The message that our educational model is not meeting the needs of today’s students is one that we’ve repeatedly heard over the course of our careers. Never before has this rung as true as it does today. The globalization of culture, emerging technologies, access to information and the ability to create, publish, and share, as well as the changing landscape of our economies and employment all present challenges that we as educators have never before faced.
I’ve heard these messages before. Whether it was Sir Ken Robinson:
Or Most Likely to Succeed:
Or this recent piece by Will Richardson (take a few minutes and have a read – you’ll thank me later!), I truly believe that we can do better and that the systems and processes we operate in are not designed to optimize opportunity, personalize learning, or best prepare students for the world of tomorrow.
And this is incredibly frustrating. As my colleague Bill Ferriter pointed out in a little Twitter chat after having read Will’s post:
I couldn’t agree more with Bill. The meaningful and massive change required will be the result of our learners and their community standing up and demanding better for themselves.
So my attention turns to how am I best preparing students for the challenges outlined above given that I cannot presently change the systems and process we learn in. Well, here is my top 5 list. It’s not definitive but I do believe it is a fine start.
1. I empower the learner as often and as much as I can.
The more I can shift control over learning to the students I work with the better prepared they will be to take ownership over the challenges they will face in their future pursuits. I foster this shift in a number of ways all of which give them a certain amount of control over what we learn, how we learn it, and how we demonstrate our new understandings.
2. I make learning (and our classroom) as transparent as I can.
All of my students blog and I do as well (clearly!). I often tweet out and share student learning throughout the year. My doors are always open both figuratively and literally. I want colleagues to poke their head in to our class to see what’s going on. The more I can show others how I am empowering learning the more likely others are to try change on for size.
3. I utilize technology in our learning.
No longer is integrating tech in my practice a question. So many of the barriers to adoption have been removed whether it be a lack of resources, a lack of time, or a lack of necessary knowledge and skill (See). There is no excuse to not turning on a device, pressing a whole bunch of buttons, and seeing what they do. It’s fun!
My attention has since shifted to empowering students in their decision making of WHAT tool to use and helping them understand WHY they chose it. Technology provides access, voice, and personalization, all of which enhance learning and empower students.
4. I open our learning to include as many contributions from outside of our classroom as I can.
Will Richardson states “The middleman is vanishing as peer to peer interactions flourish. Teachers no longer stand between the content and the student. This will change the nature of the profession.” I couldn’t agree more. Certainly there’s a particular amount of must know information in all of our disciplines. But more and more my role is becoming one where I help learners seek out answers to authentic questions that require collaboration with contributors outside of our classroom. How I facilitate this process and assist in bringing these collaborations together is highly important in preparing learners for the world of tomorrow.
5. I seek out authentic learning opportunities, ones where the audience is real, the stakes are genuine, and the impact is palpable.
In our Inquiry Classroom students ask the questions that guide our learning. We share our new understandings with others whether it be online (blogs, YouTube channel, or Twitter), in our school, or in our community. Learners communicate with an audience that is much more “real” than merely their class teacher, me. Their “work” is more than just a sum of assessments that shapes an overall grade. Their learning creates change, inspires and informs an audience, and engages with a genuine community. These qualities bring meaning to everything we do together.
I’d love to know how you are accomplishing these 5 Ways to Create Change in Your Learning Community. Or perhaps you can help me extend my list and inspire some change in my practice. Please comment below.
I look forward to hearing form you!