Drawing a new picture of learning with Smata

I’ve been thinking about the way information is presented in education, and the impact that has on what is valued as learning. You see, my life as a teacher and board member was informed by tables and graphs (mostly bar graphs) that sorted learning achievement into discrete units where the relationship between them was immaterial, or at best tangental. What counted was achievement in that thing, then that thing, then … Compounding that is the fact school boards and leaders have been made to focus pretty much exclusively on literacy and numeracy results, or NCEA achievement results as a proxy for learning engagement and success, which is a pretty narrow lens through which to look at learning.


And what this does is create a picture, both literal and mental, of what learning is and achievement looks like. Thus, what’s valued is shaped by what’s drawn and shared and discussed. But we have a curriculum that’s wide ranging in nature, aspirational and visionary, and open. It’s a curriculum that informs school strategic plans across the land. It’s nonsensical to think that the picture we currently draw tells us about all the breadth it encompasses and schools aspire to make real.


We need a new picture.


Kate Raworth makes this same point about economics in her work to do with Donut Economics.


Think of the graph Smata allows you to create. It’s different to how learning data is normally presented. With Smata, a narrow frame of learning growth is shown to be what it is: unbalanced. With Smata, the picture you want to see is one where growth is seen across a wide number of learning areas. And Smata lets those areas be what’s important for you, your learners and your community.


This is one of the things I’m really excited by. Smata has the potential to create a new picture of learning, and through that shift ideas about what’s valued as learning back to where they should always have been: anchored in the whole of the curriculum; anchored in what people in a specific time and place need; anchored in culturally relevant learning so people can feel confidence in succeeding as and who they are.


If you’re interested in this possibility, we’d love to hear from you and get you started with Smata.

Bevan Holloway About the author

I'm the founder of Smata. I used to be a secondary school English teacher. When I was, I became disillusioned with what school did to kids. That led to me adopting play as a core part of my practice. Now I help teachers across all ages harness the power of play. The Smata app was born from that work.