A Dozen Givens

shifting-conversations-logoIt’s been interesting to observe over the last eight months or so a growing chorus of parents, authors, educators and even some policy makers begin to articulate their concern over the relevance of the current practices that we use in schools to “educate” our kids. While the arguments and discussions vary on the edges, it feels like there is finally an admission on the part of many connected to education that the world has changed, and that like most other parts of society, schools are going to have to change with it. I know we’re nowhere close to “most” believing that. But I also know that the momentum is picking up.

Why? What’s happened to get people thinking and talking about “different” instead of “better?” Well, for one thing, I think parents are sensing the fact that many kids simply aren’t being prepared for their lives in the current system. Take note of the slew of movies and books that have come out this year that are pushing back hard against the fundamental structures of schools, especially in terms of assessments. Or the steady drip of stories of kids who are finding success based on the work they do on their own, built on their interests and passions. Those kids who are tracking down traditional pathways are waiting longer for jobs that don’t require the amount of education they’ve paid for and are heading back to school to accrue more debt. It’s not that a bachelor’s degree no longer suffices; more it’s that many kids don’t have the self-determination, initiative, and networks to problem solve their way out of their dilemmas. They’re waiting, just like they did in school.

14859431605_1fcfc06f74_bBut I think the foundation of the shift lies in the new “givens” about the modern world, facts that require us to engage in different thinking as well as different conversations about what we do in our schools. Here are a dozen that I think begin to form the “compelling case” for change that is driving these new conversations:

~The Web and the technologies that drive it are fundamentally changing the way we think about how we can learn and become educated in a globally networked and connected world.

~By and large, schools have not kept apace of the changes brought about by the Web and technology in general over the last decade. Schools were built for a different era when knowledge, information, and teachers were in scarce supply. Put simply, much of our traditional thinking about education is not meeting the needs of our modern student learners.

~Because we have increasing access to the sum of human knowledge and almost 3 billion people online, it’s more important that our students become learners as opposed to learned.

~The consumption and creation of content online is uncontrollable.

~The skills, literacies, and dispositions required to navigate this increasingly complex and change filled world are much different from those stressed in the current school curriculum. Current testing regimes are inadequate in measuring a student’s ability to find and solve problems, think critically and creatively, deal well with failure, persevere, collaborate with others, etc.

~While important, the 4Cs of creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and communication are no longer enough. Learners must now be able to connect to other learners and to design and build solutions to problems using computers.

~Our children will live and work in a much more transparent world as tools to publish pictures, video, and texts become more accessible and more ubiquitous. Their online reputations must be built and managed.

~Increasingly, as a variety of educational opportunities are beginning to take shape, college is becoming one of many paths to a middle class existence, not the only path.

~The future of work is changing rapidly as well. Workers in the future will not “find employment.” Employment will find them. Or they will create their own.

~We cannot predict with certainty the impacts of technological advances on the future of learning and work. Our students will have to be comfortable with fast-paced change and uncertainty.

~The safe, effective, and ethical uses of technologies are complex and require constant and consistent teaching and modeling from adult educators and parents.

~Technology is no longer an option when it comes to learning at mastery levels.

There are others, I’m sure, and I’d love to hear what other compelling realities you’re sensing that will drive the conversation even further. But there’s no argument any longer that the old narratives and expectations of school are slamming into the new realities of the connected, networked world, and that moving forward, we’re going to have to rethink our practice based not just on our beliefs about how deep and powerful learning occurs in general but also on the affordances that the Web and other technologies bring to the table.

Image credit: Roger Couse-Baker

Will Richardson

Co-founder of Modernlearners.com and Change School. Author, speaker, instigator, surfcaster, husband, and father to two amazing young adults.

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