For over a century, the industrial model of education did a fantastic job of preparing students for careers. Those careers are no longer relevant in today's rapidly changing world. With obvious remnants of this system still in place, new changes are being pushed through under the guise of education reform. Instead of preparing students for an industrialized world the education system is now being tasked with preparing all learners to be college and career ready in order to compete globally with their peers.
Image credit: http://neatoday.org/2011/05/19/beware-pro-charter-parent-groups/
The education system is still not changing at all and is totally based on control and compliance. The failed legacy of NCLB should provide a stark reminder that pummeling students with standardized tests will not achieve the desired outcome. So again our education system is in a pickle consisting of an outdated model and the pressure to prepare students for an absurd amount of testing days throughout the school year. The world does not rest on standardized tests. Success now lies in one's ability to create solutions to problems, collaborate with peers to meet a goal, communicate effectively, and develop unique ideas that can change things for the better.
Unfortunately the powers that be are ultimately stripping the autonomy away from educators and schools, something that has defined our country for decades. Even with an outdated model, we have still found ways to provide innovative pathways to unleash a passion for learning among our students. Control, as bad as it is in our system, has been a challenge that some have chosen to overcome. In the face of adversity, educators have strived to overcome it to benefit our most precious resource - students. However, the current rhetoric and testing blitz that is upon us seeks to not only undermine what makes education special, but to control us to a point that will break the morale of many if it hasn't already. This control will be the demise of our education system.
Up to this point I have ranted about control at the federal and state level and the dramatic impact it has, and will continue to have, on education if we don't change course. There is another type of control that we need to acknowledge that is prevalent in virtually every school in the world. This is the control fostered by administration and teachers as to how learning should, and will, be structured. This hits home for me on many fronts, as I was guilty of this years ago. We are often our own worst enemies as we work hard to control what students can do in school or classrooms. This stems from the fact that we don't want to give up control. Compliancy has worked for so long, and quite frankly we don't trust students or even our own teachers. What we don't know and understand we fear. So we react by trying to control every facet of school structure, function, and learning. This was me for many years, but thankfully I changed and I think my school bas benefited.
Image credit: http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/10-questions-learners-shouldnt-ask/
The motivation from this post came from a recent presentation I did on digital learning. The whole premise behind this concept it to provide relevancy, meaning, and authenticity in the teaching and learning process. It hinges upon our ability to provide an environment and activities that unleash our students' passion for learning and allows them to create artifacts of learning with the tools of their choice to demonstrate conceptual mastery. Additionally, it relies on a bold vision to grant students and educators the autonomy to take risks, learn from failure, and then adapt as needed. This is where we have seen a significant shift from a control to ownership of learning. Students are now able to demonstrate learning transparently for an authentic audience, allowing them to have a choice as to the device and/or tool to demonstrate and apply what they have learned. Teachers are being empowered and embracing digital learning methodologies to improve professional practice. Meaningful change will only happen if we begin to give up control and establish a culture built on trust and respect.
In the end students have taken ownership of their learning. As we continue to see the positive impacts of the changes we have willingly made, I wonder if those who are not in schools will take a second and truly reflect upon what their reform decisions are doing to schools, educators, and kids. I also hope that those who block social media, ban students’ devices, and mandate Common Core scripts understand that these decisions are destroying a love for learning. Digital learning in its many forms could be one such catalyst to put education on a better path. If we truly want to prepare the next generation of thinkers, doers, inventors, and change agents we must give up control, trust students and educators, and work to develop a better system that will produce desired outcomes.
cross-posted on A Principal's Reflections
Eric Sheninger is a NASSP Digital Principal Award winner (2012), PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient (2012), winner of Learning Forward's Excellence in Professional Practice Award (2012) and co-author of Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals and What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science. He presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders in effectively using technology. His blog, A Principal's Reflections, was selected as Best School Administrator Blog in 2011 by Edublogs.