Friday, July 18, 2008

Education- Changing?

I have been reading many other blogs in recent days. I have been given a lot to think about. I have also been enjoying the conversations on Plurk (an online social network similar yet different from Twitter) with other educators. I am learning a lot, discovering new applications, websites and starting to feel networked to others involved in technology in education.

Some of things that I have read and discussed are how education has fundamentally stayed the same for many, many years. Strong arguments could be made that support this. Just like most studies, you can find data that supports your biases. This is sad in some ways. Personally, I don't think that teachers have ever been given the respect that they deserve, for what is in my opinion, one of the most important professions in our society. I think that schools have been underfunded and struggle to get their budgets balanced every year. We continue to have segregation and schools that are in very poverty stricken neighborhoods that are needing our most talented and dedicated teachers. Parents and educational staff have always wanted the best for their children. There have always been exceptional teachers and administrators. There have always been star students and others that are troubled.

I disagree strongly though that education has stayed the same and that the challenges we face are the same as before. The changes are not all good or all bad. Some of the change has been federally mandated and other change has been societal. Recently the No Child Left Behind law and the testing that comes with it, has changed our schools. There are arguments on both sides about whether this legislation has been good for our students or not. You will have your own opinion about it. Not so far in the past, students with exceptional needs were not mainstreamed in the classroom. Individual Educational Plans (IEP's) and Title 1 services were not offered. Alternative and charter schools were unheard of. Students as global citizens was a concept that was not even thought of.

The majority of students used to come from two parent households. We did not have to compete with anything other than the television for the students attention. Teachers had much more authority in the classroom. Our students stayed in the school district for most of their 13 years. A high school diploma was all that you needed to get a decent job. Typewriters, pen and paper, World Book Encyclopedia (and other great reference materials), film strips and overhead projectors were the tools that we taught with. We memorized everything.

I do not think that technology has made as big of an impact in our schools as some might think. In fact, there are lots of school districts that have the technology but are not using it to its potential for many reasons. We are just now starting a time that has the potential to impact our schools in ways that we are unable to foresee. This next generation of teachers are digital natives. This comfort level and ease in which in their every day lives they use the technology will hopefully transfer into the classroom environment. The potential is there for this to happen in ways that it has never happened before.

How do I want education to evolve? Students, of course need to learn the basics in reading, writing and arithmetic. I want them to learn so much more. I want my fellow educators to assist our students to become thinkers. I want our students to be taught the importance of working together. We live in a small/big world (made smaller/bigger by the internet). Only then will we be able to solve real world problems. I don't have the answers to how. I just know that our students are our future. How the future will be, depends upon what we do now. There are challenges ahead for those of us in education. These challenges need to be embraced and not fought. Technology is another tool in which we can help our students reach their true potential.

1 comment:

  1. "The more things change, the more they stay the same." Nowhere is that adage more true than in public education. In so many ways, we are still trying to teach 21st-century students living in a mainly suburban, technology-driven service economy using a model made for a 19th-century, agrarian/rural society. There have definitely been positive changes, as you discuss here, but the fact is real change cannot happen until there is a paradigm shift in the basic philosophy of public education, which means an end to high-stakes standardized testing and the adoption of a holistic model of learning that fosters critical thinking skills, the ability to collaborate and cooperate with people of different abilities and perspectives, and the best ways to access the knowledge or resources one needs in order to adapt to changing situations, rather than rote memorization of facts. The tools are in place; it's the structure that's at least 100 years behind.