With so much information a few mouse-clicks away, many are wondering about the future of education. Kids learn on their own, therefore, are age-oriented classrooms outdated? Algorithmic programs tailor content to students’ specific level, therefore, will teachers’ jobs soon be automated? In a fast-changing world, we all agree kids must be prepared for complex problems that may not yet exist. It is because of the complexity and relational aspects of learning that we choose to keep most children learning at schools.
Will Richardson’s essay Why School addresses two approaches to education reform: "Better" and "Another Way." Do we need to be “Better?” Yes. We need to leverage technology to keep education programs high-quality and highly accessible. But a more precise diagnosis of students’ needs requires that we find “Another Way” altogether.
The information-technology revolution forces us to consider a more progressive view of education, one that many educators are have already adopted. Children and adults are co-creators in the learning process, unlike past models where content was channeled through an authority. Now, parents, students, teachers, administrators, community members, peers around the world— all of these relationships represent education capacity. The Old-World bastions of informational power--such as textbooks, institutions, and, gasp! even teachers-- are no longer the scare resources. Instead, there is a paradox of plenty, where information abounds but the ability to effectively use it is rare. Why School encourages teachers to embrace new roles as Masters of Connecting, Course-Adjusters, Inspirers, Curators Designers, (and more, gah!). Teachers need to join with students in growth, modeling learning, unlearning, and questioning.
Richardson’s appeal to professional educators provides six practical ideas that begin us on "Another Way" forward. We need to be "team-working" our best ideas (idea 1) to optimize instructional impact. This is a principle that works in other collaborative pursuits such as business, professional sports, and planning baby showers. Working together is easier than ever, and, it just makes sense! We also need to join with students to uncover the curriculum (idea 2), so that learning is a repeatable process that gets better and richer over time. When we facilitate discovery, responsibility gradually transfers to the learner so that, by the time she's 18, she's prepared to imagine new realities and take steps to achieve them. We also ought to think about leveraging the wider web to connect with just the right “guest lecturers” (idea 3). Whether that person be an author, scientist, business owner, daredevil… innovator, success-story, historian or activist, what vast potential we now have in establishing real-time connections with others! As students delight in learning from selected others, they will begin to select and learn from others themselves. Another practical way to ensure students are witnessing the learning process is to embrace the role ourselves of Master Learner (idea 4). If learning is a lifelong pursuit, then we are all on our way, acutely experiencing triumphs and failures. As Master Learners, we demonstrate that it is okay to use the dictionary, awesome to get a personal best at the half-marathon, and especially essential to read, read, read! When students see academic behavior modeled, they come to associate those habits with the outcome, joining in the pursuit and building their educational capacity. Finally, Richardson suggests that teachers engage real-world issues (idea 5) using real-world processes (idea 6).
Yes, schools do need to catch up. They need to embrace the concept of time=value and give each student the opportunity to work, on something important and relevant, each and every day. But why at a school? Why in the typical building each of us pictures: fluorescent lights, crammed desks? Wouldn't it be nice to get a TLC makeover for our classrooms? Sure would, but more importantly, school needs to re-become the primary places to receive input from others-- peers, teachers, and experts. This is the input that enriches students’ own understanding of the material. Without school, our country would lose the common experience of social learning, of building meaning together. Without schools, communities would lose the opportunity to invest in the belief that all children deserve a valuable education.
Richardson. W. (2012). Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Education Are Everywhere . Kindle Edition.