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Love Learning, Yet Hate School?

This morning, in an email from TIE, I received a link from Greg Limperis to watch a viral video related to education. The title caught my attention…Why I Hate School But Love Education. I was hooked…had to watch. You should too…

Now, I should mention that I’m currently reading Tony Wagner’s latest book, Creating Innovators. I’m only a chapter or two in, but something clicked as I watched Suli Breaks‘ video sermon about re-envisioning the role of school in education. No, I wasn’t thinking that schools are no longer needed just because a handful of famous, wealthy, successful people didn’t stay in school (and I don’t think that was ultimately his point). Rather, schools are at risk of failing to serve students who want a more meaningful learning experience (which reminds me of Dan Brown’s An Open Letter to Educators video rant back in 2010). Could schools actually be on their way to earning a failing grade in their own course, Education 101?

We must evolve our approach to teaching and learning. If we don’t, schools WILL become obsolete. It’s NOT good enough to hand our students a laptop or an iPad and proclaim, “There, now we’re 21st century school.” It’s about changing the fundamental way in which our schools and classrooms operate to best serve the needs of the modern day student. We have to make a shift from a pedagogy founded on  knowledge-delivery to one that promotes creativity, innovation, and differentiation.

Suli makes this point with prose that brings words to life…true “education” is education that is meaningful to it’s possessor. Picasso learned the art of, well, art. Shakespeare mastered the art of words and Colonel Sanders perfected the art of fried chicken. Each did it their OWN way, not one that was prescribed in a school’s curriculum. As Suli vividly describes in my favorite example of his about passion-based learning, Beckham didn’t learn to “bend it” (a penalty kick) at Chingford Foundation School. In fact, David once said,

At school whenever the teachers asked, ‘What do you want to do when you’re older?’ I’d say, ‘I want to be a footballer.’ And they’d say, ‘No, what do you really want to do, for a job?’ But that was the only thing I ever wanted to do.

So he did. Beckham bends it with such skill and precision, not because Chingford Foundation School successfully coaches all their kids to do so, but because he had a passion for the sport that drove him to study and perfect the art of penalty kicking. Imagine how scary he would be on the pitch had his teachers fully accepted and promoted his passion for soccer as a career!

Ultimately, schools must learn to inspire and promote our students’ inherent passion for authentic, meaningful, and individualized learning. After all, our future depends upon it.

What are your thoughts about Suli’s video? How can we shift our approach as a school to provide a more relevant and authentic experience? Please share your thoughts.

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Hamlet’s Blackberry (Part One)

In Hamlet’s Blackberry, William Powers argues that we need a new digital philosophy that finds balance between connecting outward and inward. His goal in this book is to explore “a practically useful way of thinking about technology, so it serves the full range of human needs, inside and out”(100). Powers finds the answers of how to face the challenges tech presents by looking to the past. He explores examples of past technologies and people’s reactions to them to shed light on how concerns we should be considering as we learn to negotiate an ever changing digital world.

In the days of Plato & Socrates, the new technology was the written language which started replacing oral communication. Socrates feared that writing would cause people to use their memories less and would eliminate the back and forth communication that speaking offered.

He misjudged writing because he judged it through the lens of the old tools (speaking), an error we still make today.

Writing actually provided a lot of benefits, allowing us to bridge the distances between people (oral communication could only happen in close proximity—at least in Plato’s day); and writing allows us to reflect and ruminate later at our own pace and repeat ideas until we understand them.

But as is often the case, the improvements made by a technology can also cause other problems. By the time Seneca arrives on the scene, writing had grown to the point of the great library of Alexandria and the new challenge was how to handle the increased libraries and mailing. People were awash with info, but not necessarily knowledge.

In an age saturated with info, we have to pare down and decide what is most important or necessary. The paradox of information is that the more there is available, the harder it is to be truly knowledgeable.

In 15th centuryEurope, Gutenberg’s printing press caused another radical technological shift, changing reading methods from a public, shared activity to a private one, and increasing the type and quantity of information available to the masses. By Shakespeare’s day, the printing press had made the proliferation of reading materials overwhelming. Powers points out: “Over and over in history, new technologies arrive that play to our natural maximalist tendencies. At the same time, quietly but persistently, there’s a need to find balance.” (154-55). This balance was found by using another “new” tool, a reusable “tablet” that allowed a person to jot down notes and then erase them later. This offered a way for people to pare down.  Much like in Seneca’s day, people felt the need to find a way to slow down and sift through what was really important.

What tools will we provide our students with that will help them sift through the plethora of information and help them deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed?

Stay tuned for the next installment featuring Franklin, Thoreau, & McLuhan.