Wednesday, April 13, 2011

21st Century Education

The children I am teaching today have not lived in a world without the Internet. The children I am teaching today have experienced school mostly as a place to hear about tests and take tests with a paper and pencil - and yet, the way they see the rest of the world communicating and gathering information is through Skype, Facebook, iPhones, iPads, teleconferencing and the Internet.

In 1898 The Committee of 10 came together to create education standards for America. They were learned educators who decided there should be 8 core subjects, that students should be in school for 180 days a year with 6 hours of instrcution, that they should graduate with so many years of math and English etc. Sound familiar?? That was over 100 years ago and we still operate by the same standards.

Then a decade ago we threw in No Child Left Behind. The intentions sounded good, but beyond the poor funding by the government that decreed it, this law has been at the expense of preparing children for real world skills. Research shows we have turned out a decade of young people completely unprepared for 21st century employment. They all may be great at taking bubble tests, but this has not taught them critical thinking and problem solving. Tests have taken the joy out of school and removed any opportunity for teachable moments. Teachers have not had any time to delve into any non-tested subjects.

Leading curriculum expert Heidi Hayes Jacobs has researched our educational system and determined that we are preparing out students today for the world of 1991.

Along with integrating the rapidly changing use of technology, schools need to be graduating critical thinkers, collaborators, communicators. Author Daniel Pink says the future will be ruled by right-brained thinkers. He says that American will never lead in manufacturing again, Those days are over. So if America wants a successful future we will value the creators, those with imagination, the problem solvers. (Maybe MFAs will be more desirable than MBAs?)

The building where I teach is working to become an International Baccalaureate School. We will spend the next year as a candidate school and then become official. I am very new to this process, but my first impressions are positive. Sometimes It's hard to teach an old dog new tricks, and I am not one to jump into every new fad - I've seen too many fail miserably.

But here is the gist: Education in our building will be student-centered, not teacher-led with teachers giving the answers and students regurgitating them out on a test. It will be research-driven, not textbook-driven. It will encourage the use of all available technology and be project-oriented. It will integrate subject matter just as it is in the real world. We're moving from passive learning to active learning. Does this sound logical to you?

The big drawback is that our students will still be taking standardized tests until our legislators come to their senses and admit that these tests have been mandated to measure teacher performance, not student learning.

How will our kids fare after spending a few years actually learning to think and solve problems? That remains to be seen,but I actually feel some inspiration at this new turn in education - something I haven't felt for a long time.


Rob-bear said...

I think that the idea of turning school into an experience of adventure is a process heading in the right direction.

Our son is home-schooling his children, and his work is going very well. He's an artist, so what he does is art oriented. Draw a picture, then tell a story about it. Right into the core of English language and literature. And on it goes, focus on drawing out the kids — starting from where they are, and moving on. We, as grandparents, help with some things, but mostly encourage, particularly by reading with our grandchildren, who love to be read to, and to read.

rosebuckle said...

Wow, that sounds really exciting. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you and all your students.

Hopefully we will start on a new path with people looking for solutions instead of ways to place blame

Heart said...

You are fortunate to be a part of such an exciting change.

I worked in a Montessori school years ago, and this sounds very similar to their philosophy. And I have seen it in action and it is inspiring!

I can't wait to see the day those standardized tests are done and gone!