Oct 20

How Much Change is Enough?

I’ve watched these two powerful videos, which seem to be meant to go together or at least were inspired by the same problem. The problem? Modern day schooling, which hasn’t changed enough to do right by our modern day students. It’s no secret that education, as a system, is slow to change. That even with pockets of creativity and outside-the-box innovation, school looks a lot now like it did in the early 1800’s. We are stuck in a factory model of educating classrooms full of kids that no longer has a place in a global, connected, networked world. These two videos bring to light some of the problems with continuing to educate our children the way many of us older, Gen X’ers, were educated (even the way some Baby Boomers were educated!), take a few minutes to watch them:

 

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I have struggled with the desire to provide all my students a meaningful, relevant, fun experience while working in a system that still has children sitting in rows, listening to lectures, doing worksheets and taking multiple choice tests as the majority of their school experience. Every time I implement a change in the direction of 21st Century, student-centered learning the biggest push-back I get is from the students themselves! I’ve seen first hand how well schooling has indoctrinated students into thinking that school should be sit and listen, then complete a worksheet to be tested on later experience. I’ve had students ask me for that! My response is usually that it’s too easy to sit and listen, or tune out, and that I expect my students to actively learn by doing the work for themselves. What I see is that students are used to tuning out from the moment their first class starts until they get on the bus to go home. At home they are doing amazing things and using technology to look stuff up and learn things. Funny how when I record myself and provide students a Youtube video of me showing them how to do something they act as though they don’t know how to watch a video to do something! It boggles my mind until I think that this is what six years of schooling has done to a lot of our kids!

Even when I can convince the students that doing is the best way to learn and that the technology they are using will help them learn and give them valuable skills too, I still find myself falling back to things that are traditional forms of schooling! It drives me crazy but the reason I fall back to old fashion schooling techniques is because they work! I know, I know, they work but are they the best ways to educate our kids? I don’t know. If they learn at least it’s a minor win.

Besides having to go by a bell schedule and being ruled by the almighty bell, my students should have the freedom during my Science class to explore, do and learn Science. Yet year after year it’s my curriculum and projects that I’ve created that I have my students do. So what innovations I do are within that structure. I’ve gone back and forth every year now for the past few years as to whether to do some kind of genius hour and I always choose to skip it in favor of having kids engage in my curriculum and projects.

So no matter what I do, whether it’s give kids choice on how they access the content, allow them to work at their own pace, gamify my course, integrate technology, have them blog and use online discussion forums, use Google Classroom, take them to Mt Saint Helens, have them do real Science on our creek, brings gaming into the classroom, and try to connect with other classes I wonder if I’m doing enough! Am I making education relevant for my 6th graders? How can I reach them all and have them enjoy and take advantage of what school has to offer? Sometimes it feels like it’s all uphill. Maybe I would see more change if I could follow one class of students for all three years of their middle school career.

Yeah, if I had it my way, I would change a lot more of what I’m doing right now. I would love to team teach. Take two or three teachers, give them 60 or so students for two to three years, a multi-age model, and give them the freedom and autonomy to do what those 60 students are interested in. My preferred reality is to start with what we have here, in our community. See what the kids would like to tackle, some community issue or problem, and build a project-based curriculum around that issue or those issues.

So I don’t know. How much change is enough to benefit all our students?

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