Schools and students have been active participants in communities since they first began. School is a place in which most families are connected and a place that represents the future of the community in which they are located. So the idea of schools teaching community service is nothing new in the education world. However, using technology to approach real world issues and collaboratively working as a class to solve them is a foreign concept in many classrooms.
I believe that right now is the perfect time for these two worlds to collide. We are introducing technology into classrooms at an ever increasing rate and the ability to communicate, organize, promote, and research is becoming ridiculously easy. However, teachers and administrators are facing the temptation to do what they have always done, just in digital format. We cannot allow that to happen if we are truly going to prepare our students for the modern world they face.
Two education movements burgeoning right now that will help provide a framework for teachers are challenge based learning and inquiry based learning. Challenge Based Learning is "an engaging multidisciplinary approach to
teaching and learning that
encourages learners to leverage the technology they use in their daily
lives to solve real-world problems (challengebasedlearning.org)".
Inquiry Based Learning involves project creation through collaboration,
raising question, understanding real world problems, and developing the
discipline to work through failures to achieve success. These are ways of teaching that could truly impact the success of our students and communities.
If you look at the US economy and compare it to the global economy, there are some trends that need to be observed by American schools. Jobs that were traditionally available to high school graduates or in some cased even college graduates are being outsourced or replaced by technology. This does not mean the death of the job market. It just means that jobs are changing and we need to change the way we prepare students.
We are preparing students for jobs that don't exist yet. Our students will have multiple careers by the the time they "retire." So our focus should be on skills rather than just on memorizing content. We need to teach them to present, collaborate, solve problems, find multiple solutions, create a digital portfolio, and be adaptable. None of that is taught through memorization of content. Lets face it, memorization and multiple choice is not going to teach our kids to acquire these skills in the immediate future.
So how can we tie the value of the traditional school role in the community with these new ideas? I believe there is an easy connection through service learning. If we want to teach students to solve problems, collaborate, think critically, and present, we need look no further than our own communities. We can create real world education experiences through our local veterans groups, charity associations, churches, sports organizations, and businesses. If there is a high poverty rate in a community, what better place to start solving the problem than in our academic institutions? This will provide students with rigorous curriculum while also giving them a chance to make a difference.
Students can become leaders in movements that they are passionate about while participating in projects that teach them to write, present, research, communicate and collaborate. This type of real world teaching will make a big impact in more ways than one. Leading is Teaching.