While many teachers carry on the tradition of the factory, compliance-based, teacher-centered model of education, other teachers are embracing a student-centered, learning by doing model of education. What ever happened to 21st Century Learning? We are 16 years into the push for 21st century learning, but the 4 C’s of communication, critical thinking, creativity, and collaboration are often missing in classrooms today.
Innovation in education is crucial today because our kids cannot wait any longer for the transformation of education to fully occur. For example, my youngest son recently graduated from high school. While we sat on our deck this summer enjoying a nice evening, he started talking about his learning experiences through high school. He described ways in which he learned best and ways he learned and retained very little.
It was heartbreaking to hear him talk about what I call “playing school;” doing what he needed to do to get the grade and move on. He listed learning experiences not meaningful including reading textbooks, completing worksheets, taking notes, lectures, and most teacher-centered practices. On the other hand, he was eager to describe the details of each of his most meaningful learning experiences. Projects with choice were the most empowering because personal connection and passion were naturally embedded. Projects motivated him to do well because he was responsible for the learning in the form of a high-quality finished product. Certainly not the norm, authentic learning experiences connected to real-world problems also made a positive impact on my son’s educational experience.
Too often, innovation and technology become interchangeable words. As access to devices become much more ubiquitous, pedagogy continues to change ever so slowly. Way too slow. Case in point, my son had access to plenty of technology, but he still wanted more choice, project-based, and student-centered learning. In The Innovator’s Mindset, George Couros provides a great reminder: