Further to my recent post about open assessment tasks and true learning, you may want to have a look at Clay Burell’s posts on his blog Beyond School. I suppose I’m late to discover Clay but I figure others will be able to share my new discovery. Here’s what he says in his post entitled ‘Beyond school’ : on the death of genius for the sake of college’ (he’s talking about young people’s time being taken over by ‘education’:
‘I mean the ones who are so over-scheduled with schoolwork, homework, SAT test-prep cram schools, and all the other madness that keeps them focused on memorizing the data and pounding out the grunt-work, one assignment and one GPA-increment at a time, year in and year out – from what, grade 9? Or is that too late to begin worrying these days? – that they rarely have time to pull back and reflect on anything at all’.
I can’t help thinking back to my primary school years; for some reason memories of those days keep coming back as a kind of lost paradise, and what stands out is the time spent in idleness. And during that idleness, whether it be walking home from school in the slowest way possible, or sitting in a tree, creating a cubby house – a long-lost sense of freedom full of possibilities, ideas and dreams is evoked. So much time to reflect, time that is taken up now as an adult with adult responsibilities, and sadly, for many young children, this is also the case. By the time they’re in secondary school, the freedom is gone, the dreams taken over by instruction, the self-initiated learning through curiosity replaced by delivery of prescribed content during the school day, and fulfilment of prescribed homework tasks at home.
We would do well to remember that our students were awake to the wonders of the world as very young children – not knowledgeable wondering, but eager to experience, keen to ask questions. But do we, as teachers, ask young people what they’re interested in, or do we make their learning relevant to their world? Do we give them time to reflect? Is reflection valued?
Clay Burell, some time ago (not sure when), set up Students 2.0 to give young people a voice. In the ‘About’ section of the blog, he talks about the past paradigm of schools being effective for the times, but not so any more:
‘For decades, students have been stuck in classrooms, behind desks, being told how and what to learn… However, we have now entered a new age: an age where thinking is more important than knowing, where thoughts out-do the facts. Borders are melting away; project teams collaborate across the globe and intelligence is being continually redefined. The world’s information is at our fingertips and anybody can publish their thoughts for virtually no cost… Everywhere, we see changes: with how business operates, how people interact and how success is accomplished. There is unfortunately one place that remains unchanged, the place that could benefit most from the changes we see today… the classroom.’ He then explains the purpose of the blog: ‘This blog is an attempt to give students a voice in where the future of education is headed.’
I looked up some of the individual blogs of the students involved; it’s great to read what they have to say, their ideas, etc. Here are some of them:
Two penguins and a typewriter
Love and logic
The bass player’s blog
Newly ancient (archived)
Another thing I’d like to get off my chest:
if we as educators are working towards integrating Web 2.0 tools in order to engage students and create authentic learning, then we drop all that at year 11 because we have to focus on preparing students to regurgitate prescribed curriculum content so that they can get the highest scores and get into university, etc. then it’s crazy. Surely we need a bigger change. Surely this is a mindset change. Otherwise, we’re doing a little Web 2.0 here and there, then we say, hang on, we just have to go back for a bit; this is really important. Just doesn’t make sense.
Does anybody see a bigger change to the whole system in the near future? Is this really going to happen unless we change our assessment criteria?