Sunday, March 1, 2015

Are We Preparing Students for OUR Future or THEIR Future?

A while back, Don and I had the opportunity to tour the Innovation Center in midtown St. Louis as a part of the EdCamp STL planning committee.  All I can say is......WOW!  I was mesmerized by the building, office spaces, collaboration spaces, technology.......and then I started the current infrastructure of schools, how I am supposed to prepare them for this? This is a frightening question for me as an educator.  My job is to prepare my students for their life and educational journey. How am I to do that?

Here is a picture that I took, looking into a social media company that works out of the Innovation Center. All I could think about as I wandered around the building was, as teachers, we need to begin preparing our students for the world they are growing up in.......for THEIR futures.  Their futures look different than our own futures. They look different than the opportunities that were available even 10 years ago, shoot......5 years ago. The focus of schools needs a shift so that when students leave us, they feel prepared to embrace and take on the challenges and opportunities that await THEM.  What are we supposed to do? Could you imagine if classrooms looked like this?  If schools were truly set up to embrace this type of future?

I believe this begins with a shift in focus about what is important within a school's curriculum.  Content should not be the main focus of teachers but rather the processes that lie within teaching the content.  Use content to teach these processes such as problem solving, critical thinking, how to fail and move forward, perseverance, etc.  All of these are real world applications that will take them farther in their futures than knowing "the pathway that blood travels through the human heart" or "who the 5th Emperor of Rome is".

Another integral part has to be allowing students to experience technology in its fullest.  In a previous post, Don shared that we had a grant fulfilled for a 3D printer.  To watch students take their ideas and make them come to life is amazing!  Here is just one of the ideas printed by a student; it is a logo of her soon-to-be organic candy company.  (So much creativity shining through in just this one sentence, right?! And she is 13.)

Technology is our students' world and future.  Allowing them to experience through different media is only going to prepare them for the world they will be entering at 18, whether it is more schooling or the job market.  Don and I were unsure about what we would do with a 3D printer but we knew the kids would come up with ideas that didn't even cross our minds.  Since we didn't have a plan about how we were going to use it, does this mean we shouldn't have tried to get one? Absolutely not! You don't know what technology can do for you until you have it and try it.  Because we don't have a defined purpose doesn't mean we shouldn't get something. Don't be afraid to try it!

Don and I try to allow this type of thinking, creating, making, and tinkering with our 20% Time projects.  As I watch our students working, pushing through with their ideas, problem-solving, making appointments and phone calls, drawing, and making makes me smile.  I love seeing who our kids are as learners and what they can do on their own. I love watching their creativity shine through and I mean REAL creativity, not PROGRAMMED creativity where teachers tell the kids what to do and how to do it.  Our kids can make and create in a way they feel is their strength and still meet the requirements of the project.  It is awesome to have kids all kids have a voice and not just any voice, but a real voice in their learning that describes who they are and how they learn.

I challenge you, as an educator, to think about your students' futures and the world in which they will grow up.  I challenge you to think about what you are doing to prepare them for this future.   Are you doing all you can? Are you doing what you should? Or are you doing what you have always done?  It is our job to always do what is best for our students.  Are you doing what is best for yours? Change is scary (no arguments here!)............but it is time for a change in education. Will you be that change?

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