are engaged and we're willing to have multiple pedagogies to teach it, we can cut out all the stuff and just really focus on what's important. Some countries have done that really well. Others are still assuming we're just trying to prepare people for tests that we probably are going to just sort kids out with and they won't remember from.
John Fischetti: The confounding parts of the world today is the average young person over 12 years old, at least in Australia, is online nine hours a day now. That nine hours a day has probably increased in the online schooling mode that many are still in and will be for a while. Three hours of that is in social media.
Peter Dalmaris: Where do they find the time?
John Fischetti: This is the graph from 2018. So, it's even gone up. So, 82 percent of those over 12, 94 percent of 12 to 24 year olds are on social networking three hours a day or more, 91 percent of 25 year olds, and 61 percent of 55 year olds.
John Fischetti: Now, being in that group, I just want to tell you that it's more than that, we just can't remember our passwords, I'm just saying. That would be 94 percent. We're not slower than those 12 year olds in getting. We have all the tools, we just can't remember, "Did we put an exclamation mark after that? Or I just can't read the thing. Help me, please."
John Fischetti: So, this is a confounding aspect of the world in which young people are now just in the last 5 years to 10 years because these devices are very new to the market. And it's changing the nature of the time we're spending. So, young people are on their devices and online more than they sleep and more than they're in school.
John Fischetti: And this generation then, also, we used to read to watch. We used to actually have things called books in places called libraries, and we would go check them out, and we would read them, and sometimes we watched a film related to them. This generation watches to read. And we haven't adjusted our pedagogy around watching to read.
John Fischetti: I'll give an example or two. These are pictures from the dash of my car. And, Peter, I don't actually know what they do. Now, I didn't drive to this presentation because I'm working from home for the next two days, at least. And I haven't wrecked anybody. I have a perfect driving record, you don't have to worry. But I think some of these are just the power of the engine and de-escalate its fuel consumption. And this one over here, I'm not sure what it does.
John Fischetti: So, my first car was a 1968 Mustang. And I must tell you, for anybody who would like a hot car, that was a hot car. I don't know why I ever got rid of it. It was awesome. When I first got it, I read the owner's manual backwards and forwards. I changed hoses. I changed any kind of the belts. I changed the oil. I knew that car.
Peter Dalmaris: You could fix your car back then.
John Fischetti: I could fix my car. And I knew what was wrong with it, and I always had extra stuff I could repair.
Peter Dalmaris: That's your next car, right?
John Fischetti: Imagine the next time we're allowed to fly anywhere, assuming that sooner than later, with Paul, the copilot, "What are these buttons for?" I think a pilot, she knows all of what these buttons are for and I don't know about three of them in my car. So, I read the manual in my car when I put this presentation together. And I didn't really read it, I just found a page to take a picture of because I don't have time to read it. So, I realized I'm accusing this generation of watching to read and I've changed it.
John Fischetti: If you and I were going to put a desk together from IKEA or some other place, I'm going to the YouTube video. I don't have time to read the instructions, or we'll just figure it out. And I think we haven't changed our pedagogies because we're assuming kids in school read and we'll let them watch. Actually, if we look at how the internet is used, we're streaming and we're watching, and we're reading after that. So, we're going to have to adjust to that. It doesn't mean we don't need to read. It just means we need to adjust to the fact we probably have to watch something first.
John Fischetti: So, in this big finish coming ahead here - we don't have any drum rolls and it's okay - what I wanted to propose and answer your question is, so what does that look like when it's different? How do we get to that more engagement? How do we think about it?
John Fischetti: And I'm going to go old school here. And this is a graphic from the work of Benjamin Bloom and his team out of the 1950s. It started on 1954. It might have been published in 1956. So, that's as old school as you can get. What Bloom did was create a taxonomy, and a taxonomy is really a hierarchy which goes from level to level. Now, it's not like it's an absolute thing or anything else.
John Fischetti: But if you look at knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis evaluation, at the knowledge level, most of our current teacher assessments park there. It's about defining and describing. It's about listing and recalling. It's about repeating. It's easy to mark. There's right and wrong answers. We can move on.
