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Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy and Change Knowledge

A review of Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy and Change Knowledge By Michael Fullan, Pearson Canada, 2012, ISBN 978-0-13-248314-8

In Stratosphere, Michael Fullan asserts that we can “get twice the learning for half the price” and sets out to tell us how. He does this in a thin book (78 pages) that touches on big ideas in a conversational way with some illustrative connections to research and a few anecdotal examples, but no specific details or operational guidance. Fullan calls his approach giving us the “skinny,” and the skinny is that “we need to make it all about learning (the pedagogy part), let technology permeate (the technology part) and engage the whole system (the change part).”

The imperative “to transform learning for learners and educators in the 21st century” arises from the belief that “we have reached the end of squeezing good out of an outdated school system . . . [which] is too costly, too ineffective and, as any kid will tell you, deadly boring.”

This transformation is to be accomplished through learning experiences that are “i) irresistibly engaging (for students and for teachers); ii) elegantly efficient and easy to use; iii) technologically ubiquitous 24/7; and iv) steeped in real-life problem solving.” It’s pretty hard to argue with that, of course, but it begs the question of how, which this book does not answer.

Although itself a bit breathless in places, the book does provide refreshing and much-needed common sense to harness the frequently frenzied enthusiasm for technology, and grounds exploration of its potential with a primary focus on how learning is enhanced and an understanding of how change can be accomplished. The merit of its skinny approach is that it keeps end goals in clear view and relationship, which is important when thinking about strategy and policy. The limitation is that it provides none of the details and practical assistance required to turn policy into practice. System leaders and practitioners alike will find this book to be a wise, easily-read, high-level overview that identifies areas of controversy and consensus, provides valuable direction and warns of common errors – but they will have to come down out of the clouds and actually land the pedagogical plane themselves.

First published in Education Canada, January 2013

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Bruce Beairsto

Retired school superintendent, educational consultant and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University

Bruce Beairsto is a retired school superintendent, educational consultant and adjunct professor at Simon Fraser University.

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