The World Is A-Changin’, Is Education Keeping Pace?

Our world is changing at a rapid pace, and with it so is education, or is it? The world is much different from when I was in high school (that really wasn’t that long ago!), but is education changing along with it? In my curriculum development course I took this summer we discussed how if someone from the long ago past got thrust into today’s world, nothing would look the same. Nothing, that is, but schools. Desks still in rows in many cases, a chalkboard or whiteboard at the front of the room, maybe a SMART Board if you’re lucky. So why has so much of the world changed, while schools have mostly stayed the same?

Is it because teachers usually did well at school, so if it worked for them it should work for the youth of today? Or is it that we were trained to teach this way? For me, it is hard to imagine schools looking another way. I’m not sure how it would function and operate. Quite frankly, it scares me a little. I feel I’m good at what I do, but I haven’t really become all that digitally literate. How would my teaching have to change to prepare students better for the world of not just today, but tomorrow as well.

In Michael Wesch’s Tedx KC talk – From Knowledgeable to Knowledge – Able he talks about how in classrooms today the knowledge is at the front of the room and it is passed out to students for them to become knowledgeable. He argues that students need to become knowledge-able instead. In knowledgeabilitly, students cannot just memorize and or check of a list of things to achieve this. It is a practice. He suggests that for students to become knowledge-able, teachers must present them with real world problems (ones they don’t necessarily know the answers to) and have them collaborate using the relevant technological tools of today. Students need to realize that they can find meaning, but they can also make it as well. Teachers need to try and prepare students not for the test at the end of the semester, but for the test of the world.

The John Seely Brown and Richard Adler article Minds on Fire discussed how are learning is social. Our understanding of content is socially constructed by conversations and interactions we have with that content. I thought this was really interesting and very true. In many of my other master’s classes I learned how our identities and many of our institutions are socially constructed. Education itself is socially constructed, so it makes sense that our learning is as well. These authors also talk about how school has traditionally used the Cartesian view of learning in which knowledge is held by the teacher and they transfer it to their students.

In the social view of learning the mantra is “We participate, therefore we are.” Students need to learn about their subject while also learning to be a participant in the field where that subject can be applied. I think school is heading in this direction, even in Regina. We have Campus Regina Public where students do get to take courses like english and cosmetology together and practice is a very real looking salon. They are acquiring the skills they need to work in a salon after graduation and getting a taste of what the profession is like to see if it really is what they want to do. Other class pairing are electrical and math, commercial cooking and english, and accounting and math for a financial services career.

At the school I teach at students get to choose to participate in project based learning. In this way they are often able to earn more than one credit in the time it usually takes to earn a single credit. The projects are meant to be more engaging than the students may find taking a class on its own. I personally haven’t been involved in one of these projects, but would like to be. I always worry about the time needed to meet all the objectives of more than one course. I have a hard time meeting all the objectives for the single courses I teach. I guess the key is finding assignments and projects that meet objectives from both courses.

I do think that I could apply the social view of learning more in my classroom. The article mentioned that the students in university that experience the most success are the ones involved in study groups. This is because they are able to ask questions of their peers, improve their understanding by listening their peer’s explanations, and take on the role of the teacher by offering their explanations and learning to their peers. I know that sometimes I avoid doing group work because it seems like more hassle than it’s worth. The students are often off task and attendance is also a big factor. It is hard to complete a group assignment when your partner isn’t there. However, I’m sure the more I try and engage the students in group work, the better they would become at it.

I do feel that education is changing, and it is a change for the better. I only hope that teachers are offered the training, professional development, and time in order to embrace the change and be a part of it.

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