In just a few days I start George Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). I read the book over the summer and am looking forward to delving into again. I read it on my Kindle which was a bad idea for someone who likes to highlight and write in the margins. I ended up taking lots of pictures of pages on my Kindle as a substitute for annotating the book. I learned my lesson. Only novels on my Kindle from now on.
My mom likes to say my Catholic school education lead me to question everything. I am not sure if it was 13 years of Catholic school. It may have been my liberal arts education. It may have also been the facilitation of constant questioning in my home. I remember moaning and groaning about some of my classes in college. My dad told me college was all about learning to jump through hoops. He said my diploma represented to my future employers that I knew how to play the game of life. I didn’t want to learn how to play someone else’s game. I was a learner. I wanted to dive into my passions, debate, and discuss. I wanted to be creative and be encouraged to be creative. I wanted to learn about ideas and reflect on those ideas. I wanted to be a thinker.
Why is learning to play the game of school more important than the learning process itself? Why are we still educating our students within a culture of compliance? We continue to prepare our students for the early 20th century. We use a standardized industrial model meant to prepare workers and not thinkers. Not only are we not encouraging innovation in our students; we are also discouraging innovation in our teachers. We exist in an educational world that still prizes grades, test scores, and class ranks over creativity. Employers and colleges are telling us our students need to be diverse, globally minded, collaborative, and creative. But, change is hard. What will we do if our students aren’t absorbing all our knowledge? What will happen if I don’t give a test at the end of this chapter? Or if they don’t take notes exactly the way I told them to? What if my desks aren’t in rows? Or I don’t have desks at all? Will I still be doing my job if I don’t cover every battle of the American Revolution in detail? What if I don’t know the answer to a question my student asks?
Examining long held beliefs about education can be disconcerting. Fear of the unknown can cripple. It’s easier for many to ignore the changes happening around us or devise a band-aid approach to dealing with them. Most states endorse 21st century skills. I feel like it’s lip service in many instances. Teachers feel constrained by curriculum mandates and state testing. State testing that is often tied to educator pay (yes, I live in Florida!). In addition, we haven’t given our teachers the tools to effectively integrate 21st century skills into their content. We are still teaching in silos of subject areas with one size fits all curricula materials. Opportunities are missed for cross-curricular integration because of bell schedules and concern about coverage of material. Teachers aren’t given the pedagogical training to facilitate uncoverage of material.
When I look up education the first definition says: the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university. The second definition says: an enlightening experience. Obviously, I prefer the second definition. Instruction shouldn’t be systematic. I am not saying we need to be unorganized in our teaching. We should be flexible and innovative in our approach, however. It’s time to learn the many languages of creativity, allow students to question and embrace their individual path to learning.