A few years ago, Time Magazine ran an article on the American schooling system. In its introduction, the feature made reference to a playful sardonicism shared amongst those in educational circles: the old Rip Van Winkle fable.
The story goes that Rip wakes up in the 21st century after 100 years of sleep and is understandably befuddled by the modern world: “Men and women dash about, talking to small metal devices pinned to their ears. Young people sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens…every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. ‘This is a school,’ he declares. ‘We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blackboards are green.’”
The article, “How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century,” highlights a major issue in our nation’s educational system: the growing gap between the skills schools teach our children and the skills life requires of them.
The old style of learning—memorization of facts, textbook reading assignments, listening to lectures, etc.—is quickly becoming obsolete in today’s world, mainly due to two main factors:
1. In this age of information, the hard facts of any given subject are no longer solely available through the teacher at the front of the classroom; they are accessible through the iPhone in the student’s back pocket.
2. With an increasing number of jobs being outsourced and/or automated, the most valuable skills today’s children can develop to secure a place in the new economy are creative problem solving, innovation, and according to Marc Tucker, an author of the skills-commission report and president of the National Center on Education and the Economy, “seeing patterns where other people see only chaos.”
In order to prepare our kids for the future they will create, education must change with the times. For students today, the “what” is not enough. The “what” is a mere click away. We must also give students the “how:” how to effectively access useful knowledge and how to make use of it.
In short, we need to give our students not just facts, but also techniques: techniques to develop their knowledge base, their skills, and most importantly, themselves. We need to provide them with an education that will unfold their inner potential as innovators, problem solvers, pattern finders, and creative geniuses.
Some techniques we can use to augment student growth in these areas:
- Project-based learning
- Consciousness-based education
- Incorporating multiple intelligences
- Guided independent studies (here’s a template)
- Higher order thinking exercises (which utilizes Bloom’s original Digital Taxonomy)
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