John Fischetti: When you get to comprehension, you classify. And you'll see in a lot of STEM classes, they do the classified, they generalize, they indicate, they locate. So, on a picture of a cell diagram of cell locate, you know, the membrane, "Oh, there it is," and you're right, check, you got it. So, it's a little more than knowledge.
John Fischetti: When we start to get up to synthesis and evaluation, we're constructing, and creating, and designing, and developing, and devising, and explaining, and formulating in general. "Oh, now you're asking me to do something that's interesting where I might have some choice." Where it's going to be maybe there's more than one right answer. But doesn't the work and analysis and synthesis and evaluation sound like a STEM mindset?
John Fischetti: We do need to have some basics to go with it, but the actual assessment should be our application. And synthesis and then, ultimately, how we can support what we've done. So, any experiment using the scientific method, the most important thing is what did you learn from it and do it again. Because, you know, nothing ever turns out properly the first time. And even if it does, we'll probably end up with more questions than answers.
John Fischetti: So, formative assessment, to me, is the key that teachers need to change to move up one layer in the Bloom's taxonomy.
John Fischetti: I want to give one final example, it's not in a STEM area, but it's one I could guarantee most everybody in the world will understand. And if you don't mind playing along with me, I'm not going to try to catch you, Peter, but I don't have audience online with me right now. So, if we were in an English class and this is the first time we've heard of the term protagonist, I might ask to make sure that was true. Peter, does the word protagonist ring any bells to you what it might be?
Peter Dalmaris: I do know the word, yes.
John Fischetti: So, what's your definition of protagonist? Again, I'm putting you on the spot. You can edit this out if it's really clunky.
Peter Dalmaris: Sure. Sure. So, in the context of theater, for example, the protagonist is the actor or the character with the most air time, is the central figure.
John Fischetti: Right. And whether that's a novel or whether it's for theater or whether it is in television or cinema, the protagonist is who the arc of the story revolves around. And so, as you just said, it's typically your most air time. You never know in the way in which television is done today, it might be the jigsaw of time. In some of more simplistic literature, it's the good guy. It's the person we're rooting for or we'll care about and want to know what happens to.
John Fischetti: So, in Romeo and Juliet, who are the protagonists?
Peter Dalmaris: I believe that both of them would be protagonists. They were a pair.
John Fischetti: Right. In Julius Caesar, who's the antagonist?
Peter Dalmaris: Is it Brutus, if I know my history right?
John Fischetti: Yeah. Yeah. So, I didn't even rehearse this with you. I didn't even teach you that and you knew it. So, now, rather than just do a quiz at the lowest level define protagonists, which you already knew, by the way, so you're one of those students who's bored already because I'm teaching you something you knew. You're at that 30 or 40 percent that are bored.
John Fischetti: We'll review the definition, the principal character in literary work, the leading actor or the principal character in a television show or book, you got it right. But is that good enough to say you're ready to move on if we really care about this? I'm not proposing this is the key concept you should take away from this presentation of this concept. I'm just trying to do one in this example I'm about to give.
John Fischetti: So, in Titanic, most everyone that lives in a world that has had access to cinema, including young people today, know that that's Rose and that's Jack, and they're aboard a ship that's about to sink. I'm not giving anything away. The Titanic sinks, folks. I'm sorry. I just gave you the whole end note. So, is it Rose, or Jack, or the Titanic that's the protagonist?
Peter Dalmaris: In the way I see it, both of these two characters were the protagonists of the film.
John Fischetti: Right. And if we were thinking in James Cameron terms, do you remember how the movie starts? And I know we haven't talked about this, no worries. I can fill you in.
Peter Dalmaris: That's a hard question. No, I don't remember the beginning.
John Fischetti: It starts with Rose on her deathbed and with her eyes open.
Peter Dalmaris: Oh, yes. That's right.
John Fischetti: She's all wrinkly. And she ends up on the ship going out to look for the Titanic with James Cameron and the team. And then, it finishes with her death. So, in this story, you could argue it's Jack. You could make the case. You could argue it's Rose. I think you could make a case, it's the ship. Hey, it's called Titanic. Romeo and Juliet is called Romeo and Juliet. King Lear, it's called Lear. I don't mind whatever. You have to defend that position.
