Throughout the years, I have focused tremendously on the ideas of “change” and “innovation” in both my speaking and writing. Change is a constant in our world, but I have noticed that I have been thinking a lot about what needs to stay the same in education. Now nothing stays the same 100%, but some big ideas are as true today as they were when I went to school, although they can sometimes be forgotten or pushed aside for the sake of “new.” Although the big ideas are the same, the context evolves.
Here are three things that will always be a foundation for education and our school communities but are ever-evolving:
Relationships are probably neither forgotten or pushed aside in education today, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge how important this was when I was in school as well. The teachers that treated me as an individual and cared about me first were the ones that I wanted to focus on working harder for in class.
Although relationships have always been meaningful, I feel that with technology, we have created opportunities for learners (at all levels including staff) to share a voice that they might not have thought they had before. The ubiquitous access to technology should allow us to build better relationships than before. Simple video creation will enable us to connect when it is not possible to be “there.” I remind people that if a picture is worth a thousand words, what do you think a video is worth?
This is not to say face-to-face isn’t important (it is crucial), but the use of technology should promote better face-to-face connections, not less.
2. The importance of content.
I have shared this quote from Thomas Friedman many times:
“The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).”
The part of the sentence that is often focused on is the “what you can do” element but the “what you know” part is just as essential. Content is not unnecessary in education; it is crucial. But what has changed is that content can be gathered from so many different sources than from when I first went to school. A school was the place that you went to gather knowledge. But now information is abundant yet good information is as vital as ever.
The best analogy I had ever heard on the importance of content was from John Medina (author of “Brain Rules”). He stated (paraphrasing), “Creation without knowledge is the equivalent of playing the air guitar; you might know the motions, but you aren’t able to play.”
Although content has always been valuable, the shift in education has been to focus more on understanding and deep learning than solely retention. Information that is solely retained yet not understood may look good in the short-term but in the long-term, has little benefit.
3. A focus on lifelong-learning.
I have heard the term “lifelong-learning” in education as long as I can remember as both a student and an educator. This is not new in the 21st century. What is new, are the opportunities for learning and the rate that change is happening. I am wondering if the term should be modified to “rapid-lifelong-learning” as even things that you get used to are seeming to change when you least expect it (hello new Gmail interface). I hate terms like “fail-fast” or “fail-forward” because they insinuate something negative about moving along whereas “learn-fast” or “learn-forward” make a lot more sense to me.
Lifelong-learning is something that will never change, but we might have to get quicker at it.
I have heard this question often:
“What has changed and what has stayed the same?”
But a little shift in the question that could lead to some meaningful discussion is the following:
“What has stayed the same and how has it changed?”
There is so much to learn from all of the great work that has been done in education throughout the years, and the goal is not to rid ourselves of these great things, but to create something better with them.
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