Turning Education on Its Head
In reading a recent blog post by Jeff Utecht, he stated that to change the educational systems in which we are working to be in-line with the learning needs for this century, we must change the thinking within the whole system. This whole refers to our respective community/stakeholders (students, parents, teachers, administration, board, etc). He also went on to say that the hardest part in all of this is that we are all “experts.” All of the stakeholders have the experience of going to school (some for many years!), while most are still involved in the educational process today from a pedagogical perspective. So, years and years of ‘doing’ school a certain way is embedded in our hearts, minds, and souls. This is difficult to change. However, the world for which our schools are preparing our students now is very different then the world for which our teachers thought they were preparing us. Thus, we must change; there is no choice. But, in facilitating the shift and undoing what we all think we know, we have to remember that it will take patience, understanding, empathy, sweat, and maybe even some tears (it’s emotional to say goodbye to something you’ve known for so long!) as we journey down the path.
Reflecting on this issue and the challenge we face at my school, I thought of this picture I snapped earlier this year during the grade 9 China Studies trip to Shaolin. It is of a wall mural at one of the kung fu schools in Shaolin. What the monk in the mural achieved is what we must achieve to get the our schools in-line with the educational needs for this century- we must turn education on it head. Yes, a full 180°!
A few hours later as I was relaxing in bed, I read the following in the Oct/Nov 2008 hardcopy version of Edutopia (the great education magazine put out by The George Lucas Educational Foundation): “The centuries-old model of education- the teacher as an expert who passes information along to the kids- is now turned on its head.” The editorial director writing the article, James Daly, continued to say: “We’re heading toward a society in which innovation, digital literacy, and tech savvy are of paramount importance. Too often, our educational problems are simply rooted in old systems and old ways of thinking.” It must have been one of those days when there was some sort of cosmic alignment or something. To have read Jeff’s blog, come to remember a photo I took earlier this year, and come across the same idea in this magazine I had envisioned with the picture I took (along with the editor hitting on the same topic Jeff discussed) was weird. Somebody was playing some kind of harmonious melody with the cosmic superstrings that evening! Or, it’s just that people who understand what’s going on are part of some collective consciousness!
I’ve come to realize that this picture also demonstrates another critical element- the balance and sustainability we need to maintain both in the process of making the changes and in maintaining the focus once the desitination is reached. We have to remember, as Kim Cofino wrote in a recent blog post, that not all colleagues (and stakeholders) work as fast as us geeks (said endearingly!) in understanding the shift and in harnessing and using the different digital tools that arise (so rapidly) in the process. This also goes with the pedogogical ideas that are guiding all of this. By the time we get to balancing the current pedagogy and the technology, a new shift and journey will be upon us. We don’t necessarily want to push people over right away from the delicate balancing point, considering the journey it took to make the balancing stance the first time around.
We have a journey ahead of us, but I’m optimistic that we will reach our destination. Most people realize there are big changes going on the world right and that old ways of doing things won’t be sufficient to solve these massive problems. Thus, I don’t think there will be major resistance to turning education on it head. We just need to be very supportive along the road.