John Fischetti: Now, I'm not talking about protagonists much. I'm talking about now. Use your imagination and tell me. And I think the producer/director of the film wanted us to believe it was Rose. And when we get to the end, I'm not happy because - I don't know if you remember - when they get out into the water, Rose ends up on a door that fell off the Titanic or when it floated out from the deck when it fell into the ocean. Rose is hanging on it, Jack is hanging on by his thumbnails, and Rose has to let him go. There's a big Celine Dion song, let him go, let him go, and he gets to go.
John Fischetti: But he could have fit on that door. There's been physicists who have organized, architecture majors who have figured out. So, actually, she could have said, "Come around here, dude. I want to save you." But regarding that, I'm not sure the ending is satisfactory to show me who the protagonist is. And ultimately, I think the film fails because we don't know. And, therefore, great literature, it's usually very clear who the protagonist is.
John Fischetti: I would like you to rewrite the last scene of Titanic or storyboard it for me where you make the case for it being Jack and Rose, if you want to make that case, Jack, or Rose, or the ship. I don't mind. It's literature. We don't have to have a right answer.
John Fischetti: But I think, ultimately, if we did that assignment, which is semi-interesting, we could use another piece of literature that might be more choice. You would never have to know what a protagonist or an antagonist is. Again, you would know it by heart. You would have explain it to the rest of us. You would have performed it, or exhibited, or written it.
John Fischetti: And we would never have to worry that you understood that classic literature, the best literature on Netflix now, which is turned into cinema or television, has a clear set of people who are the people you're really curious what happens to them. And if it doesn't, you probably haven't watched the second episode of that series. It's interesting, if we did that, you would never forget protagonist.
John Fischetti: So, I've just raised the bar, and we could argue that I did that very well given the confines of our situation. But I asked you to do more than just define protagonist if we went through this. I'm going to get you to synthesis and evaluation because you're going to give me an ending, and we're going to all learn from each other presenting those. But in doing so, I've just taken way too much time. I've gone deeper.
John Fischetti: And that's the real trick in building these mindsets, is, figuring out what to give up, not just what to leave in. I think the hardest part for our participants to do is, say, "Peter, what do I leave out because we've been so used to teaching through?" So, what I love to ask is each participant to define one next step that they can take that'll allow their pedagogical transformation to move forward. Deciding what to leave out, and then how to go deeper using some of the thinking we've done today.
John Fischetti: So, when Copernicus posited and Galileo confirmed that the sun was the center of the Solar System and the Earth revolved around that, many people at the time called that heresy.
John Fischetti: The notion that the syllabus could be accomplished by adjusting to the passions and needs of learners is possibly heresy today. It doesn't sound like school at all. To some, the idea that passion and student well-being helped drive intellectual curiosity that lead to building cognitive capacity, seems impossible at worst or, to some, probably unrealistic at best.
John Fischetti: But I'll give an example to finish. This is a text I got last year from my mobile phone that I was out of cat litter. So, somehow, the pet barn where I go shop for cat litter somehow knew through the app of our pet store and my Gmail, and sent a text to me. And you know what? It was right. I needed cat litter.
John Fischetti: So, our tools now are so sophisticated that I know I need cat litter, and not when I know, but when my phone tells me. The world we're in is really different. The smart tools are getting smarter. Our young people are yearning for a different kind of school. And the real issue is, are we up for a different kind of teacher for that different kind of school?
Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. Wow. So, I think the answer is yes, let's make it happen now. We've got to change things because of the way that we've been doing things in the last 200 years is not going to cut it into the future.
Peter Dalmaris: So, I was trying to frame some of the last things that you said and the last few slides to maybe ground what the future in education is going to be like based on what we understand about education today.
John Fischetti: The Bloom's taxonomy with the evaluation up at the top seems that it's a type of skill that you would get if you went to do a PhD in a good university where you need to do a lot of evaluation because that's where you create new things. Now, below that, you've got synthesis. That's where you expect an arts school to teach a lot, actually, to challenge students to do a lot of synthesis because you otherwise don't have art.
