Teach them how to fish…..


I’d like to introduce you to my father, Val.

My father is 76 years old, a child of World War 2, a retired railways engineer and a learner for who the adage of ‘study hard, go to university, get a degree, get a good job”  worked. My grandparents were printers, and worked hard to save every dollar so that my dad could get a good education and he rewarded them by receiving a number of scholarships for study and university. The system worked for him.

Dad is from a time of traditional classrooms and is  ‘old school’. When I showed him around our PYP school in China about 12 years ago,  he was amazed the desks weren’t arranged in rows, and couldn’t get his head around the ‘no text book’ thing.  But he’s also a citizen of the world and reads, and listens and has embraced technology and loves photography and travel. Dad is a learner.

Last week, Dad and my step-mother were visiting Studio 5. Neither are educators and both have had traditional experiences with education so I wasn’t really expecting them to understand our model of ‘disrupted education’, the visit was more about spending time with their grandson as he showed them his school and introduced them to his friends.

My 11 year old showed them around, explained the organisation stuctures, introduced them to his friends and showed them his photo shop & video projects he has been working on.  All the time I was watching from afar, taking note of the quizical looks on their faces but also watching as they engaged with their grandson and his learning.

Later that night at the dinner table, my Dad raised the subject of the Studio 5 model, asking questions, clarifying, unpacking his thoughts as  I patiently talked a non-educator through the thinking and the process of the future of education.

About dessert time, Dad then concluded, “it’s like the old adage about ‘teaching a man to fish’ – the kids have access to the content, are developing the skills but need time and opportunity to learn how to learn.”

My jaw dropped. He got it! My 76 year old, traditional, non-educator father got it!

Reflecting over the past couple of days,  I am not so sure why I was so surprised. As a learner Dad has been through 30 years of education but knows the real learning didn’t start until he joined the workforce. As a learner he has adapted to his environment, the technology available and the tools available. Over the past 35 years he has worked with a range of people, cultures, developed a range of languages and has had to adapt to challenges of working within government systems of Hong Kong, China, Thailand and India. So, he gets it.

Now my question is that, if after one afternoon of discussion, seeing self-directed learning in action and engaging with the learners, my 76 year old father gets it……then why is it that for those of us in education, those of us nodding along and agreeing with all the reading, tweets, research, TEDx talks, those of us with continued frustrations and talks  are taking so long to take action?  As Sam Sherrat (@sherrattsam ) says ” Don’t wait for change: be it!”  ( Sam’s L2 Europe presentation)