Friday, June 29, 2012

Changing Paradigms

This is a clip that is popular in education right now - so it wasn't a huge surprise when it was selected to kick off a fun filled day of professional development last week. 

It's worth investing five minutes of your day to watch in that it is thought provoking for anyone with any connection to education, and in fact, can probably be applied to an array of fields which haven't evolved with technological advances.

Essentially, the idea is one that anyone who has spent five minutes in a classroom has to have considered: the way that we expect kids to learn is outdated, and out of touch.  The world has changed dramatically, but the basic tenets of public education have not.  And so we still ask students to sit still, to listen, to take written exams, and to learn based on a curriculum.  Innovation has been seen as moving desks out of rows and into groups.  Compare that change with the way that internet has changed out world, and you can see how hopelessly far behind our efforts lag.

Ken Robinson goes on to talk about ADHD as a false diagnosis, one that is actually a result that we should expect when we demand that children function in a way that has become entirely unnatural.

There are a lot of takeaways from this idea, and we discussed it with enthusiasm - always excited by the potential that lies in throwing out everything and starting fresh, from scratch, in a way that is entirely reflective of the way that kids learn and absorb information in this day and age.  And then, of course, reality sets in.

Yes, kids love video games, and talking, and running around.  It is probably unnatural to demand 90 minutes of silence, or active listening.  And yet - in real life, and attention span does come in handy.  In most jobs, you have tasks that aren't fun or exciting or designed for your specific learning style.  You may not always be engaged.

The real disconnect becomes  - are we as teachers preparing kids for life after school, or should we be attempting to maximize the success of school itself, even if the learning experience doesn't resemble what their world will be like after graduation?  How open can we really make our minds - how much can we afford to throw out?

Ironically, we transitioned from this fantasizing into a discussion of the very concrete, very practical, very by-the-book, regimented new national learning standards, which are in fact what the future of teaching likely holds.

Ken Robinson does and excellent job of illustrating (literally!) major problems with education today.  But what is the solution?

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