I’ll also bet that in a room of 100 adults, not one of them would say that powerful learning comes with sitting in rows, one-sized curriculum, teacher controlled, standardized tests, emphasis on grades, no choice, lack of relevance, no real world application.
So why do we continue to run our schools the same way they’ve been run for over 100 years? Why do we continue to test, emphasize grades, restrict learning to the textbook, expect all kids to learn at the same rate and ability, and isolate content in 50-minute blocks?
I read an article this week published in the summer of 2014 by the Hawken Review written by the Head of Hawken School, D. Scott Looney. He spoke of the future of education -- the scary, daunting, exciting time in education where “we are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet.”
We live in an extraordinary time in human history. We are witness to unprecedented economic, environmental, and political instability. At the same time, we are witness to incredible advances in technology, medicine, and communication. This paradox of fear and excitement poses a challenge to us all, young and old. And yet we continue to teach our children in an antiquated system of sameness, as if we need all our children learning ubiquitous content, at the same time, at the same rate, in isolation. Where is the power in this model?
I was thinking this week about the interviews we see on TV every year wherein some host stops random people on the street to ask them questions about some factoid we all “learned” in elementary, middle or high school. We laugh collectively as we watch the interviewee hem and haw before answering incorrectly. Do we laugh because we know, or do we laugh because we, ourselves, would answer incorrectly, as well?
These interviews simply reflect the truth that we forget most of what we “learn” in school. So why do we continue to teach and test content knowledge like this?
Powerful learning, the knowledge we remember, comes from moments in which we were completely immersed and engaged. True learning requires a personal interest in what’s being learned. The process of learning for the sake of a test just isn’t effective or purposeful. In fact, I argue that kids with access to the internet and technology are “learning” more outside of school than they are inside of school.
So what should schools be doing?
We need to be teaching kids how to USE content. Teaching kids how to think, collaborate, wonder. Teaching kids how to navigate ambiguity, complexity and interconnectedness.
Our kids need to find a passion that pushes them to “learn” what matters to them, so their learning can solve problems and impact the world -- or at least their own small corner of the world.
It’s time to rethink what we do on a school’s campus and why we do it.
The future of education? It’s going to require we ignite students’ curiosity and interests -- or we aren’t going to have much of a future at all.