Peter Dalmaris: Schools seem to be at the application level at the most. And maybe some good undergraduate university degrees at the analysis. So, what you're saying is we need to bring all of that down to K to 12, essentially, even kindergarten, the evaluation should be part of a normal school curriculum or process.
John Fischetti: Yeah. A lot of schools have been doing this in their own way with a project or problem or product-based learning approach. They might have been doing it with a maker space. They might move to an invention mindset. So, instead of a science fair, they have an inventors fair. A lot of them are doing science Olympiad and challenging students. Those used to be only for elite students in the past. What if they were for everyone?
John Fischetti: In kindergarten, I may have mentioned working with my daughter who teaches kindergarten. In her first few weeks of school, if we really want to drive a STEM mindset, we have to teach the notion of a hypothesis, the first step in the scientific method. So, does a banana float? And five and six year olds really love to figure that out, and they're all guessing yes or no.
John Fischetti: Well, we don't have to guess. We could actually get a mini aquarium, we can fill it with some water, and have a banana and try it out. And then, we can write our guess down before and after. And then, we could try it with two bananas, and there's a bunch of bananas, and then we could try it with your Star Wars figure if you want.
John Fischetti: But the process of inquiry starts when children still have it and we haven't taken it from them. And you might remember Ken Robinson did a video now about 20 years ago, which sort of mapped out that all of us are born 98 percent genius and creativity. And by the time we're year five, it's down to two percent because schools take it away from us.
John Fischetti: And in this case, all five year olds are curious. "Yes, it does. No, it doesn't. Oh, I don't know." And, you know, as long as it's not peanuts and someone's allergic to them, we can have kids try these things out. Imagine if year nine teachers today who were dealing with the scientific method in their biology class say, "Kids don't know anything about it." I guarantee you if kids are doing that stuff in kindergarten, they'll never forget hypothesis.
John Fischetti: Plus, if you ever heard a five year old try to say hypothesis when they've lost their two front teeth, it's really just fun to hear. It's really a fun word.
John Fischetti: So, imagine we don't have to wait to start this, and we don't have to assume it's PhD level to take a really good guess. And then, we're just that guess. And then, the next time, say, "Wait a second. When we did the banana one, we were wrong. So, I wonder if we are going to be wrong now." That's the mindset. If we can build that in, it could change everything. And it's also okay if there's not one answer, because it'll be possibly under certain conditions. The answer is yes and no, which is really kind of cool.
Peter Dalmaris: Wow. Okay. John, just two more questions for me. So, the first one, you said, maker space. And, of course, maker spaces around the world are all the rage in education. So, schools want to have a maker space because that is progressive. That is the cool thing to do.
Peter Dalmaris: It seems to me that schools are creating maker spaces so that the students can be exposed to things like programing, and motors, and machines, and Internet of Things, and things like that. But, again, if we use the taxonomy here, should we really reframe maker spaces and say that a maker space is a place where you learn synthesis and evaluation? There's higher components in Bloom's taxonomy rather than the bottom part, which is knowledge how to program a computer or how to stick wires together.
John Fischetti: I think that's a great example of why we need both, but we don't have to go linearly through it. If we start with a higher level problem we're trying to solve and a task we're trying to get to be able to finish at the end, it shows us why we got to go back and read the manual.
John Fischetti: So, in my lack of thoroughness and reading, now I'm going to have to go read some things, because before I connect those wires or before I put this material into 3D printer, I might actually realize, is it the right stuff? We're going to have to make sure it's right because we want to cause no harm.
John Fischetti: And some of what we'll have to do is put kids in situations just like riding a bike, where we don't usually give a two year short course in riding a bike. We usually, as parents, get on the tricycle, we take the wheels off eventually, and eventually we're holding on and let them go. And there's a lot of falling off. But we don't want that falling off to cause an explosion or cause a mutation of the genetic code.
