Saturday, August 9, 2014

Time to Reflect and Improve

We were raised in the drill and kill classroom. We were introduced to a topic, we heard a lecture, we read a textbook, we filled out a worksheet, and then we took a test. Guess what happened if we failed the test... We moved on to Unit 2. We have also been, in many ways, trained to teach this way. We have a pacing guide that leaves very little room for reflection, remediation, enrichment, creativity, or student feedback. We built our classrooms on a sequence that is actually counter intuitive to learning. Some students are able to keep up based on their particular skill set, while others are left in the dust. Even the students that keep up with the grueling unit march through the year, do not have a chance to learn on a deep level or express their learning in a way that involved creative intelligence.

It is extremely difficult to break this cycle. After all, everything we know of what school is supposed to be is set up like this. Schools were designed off of the industrial model of efficiency. In essence, we push students through the system, using the same exact method over time with the same goal for the "product." We treat our students as if they were the same inventory coming through our system each day. The problem is that our students are products of different home environments, different skill sets, and different interests. The same approach does not work on each student. Additionally, the factory style system of education leaves no room for students to actually learn on a deep level.

I am a strong believer in the fact that we are on to something big in education. We have an opportunity to revolutionize education. In fact, I believe we have to in order to survive and thrive. The world in which our students are entering simply does not fit into the box that the education system tries to create around learning. There are many reasons why I believe this and many methods by which I think it can happen but for the sake of brevity, lets talk about two. We can change education through Technology and Project Based Learning (and every form of it including Challenge Based Learning and Inquiry Based Learning).

Technology. I am not saying that technology will teach our classes for us or that it will solve all of our problems. But technology opens doors to information, creation, and collaboration that we could never have dreamed of when we were kids. If used by teachers correctly, we can reach students at their level using their talents and interests as the driving force behind the learning. We can teach students not to simply retain and repeat information but to be able to qualify and quantify research from around the world. Our students can be publishers, producers, and professionals, no matter what grade they are in. This kind of education will change lives.

Project Based Learning. Project Based Learning will need to be mastered by our teachers. Through detailed and articulated project design, teachers will offer our students opportunities to become problem solvers who won't shy away from challenges. Through project design we will teach our students to ask questions and ask others questions in their pursuit of finding truth. Students who for years have been failed by our industrial system, will be reawakened by the opportunity to final use the skill set they were born with. And for goodness sake, our students will have fun with us!

We have to make it our goal to implement this approach in the new school year. Many students will resist at first because they are not used to asking questions and being challenged. But as we all know, when they start to understand that true learning is happening, the rest will be history. Lets revolutionize our classrooms this year. Leading is Teaching.

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