Saturday, August 25, 2012

School leads Back to the Future

I attended #edcampisabc yesterday morning and was fortunate enough to participate in two excellent sessions.  One was to talk about whether technology was essential for education and the other about educating students for an unknown future.  When talking about technology being essential the conversation quickly branched out to discussions of assessment, pedagogy, parent expectations, and qualifying for university.  To effectively use technology with K12 Time for changestudents, all four must change.  If the expectation is to get better or the best marks, then learning will be designed to accomplish that and assessment will report it.  If the way learning and teaching occurs is not redesigned, technology will never be able to effectively transform education to meet the needs of the future.

One Kindergarten teacher in an independent school shared a story of a meeting with the parents of a four year old student who received a “meeting expectations” on her “report card” – the parents were distraught.  They worried that their daughter would not be successful in school, life, and could never become a doctor.  That poor student is in for some pressure filled years to get “the best marks”.  Interestingly we all agreed that marks are not the best measure of learning and are not really comparable teacher to teacher.  We talked about the value of a portfolio of evidence based learning as being a more relevant and honest indication of who a student is, what they know, and what they can do.

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I asked my 6 year old great-niece today if she was excited about going back to school.  Her answer was “oh yes!”.  Isn’t that the attitude all students need to have to embrace their future?  School is about preparing young people for the future.  The problem it seems is that it prepares them for our future more than theirs.  As students get older, they figure out how to do exactly what is expected of them, some the minimum, others the most but often their learning isn’t driven by passion or interest, just a mark…

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At the edcamp session, we lamented this.  I asked “why can’t all school look more like Kindergarten?”.  Schooling becomes so structured and subjects are taught in silos and artificially.  Why can’t it be more integrated, project oriented, purpose driven, and playful?  We talked about how there is no time left for teachers to “add” technology to the mix.  Add?  What if learning and teaching were designed in such a way that technology was essential and foundational?  What if there were many “teachers” in the room where students were as responsible for researching, preparing, and facilitating lessons as is the teacher?  Students need to learn to be responsible and self directed to survive in their future.  We talked about how quickly things change.  The future is not static or predictable.  Students leaving our education system need to be prepared for the unknown not just the known.

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Yes, resilience.  Students need to learn to be continuously adaptable and on an exponential change scale.  For school to lead kids to the future, the experience needs to be less about content that “expires” or content that is perhaps not relevant to most, and more about process, critical thinking, and content that is essential and interesting not just interesting.  We talked about core learning to prepare all students to be productive and happy citizens, but that’s just the base not the end goal.

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Technology, whether we like it or not, is driving these necessary changes for education.  Technological change is relentlessly accelerating and impacting every aspect of life, some good and some bad.  How will students be prepared to cooperate with robots, design them, govern them, etc.  Things are going to get very interesting in the next 10 years, are we ready?  Are you ready?  Schools, to remain relevant in their role of leading students to the future, must adapt quickly.  That will take a lot of work and iStock_000017723170XSmallcooperation to reset thinking around qualifications (university entrance), parent expectations and understanding of what is important, learning design, and assessment. 

I look forward to seeing what our schools will look like in the 2020’s.  I have high hopes they will adapt quickly enough to continue to prepare young people for a very uncertain future.  I wish you all the best in 2012-2013 in educating the next generation!  One of your students may be the doctor, engineer, police officer, or friend in your future that saves your life…