Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Evolution or Revolution, Reformation or Transformation?

What are we currently seeing happening in education?  The world is changing, but in many cases our schools still stay the same.   It seems that we have the knowledge to bring about a change in the way we teach our children, to overthrow of the old "factory" system of schooling, to embrace a new way of learning.  We talk about the skills that will be needed in the future being very different from the skills that were needed in the past.  We know that there are going to be dramatic and wide-reaching changes in the way our students will work, how they will live their lives and the ways they will view and use technology.  But do we want a revolution, or are we happy with an evolution?  Can we afford wait for the gradual rolling out of the changes in our schools that we know need to happen?

When I started writing this blog, I called it Tech Transformation because I believed in the necessity of a thorough and dramatic change in our education system and because I believed that this could come about through technology.  Teachers would no longer be the "fountain of all knowledge", they would be helping students to inquire, to construct their own meaning, to be responsible for their own learning.  I am seeing a lot of reforming going on - there are changes, things are improving - but I wouldn't say it's dramatic enough to be called a transformation.  I'm constantly asking myself how technology can transform learning. I'm thinking about this in terms of the IB Learner Profile and how technology can promote these attributes.

We want our students to be inquirers and we want them to be knowledgeable:  technology can help them with their explorations, they can connect with others around the world and explore concepts, ideas and issues that have both local and global significance - the connections can help them to look at these issues from different perspectives, and in doing so they will become thinkers who can truly understand these complex problems, make reasoned and ethical decisions and who can come up with creative solutions to them.

We want our students to be communicators:  technology can help them to express their ideas confidently using a variety of modes.  Using technology to collaborate with others around the world can also help students to become more open-minded to the values of others and develop a sense of fairness and justice and of respect for different points of view.  Understanding the needs and feelings of others will encourage our students to be caring, to show empathy and compassion and hopefully to go on to act in ways that make a positive difference.  Our students should be principled and should act with integrity and honesty.

This is my 30th year of teaching.  The teenagers I started teaching all those years ago are now in their middle 40s.  Most of them are probably parents - and their children have probably already left school.  Some of my first students may even be grandparents now, with their grandchildren in our primary schools.  And I'm asking myself, after 30 years, is their experience of education any different from when I first started teaching back in the 1980s?  There hasn't been a revolution, but has there been an evolution?  There hasn't been a transformation, but has there been a reformation?  Am I too impatient for change?  Can we really afford to wait much longer?

Photo Credit:  Handel's Water Music by Rhino Neal AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works 

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