John Fischetti: So, I think it's just important that we aim high, but then we say, "Well, before we do this, we need to do a simulation." I think that's where a lot of the app and technology-based stuff allows us to try it out. "Before we go live with this, let's run this through the simulation and see what the odds are that we're going to do no harm." Because I think along with this, we have to do ethics.
John Fischetti: But your example is a really good one. It doesn't leave out the basic literacy knowledge, the basic numeracy knowledge. But we might need to get there without discouraging innovation. And I think that's where all the famous people in the world that invented stuff didn't see an obstacle before they started trying to solve a problem. And then, they ran into the obstacle and they went back and did their homework.
John Fischetti: So, it might flip the problem solving approach as long as we don't set kids up to just, you know, create mischief. I think because they might not have mapped things in a maker space to something like Bloom, it has been just sort of a free space to do your own thing, or it's been so prescribed by teachers what you're doing there, it just isn't really creative. It's just more of a place like a new library where there's resources you don't have at home.
John Fischetti: So, the maker space needs to be scaffolded to something like a Bloom. There are variations in Bloom, and as you go online and people have studied, there's probably some of the new Bloom and revised Bloom. I recommend people avoid that and go back to the original, because the mothership of this is pretty interesting. Bloom and the thinkers then were way ahead of their time because they anticipated that schools might get dumbed down.
John Fischetti: And that's my big worry. In this innovation age, we can let the machines be smart and we'll be dumb. And that doesn't make sense. We need to be smarter than the machines we're building so we can have choices that are good ones which is how we use them.
Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. Well, I guess Bloom's taxonomy in whichever format it comes, whether it's a modern variation or the original or other models of education, I see now how useful they can be because they can help you make sense of the tools that you have in order to get the result that you want. So, without Bloom's taxonomy or whichever model you're using, maker space is a place where you go and you put components together and write a program.
Peter Dalmaris: But now with a model like this, it's a place where you do synthesis and evaluation. And the laser below it are those bits that you need in order to build your own framework. You go down to the knowledge level to get the exact thing that you need in order to build the gadget that you're building, not the other way around. You don't start with how to do a loop in programing and eventually get to building our Internet of Things gadget.
John Fischetti: I was looking at an episode of Outlander the other day, the television series that's been on a while that goes back and forth in time, and it's moving forward in its own series evolution. And they were using a sundial in the time period that they were in at the time. And I was thinking of, you know, did they need a maker space for the sundial? How do we determine what time it is before I have a watch or my phone tells me what time it is?
John Fischetti: And the concept of developing a way to track the sun's movement and know how to adjust that in different times of the year because of the angle of the sun is a pretty extraordinary geometry problem, and an astronomy problem, and just a human existence problem. Because the ability to use time to help solve problems is one of the most interesting things that's ever happened in the human existence.
John Fischetti: You and I operated on time today. We know when we were coming on and whether we're over now or not and all of that aspect of time. But how did the original sundial was really clever people not worrying that science only happened from 10:00 to 11:00 that day, and so we have to stop it at 11:00 and go to English class.
John Fischetti: So, I think we need to really think cleverly about the notion of what invention is, what we're really trying to get kids to be thinking about what school is for, and what the basics are. Because the basics do ground us, as you just said. The basic literacy and numeracy at the lower level isn't ignored. But we're assessing the higher level things because we can learn the other things by osmosis in the way in which young people do.
John Fischetti: And that's what's really exciting about the educational environment, where today there's pop-up versions of this and models of this all around the world, but they're running on the outside of most traditional school systems, whether that lone teacher down the corridor doing it and hoping no one else notices.
John Fischetti: So, unless we flip the whole school and the whole system around this notion, they'll still be these outliers and they won't be the norm. I believe then we're producing obsolete citizens for the future. And in doing so, risking the democracy that our forefathers have done such a great job of giving us. And risking human capacity because it's about human curiosity that makes life worthwhile.
John Fischetti: The things that make us human are the parts that do separate us out from any other species, not just the ability to love and to create wonderful music and to share experiences together. But that pursuit of knowledge, that inquiry, that wonderful idea generator that can happen in any discipline has to be not taken away from every child. And the savants out there have it so early that we just have a trouble getting out of their way. The rest of us need a teacher to help us guide there.
