(also our Digital Learning Coordinator) graduated with his Mindlab by Unitec Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning). What's even cooler is that out of over 130 teachers who completed this 32 week innovative learning course, it was Gareth who was awarded the NEXT Expert Teacher Award for 2016. Way to go young man!
Another way teachers such as Gareth are such great learners is that they accept 1)they don't know everything, 2)they don't need to know everything, and 3) it's actually pretty cool when the students know everything or more than we teachers actually do. Increasingly the teachers with the greatest learning environments around are those who are prepared to stop asking the questions and let their students take increasing agency in their individualised learning contexts. The real power of a teacher lies not in their ability to transmit static information to students but in their ability to create and grow a learning space which empowers students as independent, critical thinkers who are prepared to ask questions of teachers and the curriculum content and its relevance to the now and future of school and beyond. Having observed Gareth interact in learning spaces with students on numerous times, the students clearly demonstrate how they are learning over being taught and even more importantly are understanding learning to learn, a critical life skill as much as an academic one!
Great teachers are also great learners in that they are persistently realistic but optimistic about the students of today and tomorrow and the need to ensure these same students are future-ready in terms of academic and citizenship skills. To ensure skill acquisition in both these critical areas, the great teachers realise that yes the curriculum content is important but even more important is the trust & confidence that students derive from how they are learning in school. For many students, school is now such a foreign environment compared to how they "learn" outside of school hours and how they interact with their peers every day. The great teachers such as Gareth realise that school needs to be akin to the students' outside life as much as possible. Schools must move to meet student needs and preferences and not the other way around. The great teachers focus on academic learning and ideally ultimately, the academic success of the students they serve but equally as importantly, work to develop the person beyond the learner. Increasingly society and more narrowly the knowledge workforce of today and tomorrow want students with skills, competencies and values. The really, really good teachers know this, target this and achieve this in their learning; not so much through explicit teaching but more likely through the subtleties of the learning-in-play and the learning space atmosphere co-created between teacher and students.
Lastly and more specifically linked to Gareth's qualification in terms of digital and collaborative learning, the great teachers are extraordinary learners and thus leaders at ensuring fit-for-purpose use of digital tools and apt use of independent, pair or group learning constructs. Many teachers see digital as the magic salvation for student learning but in doing so, undermine the considerable benefits this tool (just one of many) can provide in a learning space. Likewise, many teachers think "hey, how about some group-work?" without thinking through the fit-for-purpose relevance of the undertaking. In failing to do so, the teacher concerned often finds the group-work didn't work out as well as envisaged or that the students weren't exactly sure of the appropriate protocols or roles required in the collegial undertaking. In stark contrast however, the great teachers learn from their own perpetual learning and use digital only when it is the best option for the relevant context and only for however long required and where required. Similarly with group-work, one only learns through their own experiences just how much scaffolding and pre-activity instruction is required for effective group-work and accordingly, put significant time-resource into such coaching and preparation.
It would not surprise this teacher for many educators to scoff at the notion of a qualification for digital and/or collaborative learning and the need for a revised approach to teaching, sorry I mean learning. When students are engaged, learning for the now and beyond, for academic and personal learnings, the teacher's role changes and indeed has to in order to remain relevant. Those teachers who don't see the need for change or the need for a transfer of control within a learning context, I'm sorry to say are already left behind and increasingly a barrier not a support to our students. This is why we need to celebrate, really celebrate teachers like Mr Haddon, who don't teach us and students how to teach, more importantly they teach us all how to learn and the benefits of life-long learning (formal or otherwise). As a result we all end up better off, in and out of the classroom. For this alone, we must thank our great learners, our great teachers.
Well done Mr. Haddon, well done indeed!