As I rethink what this blog was originally going to look like, all I want now is to be real and reflective. Period. There may be a tune that comes along (see the About section), but that doesn’t matter. My aim is to be true to myself, my readers, and to be sure that education is real (authentic!) for me, my staff, and my students. So here we go…again!
In reading Couros’ Innovator’s Mindset (which is aMAZing!), I’ve begun to think and rethink the purpose of education. I’ve always believed that education is about providing people opportunities to understand new things, think in new ways, and truly know how to respond to the world they live in. That hasn’t really changed, but it seems a truly remarkable feat today because we are talking about understanding, thinking, and knowing (those 3 things = LEARNING) in a place (global society) that is constantly growing, changing, and evolving.
Until recently, I never considered that amount of information we have at our disposal is greater today than it has ever been before, and that schools can’t provide anything close to the amount of exposure to that information in a classroom compared to what the internet can provide. Now ironically, one of the 10 teacher standards for Wisconsin educators is demonstration of mastery within a content area, so that being said, the aforementioned idea of providing content in schools versus access to content on the internet might make education seem like an insurmountable feat. In the context of information mass, it probably is, but that shouldn’t be discouraging because in many ways, it is what makes education so great.
Totally relevant sidebar: I chose music education as a career because I knew I would never know all there was to know about music and that I would never master it. Someone would always be better than me, someone would always know something more than me, and something would always be created that I had never heard or saw before, and I would ALWAYS be able to learn from that. The same holds true for administration – there will always be ways for me to learn and grow. End sidebar.
So now when I think about educators demonstrating “mastery of content,” my response now is: HA! Yeah, right. In 2017? Good luck with that. (For the record, the first Wisconsin administrative standard is proficiency in all 10 teacher standards. Also laughable – no offense Wisconsin DPI.)
So what do I think this means for the purpose of schools? To answer that, I first turn to An open letter to educators, where Dan Brown says that educators need to understand that the world is changing, and if they do not change, the world will decide it doesn’t need them any more. If anyone still believes that the purpose of education has anything to do with mastery of content (and to be clear when I talk mastery I mean memorizing facts and spitting them out on a test), then those individuals will be left behind and there won’t be any use for schools or education just as Brown says. The time for content mastery for educators in this context, and an attempt to achieve it with students, is over. (R.I.P.)
The way I see it, the purpose of education and the mission of educators is to provide students the opportunity ask questions, think, create, and spark (everyone’s) natural curiosity about the world around them. It doesn’t matter if you are talking about poetry, World War II, or debating what the best ice cream flavor is (Cookies ‘n’ cream!), if students understand how to find information, use it to solve problems, ask questions about it, challenge others’ thinking, and explain their own thinking, then educators have achieved their mission and carried out the purpose of education.
I think about Hattie’s Visible Learning and the ideas of surface learning, deep learning, and knowledge transfer. For years “mastery of content” might have looked like surface learning i.e. memorizing facts, or even deep learning to synthesize and analyze information, but now education has to be about transfer. Take that information and analysis and apply it to something new. Be curious and stretch ideas further. Be creative and innovative to reuse knowledge as the world around us changes.
Let’s reboot. Let’s spark curiosity. Let’s get to the transfer. And as we continue #IMMOOC, let’s make a change and do something amazing.
Sam Cooke: A Change is gonna Come
There have been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.
What do you know? A song after all.