John Fischetti: You know, the Mozart to the world couldn't help themselves. They were that brilliant. But for most of us, we need a teacher to unlock that because it didn't come as naturally at four years old as it might have, or golf did to Tiger Woods at five.
Peter Dalmaris: Yeah. That's right. Just a last question here, John. So, you touched on the deeper versus wider idea earlier how teachers today are overwhelmed because it's just so much to teach, so they go the wide approach. And, therefore, you only have one lesson to do this, one lesson to do that, one lesson to do that. There's no hope that a student would ever learn anything to mastery, so it seems like a huge waste.
John Fischetti: What you are recommending is that people throw everything that is not really important out and focus on what is important, but getting into a deep level of understanding, learning to mastery. Could you comment on that? Maybe from a practical perspective, for the teachers that are listening to this, how can you achieve deeper versus wider?
John Fischetti: So, I think in the STEM areas, if we weren't worried about covering topics, but we really thought about in chemistry, in geometry, in intro engineering, what are those three or four concepts in this term that are the big ones that we'd never want people to forget?
John Fischetti: Let the rest park it for a while and then figure out how pedagogically we're going to make sure we reach and teach every student in those. They theoretically build on one another in some subjects, so you really can't get into the advanced physical abstract concepts until you've done some of the basic stuff. So, I'm not naive enough to think it's just all a mishmash.
John Fischetti: But in that, you can still do beginnings on really applying those physical concepts to a real life problem. You can recreate problems that other people have solved in the past. You're going to have to put people in real life mode.
John Fischetti: Just like the flight simulator is for a pilot today. Assuming we're flying back around the world at some point, the flight simulators will be back in business. The pilot takes off and lands at the airport hundreds of times before they ever have you on the plane. And yet in school, we give one thing a go and we move on. The problems are how do you land that plane in San Francisco in fog?
John Fischetti: And so, we move that to the problem that is in your curriculum, and come at it from a 360 degree angle, and let kid's strengths honor that. Because at the end of that, it's that one concept. If they can retain that and then they go on to the next level, they're going to be fine. Not be worried about all the little bits and pieces. But it takes a confident teacher to be able to figure out what not to do.
John Fischetti: This depth and breadth in an English curriculum, which may have a few participants in anyway, or language curriculum, it's reading, writing, listening, speaking, collaborating. Well, those are already set up to be very broad. Anything you're reading is reading. Now, if it's supposed to be from a particular genre, does it really matter what it is? If we're in ancient history, does it matter what you're reading if it's ancient history?
John Fischetti: So, if it's writing, we need to get better at writing that formulaic assessed writing to really be able to be critical in writers, because writing is a key in all the STEM areas to be a brilliant writer. And not all in a 2,000 word essay. Write a one page summary that your boss can read and understand. Read this journal article and summarize and conclusions for your boss. There's ways to turn things into an audience that can make it much more interesting.
John Fischetti: Going deeper also allows us to relax that the assessment has to be unilateral, so that if somebody turns it in in blue, it's okay, or in orange, it's okay. That there's not a one size fits all assessment. And teachers can relax then that they're chunking the learning, not having to take as much home on a daily basis.
John Fischetti: The key is our professional learning of teachers that gets them the content knowledge, particularly in the STEM areas they may not have because it's been a while or they didn't go as deep themselves. So, the reason many teachers teach the text as it's there is that they themselves are challenged to know the discipline at a deep level. So, we're going to have to get teachers back to school to learn the disciplines deeply to be able to teach them.
John Fischetti: And that, I would say, redirect the funds that currently go into the big assessment schemes toward teacher professional learning, particularly in STEM. And we wouldn't have to need any more money and we'd get better results because we have kids better educated.
Peter Dalmaris: That's another new topic. Maybe we can have another chat about that. I mean, teacher training. So, last question, really this time, still on the topic of going deeper, do you think that going deeper also can solve at least partially the engagement problem? Because I feel that when I'm just looking at the cover of a book, you really need to get into it to be interested in it.
