Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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My thoughts after reading Seth Godin’s post Back to (the wrong) school and Douglas Rushkoff post Are Jobs Obsolete?

The other day I was looking at a curriculum map similar to this one:

curriculum map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I was looking over it I started shaking my head and wondering how do we personalize education in a standardized system? When every student has to learn the concepts covered in a specific unit by a specific time whether or not the students are done learning, have mastered the skills and concepts or are ready to move on.

When curriculum maps and content standards drive classroom instruction how do we personalize the educational experience for our students? How do we allow them to follow their passion, to wonder, to follow paths of interest?

I’ve talked before on this blog about my struggle with standards, about confining both teachers and students to what they can learn to one or two well written sentences of a bullet point. 

Does it really matter that every child learns the same thing or at the same time? Or is it more important that they just become a learner? Learning how to learn, unlearn, and relearn and having the skills and the passion to make it happen.

What if it was just a school’s mission and vision, or in my school’s case, our Definition of Learning that drove learning in our schools. What if at the end of every year kids had to show this:

We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:

  • Explain its relevance
  • Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning
  • Communicate it effectively to others
  • Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations
  • Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning
  • Ask questions to extend learning
  • Create meaningful solutions

 

Do we care what class it happens in? Do we really care about the content? Or can we stand in awe of the great work our kids can produce when we make it personal and allow their passion to show through.  

dung bettle
 

You know when you’ve been thinking something for awhile but it’s not very popular so you never say anything…..and then there’s a conversation that gets you going and before you know it…things just come out?

OK….so maybe this doesn’t happen to you…but it does to me….often actually. Think before I speak is something I obviously need to work on.

Today while kicking off another CoETaIL Cohort here at the #ETC11 conference this came rolling out of my mouth…and of course was tweeted right away.

what are the essentials of learning? @jutecht might have said something like “standards and benchmarks are crap!” too funny! #etc11less than a minute ago via TweetDeck

“standards & benchmarks are 20th century crap!” quote from @jutecht #etc11 #coetailless than a minute ago via TweetDeck

Yes….I’ve been thinking this for awhile. I’ve been having an issue with standards and benchmarks (S&B) for years. Specifically how they apply to technology in schools. Read here, here and here.

School has changed, we used to learn “just in case” now we need to be teaching “just in time”. (OK…schools haven’t changed but they should)

The way schools are applying S&Bs is frustrating me…especially in the American system where we’re getting to the point in many schools where everyone is on the same page at the same time learning the same standard. Forget if kids actually master the concept because we need to move on to the next standard.

S&Bs are 20th century thinking that we’re still trying to apply to a 21st Century world. A world were essential habits and attitudes of learning are what we need to be focused on. Where meta-congnitive skills and the ability to think about our own thinking will serve our students better than learning their times tables (I have access to 4 calculators within hands reach as I type).

So the conversation then is what is learning about? And as the tweet above states: What are the essentials of learning?

My current school I think is on the right track. What I would love to do is throw out all the S&Bs and tie everything we teach to our definition of learning. Your school has defined what learning is right? Here’s ISB’s Definition of Learning:

Learning is the primary focus of our school and we recognize learning as a life-long adventure. We value meaningful learning where students construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Increased understanding is evidenced by students who:

  • Explain its relevance
  • Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning
  • Communicate it effectively to others
  • Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations
  • Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning
  • Ask questions to extend learning
  • Create meaningful solutions

So the question is: What’s the “stuff” that we teach?

What if it was “stuff” students were passtionate about?

What if we gave students full autonomy, purpose, and the ability to master things?

What if school was not about content but about skills and attitudes?

What if students were “judged” on these 7 definitions of what it means to learn?

Yes….I know this idea has holes

Yes…it’s not perfect

Yes…I know you’re going to leave passionate comments (at least you’re passionate)

No…it’s never going to happen (schools have invested to much time in creating S&Bs)

Yes….I think S&Bs are 20th Century Crap that we’re trying to fit into a new world where content no longer rules. S&Bs have been disrupted by technology but we won’t can’t let them go because we fear the unknown.

There…I said it….what a weight off my shoulders.  

If technology is a tool…and we all agree it’s a tool right? Then why the heck do we need standards for it?

What are we trying to prove?

If you have a technology class..then yes there should be skills (a.k.a. standards) you are trying to teach students.

But…if it’s just a tool in the classroom that we’re using to produce and create information do we need to assess the tool, or the content we’re creating?

I spent one hour with these four girls showing them how a wiki works. That’s it, it was a tool…it could have been a hammer, a pencil, or any tool…but it just so happened that this tool is called a wiki and it takes a computer to access it.

http://ibhumanbiochem.wikispaces.com/

What is it about this site that is exciting? Is it the technology or the content they produced?

I’m struggling here. If it’s embedded into the classroom…like it is in this classroom. We should not need to assess it. We should get excited over the content, grade the content based on content standards and appreciate that we have tools today that allow us to express our learning, and allow students to share their content with a global audience.

[tags]standards[/tags]

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