What’s right with education?
It is no secret that there are many conflicting ideas about the state of education in the United States…just bring up the subject of cursive writing instruction to hear several!
There is a strong narrative about what is wrong with the education system in our country. Education reform is a continual work-in-progress, that is certain. But contrary to popular opinion, there is much positive change in education that is rarely discussed outside of the teaching profession. Let’s talk about what’s right in education, and how we can continue to improve. Here are a few thoughts:
- Educators are beginning to understand the need for providing students with time to be curious and creative. We are learning to prize innovation over compliance.
Compliance is listening to what someone tells you to do and then doing it. It requires very little thought. Educators are beginning to realize that compliance and falling in line won’t change the world, but innovation will Innovation is creating an entirely new idea from scratch, solving a problem, improving the world and pushing it forward.
St. Vrain Valley School District in Longmont, Colorado is an excellent example of a district that understands the need for innovation in education. Their Innovation Center offers many choices for students to build on their curiosity and creativity, while building job skills for the future.
- Educators understand that nothing great is ever achieved without taking a risk. We are learning to be OK with the discomfort of failure, and are trying to teach our students the same.
More and more educators are adopting the approach of ‘failing forward’, or using failures and mistakes as a means to learn how to be successful. Discussing failure as a learning experience rather than an end is how we can help our students move forward in a positive way.
Principal Keith Peters from Gator Run Elementary School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida is an example of a school leader who instills the concept of failure as a necessity for learning in his students and staff. He is just one educator highlighted in this selection of TED Talks: Ted Talks on Failing Forward.
- We are giving students opportunities to demonstrate learning in different ways.
We all learn in different ways, and not everyone shows how they’ve learned in the same fashion. Educators understand that to help students succeed, we can no longer measure learning by asking students to read a text, listen to a lecture, then take a written test.
New Media teacher Steve Douglass at Lake Forest High School (Lake Forest, Illinois) uses videography as a storytelling tool, allowing students a different and more creative medium for showing what they know and telling what they need to say. Film and Language Arts teacher Anthony Stirpe from New Rochelle High School in New Rochelle, New York uses filmmaking to encourage his students to interpret literature from their 21st century perspective.
Allowing students a variety of demonstration methods gives them an opportunity to choose the mode that best represents their knowledge of a topic. Teachers are beginning to feel more comfortable with giving students choices. Digital learning portfolios like Seesaw are being used widely, and are great ways for students to organize learning in a visual manner.
- We are understanding that real learning is only achieved by students doing the work. Identifying and solving real problems in our communities and world is becoming mainstay.
Educators today understand that it is no longer enough for students to be solving hypothetical problems. Rather, students must be seeking and identifying real problems in their own communities and beyond and creating innovative solutions.
Each school year, Coppell Middle School East (Coppell, Texas) science teacher Jodie Deinhammer and her students focus on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and try to make a difference for a community in need. Recently, after raising funds to repair six water wells in Sudan so the community can have safe, clean water, Jodie’s students formed a connection with teachers in Sudan and their students by sending them 6 iPads loaded with student-created books and videos to share what they’d learned. Learn more about their story here.
In order for students to learn, the students must have a say in what they want to learn, how they want to learn, and how they want to demonstrate learning.
- Students are being offered more real-world opportunities to develop their interests.
Educators are beginning to realize that learning looks different for everyone, and it shouldn’t be confined to a classroom. Students need to practice what they are learning in authentic situations in order to gain life and career skills. They must be allowed the opportunity to try out their ideas in a supportive environment.
Matt Fuller, Assistant Superintendent of Technology and Innovation at Barrington High School in Barrington, Illinois understands the benefits of teaching entrepreneurism. BHS offers the IncubatorEDU curriculum, a 2-year program that helps students take innovative ideas and nurture them into a startup business with the help of teachers, business advisors, and mentors. At the end of the program, students pitch the ideas to venture capitalists and other investors who help make the business a reality. Read more about this successful program here.
Flying Start connects high school students and classrooms with small businesses in the community that need technology services, but don’t have the resources. Flying Start’s vision is to:
- provide a platform for students to practice their tech skills to solve real issues;
- provide quality technology job experience for students;
- expose under-represented students to possible career paths in technology;
- provide a service to small business owners who may not have the money, time, or resources to complete tech tasks on own;
- and bridge the gap between what is taught in school and real-life experience.
As educators, our mission must always be to help make education better: more effective, more enjoyable, more relevant to the lives of our students. Students should be learning in school what they will need to succeed in the real world. In order to do that, educators must continue to follow trends like those above to modernize learning opportunities. The world is moving fast, and in order to create life-long learners, we must move with it.