Day 2 of the conference brought us another wonderful student keynote who spoke on the Chinese tale of the Frog in the Well. The frog only has a limited view of the sky through the top of the well, and until she is moved and shown the true nature of things, her horizons and her perspective are never changed. A fine start to the day for teachers to think about and to consider international education.
Then, the ever dynamic, Ian Jukes came on to speak. With excellent supporting visuals, Ian spoke on the dire need for our schools to address the thinking skills needed to prepare students for the world that outside of education has changed and continues to change so rapidly. Great quote from Woodrow Wilson, “it’s easier to move a cemetery, than it is to change a curriculum.” He makes a terrific point that the main difficulty is that the change we are dealing with is hard to comprehend and so it is hard to make our own changes when we are dealing with the “tyranny of the urgent.”
Kids today are different – Jukes spoke on how the visual cortex of the brain is larger, more developed than kids of 20 years ago. “Screenagers”, he called them, citing two Time Magazine articles. Interestingly, he talked about how current research seems to indicate that our brains continue to adapt and make new connections. But the brain needs regular exposure to the “change-maker” to make this change. So does this have implications on our schools? (rhetorical)
Jukes talked a fair amount on games and their impact on kids. He encouraged us to learn about these games, to play them with kids and to get our “asses kicked” by kids. They are hard-wiring themselves through these technologies. We
should need to tap into this.
I saw a lot of Ian Jukes this week. And the message is clear. Change is here…change is fast (exponential) and getting faster. And predicting the future? Impossible. So what does that mean for us? It means that we need schools to be different. I haven’t had “my own” class in a few years now and I do think about how I would do things differently if I were in the classroom again. But my need for change in education is even greater now. As the tech-guy, this stuff seems to fall under my umbrella for change. And I need to work out how to convince a curriculum office to dump content and adopt thinking skills, a faculty to include me in their lesson planning, and an administration to hire and evaluate based on a willingness to adapt to these ideas and change the way schools work.
Is this overstepping my bounds? Probably. But the need seems to strong to ignore. Education really seems to be failing kids. They seem to be learning in spite of us, not with us. Maybe that’s too harsh, but I liken it to the exact opposite of wikipedia. Wikipedia is accurate at the macro-level, but could be inaccurate at the micro. I think real learning is possibly working in individual rooms with individual teachers, but we are failing miserably on the school-wide education-as-a-whole level in preparing kids for futures requiring 21st century skills. (speaking of which, I attended a workshop on these skills that set us back on moving forward more than anything I’ve seen….good presentation is good presentation and when it isn’t good…ouch. Until I get up and start presenting myself in that forum, I suppose I should not judge).
Luckily, I am spoiled. I work with a forward thinking leader colleague and am about to be joined by another in the ES. I saw many faces from my school at the various Jukes sessions. The tide could start changing at ISB and I think that those who are interested is as good a place to start as any. Let’s see how many come to school on Monday wanting to be committed.