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What makes a ‘good’ lesson?

Despite being from 2012, there’s a twelve-minute documentary that I love to show to teams of teachers when we’re co-designing curriculum units that reflect the future of learning. Surprisingly for a video on innovation; it stands the test of time.

I must have watched this video dozens of times, and yet there’s always a different perspective that I take away each time. And, as it rolls in an auditorium full of educators, I can see nodding in agreement, and also obvious moments of dissonance. The conversation post-viewing is always provocative.

Featuring a score of education innovators like Dr. Sugata Mitra, visiting professor at MIT; Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy; and Dr. Catherine Lucey, Vice Dean of Education at UCSF, the documentary questions how we might redefine how we engage young minds for a creatively and technologically-advanced future.

What are the foundation skills that will define the future of education?

At one point, Sal Khan states that students “shouldn’t have to have a rap song about a parabola to get excited about it.” In fact, “if the content is truly fascinating, it should be reflected in the energy of the deliverer and it should be obvious to the student.”

The reality is, sometimes the energy of the classroom teacher is not reflective of how exciting (or not exciting) the content is, but is, in fact, a reflection of a teacher’s unfamiliarity with new content or pedagogy.

Charisma in the classroom is directly proportional to comfortableness, and comfortableness can’t be built if teachers aren’t given the time, space, and support to hone their professional practice without re-inventing the curriculum wheel at the beginning of each year.

In many ways, this is why I made the difficult decision to leave the classroom three years ago to launch Future Anything.

I knew I wanted the bridge the gap between the classroom and the real-world by offering opportunities for my students to engage with authentic voices that would stretch their understanding of who they are now and who they might be in the future.

I knew I wanted to offer opportunities for my student’s assessment to be more than a mark on a page; I wanted their assessment to be a doorway that might lead to opportunities in the real world.

And, as a Head of Department, I knew I wanted my teachers to have access to the professional learning, coaching, and support that they needed to implement curriculum (the ‘what’) and pedagogy (the ‘how’) that would be engaging and accessible to students of diverse learning needs and would embed the future capabilities required for young people to navigate a very different future of work to the one that I was schooled in.

I also knew, despite my best efforts, I probably didn’t have the bandwidth to do all of this at scale around marking, reporting, and teaching- especially, if I also wanted to sleep.

Over the past three years, Future Anything’s Activate program has grown from five schools and 300 students to 3000+ students from close to 50 schools around Australia.

But, Activate is more than just a piece of curriculum. We work alongside our school teaching teams to contextualise the program for their students. The reality is, no program can be ‘plug and play’- what works for one school definitely won’t work for another school.

And then, at the end of the program, we provide meaningful pathways for students to take their ideas out of the classroom; transforming our young people from job seekers into job creators through the creation of their very own micro-businesses. This is more important now than ever.

Each year, we work with our participating teachers to refresh our program so that it’s the best reflection of what our classroom teachers need to be their most charismatic selves in the classroom. This means creating new resources and templates and recording brand new video case studies of award-winning entrepreneurs. Each resource sequenced and aligned to the Australian Curriculum. Each curriculum stream an assessable, reportable unit of work delivered by classroom teachers within classrooms all around Australia. 

As much as I love being the fun and friendly facilitator that rolls into a school to deliver a one or two day program, it’s the capacity building of teaching teams to deliver innovative curriculum in their own classrooms that will transform the landscape of education.

So, we’re thrilled to open registrations for Activate for 2021.

You can check out more details on the program here, but with seven different curriculum streams on offer, we can work with you to build a whole school approach to innovative teaching and learning that’s contextual to your school values and needs.

If you’re keen to hear more about Activate from a teacher’s perspective, you can also listen to our Activation Podcast here. This episode features Chris Gauthier from Springfield Central SHS. Chris has taught the Activate program for the past three years, and his students have also won back-to-back National Grand Finals so he’s a true font of Activate knowledge. 

If you want to work alongside us to bend the future for young people in your classroom; one youth-led idea at a time, then we’d love to work with you.

Nic Dyson is CEO & Founder of Future Anything. This blog on classroom charisma was first published in Future Anything’s Bending the Future e-newsletter in October 2020.

Want to know more about how to build the entrepreneurial mindset of young people in your classrooms? Be sure to subscribe to Future Anything’s regular e-newsletter to have resources delivered right to your inbox. You can sign up here.

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