John Fischetti: It's the key to it all. That's where we really started with that survey of the teachers about their students engagement and even thinking about Greta, where engagement happens is from passion. And the way you get passion is through the process of being engaged and interested in what you're doing. You have to have some choice, but you also have the time to get into it your way. And so, if it's just the teacher's way, you're going to get 50, 60 percent of the students along. You're not going to get everybody. So, the advantage of going deeper is it allows students to find their passion.
John Fischetti: For example, a lot of students hate history. They hate it. Until they finish school and then they love it. Because history is typically taught as white men and wars in Western history, and that's not interesting. But what games were they playing during the 17th century when we're studying the history? What was the food that people ate? What clothes did they wear? What communication tools did they use? All of a sudden kids get interested in that because they're interested in clothes or cooking, or they're interested in games.
John Fischetti: What was the sports? Did you know soccer was invented then? Or was it invented in ancient China 10,000 years before? Now, you've got me interested. So, we're taking a bigger look at it as opposed to just studying the white men and wars or the leaders who mostly were men and the wars that they fought with each other. And can you remember that bottle or something? I want to know what was happening to the families at the time. And what were the diseases? When were the first pandemics? What happened to the plague?
Peter Dalmaris: You get deep, right?
John Fischetti: So, you may take one angle, I may take another. And by that way, you're teaching me, I'm teaching you. Which, remember, means 90 percent memory two weeks later. And because we're getting deep into that period because we think it's important. But it means we might not get through every war and every battle and every description. The same in the STEM areas where we just might have to pick one of the three or four big concepts that have to be mastered to go to the next level. And which kids excited about it, not discouraged.
John Fischetti: And successful because if they have those skillsets of inquiry, they're passionate, they really have done a project which allows them to own it. They're going to be ready to go to the next level, not just with a marker or a tick box on the transcript that says they took that course.
Peter Dalmaris: As an engineer, I can say that everything that I've learned becomes, like, 100 times more interesting once I get into a depth, the beauty, of whatever I'm learning, like how transistors work. From the front end, it looks like quite boring to switch on and off. But when you go into the level and you see the form, then the beauty comes out of the semiconductor and that's what hooks me in.
John Fischetti: And I'm sure that is the same thing no matter what you learn, everything looks better, looks more beautiful, once you get into the deeper end of whatever you're learning.
John Fischetti: Yeah. Absolutely. Peter, thanks for having me today.
Peter Dalmaris: It was a pleasure. Thank you very much for making the time, for your excellent presentation as well. And you just threw so much knowledge out there and value. So, I'm sure that our listeners will have a lot of questions that we'll bombard you with them later.
John Fischetti: Yeah. I look forward to it.
Peter Dalmaris: Have a good day, John. Talk to you soon.
John Fischetti: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Get life time access to all STEM EDUCATION Summit masterclasses
Watch each masterclass and learn how to deal with change in a world of increasing complexity and uncertainty, and how to use new education technologies and approaches so that your students can learn the right skills, with the right mindset.
The Tech Explorations STEM Education Summit is a one-of-a-kind event
where Educators from around the world come together
to share their best insights on the technologies, methodologies, and philosophies
they use to teach and inspire the next generation of amazing humans.
Jump to another article
1. Silke Bethke, John Nyagah And Catherine Squire Blatti: Supporting Families Of Young Children Through STEM Education
2. Dr Peter Ellerton: Critical Thinking In STEM
3. Celinda Corsini: Am I Teaching Robots Or Humans?
4. Prof John Fischetti: Co-Constructing The Learning Journey With Our Children
5. Dr Ken Dovey: Leadership In Education, A Collective Achievement
6. Seven Vinton: Strategies For Extending Student Logical Reasoning
7. Alain Pannetrat – Building A Wired IoT Platform For Makers
8. Karsten Schulz – Making A Computer Processor With The B4 Kit
9. John Teel – 15 Steps To Develop Your New Electronic Hardware Product
10. Jordan Christman – Getting Started With FPGAs
11. Nicola O’Brien: Remote learning now and in the future