After our discussion this past week on the generational divide and where education is going, I began reflecting on what I really think is in store for educators of the future. I always refer to one of my all-time favourite TED Talks spoken by Sir Ken Robinson, called ‘Do Schools Kill Creativity.’ The questions from this week’s prompt reminded me greatly of the things spoken about in this TED Talk. Topics like how can schools change? Where are we going from here? Are we really preparing children for the future? If you haven’t seen it, it’s 100% worth your time and will likely change some form of your teaching practice.
I often show it to my grade 12 students and the discussion that ensues is always enlightening and engaging. They love discussing the topic because they are the topic. They don’t want to be stuck in a desk, learning for 8 hours a day, and then go out into the workforce, only to realize they actually never will have to write a research report on a dead soldier, or use calculus to optimize the amount of concrete they need for their driveway. There are other, more practical ways of preparing them for the future and I believe it has already begun to change our way of thinking in terms of education. One thing I have always found interesting about my students’ opinions, is they never place blame on the teacher. Lots of them recognize that teachers can be just as stuck as the students are in the education model, and while a fair assessment, there are many ways teachers can break out of the mold, the only problem is money. Cost and resources are a huge disadvantage for teaching in many ways of the future.
Another video I have shown my students that really gets the conversation about schools changing is Prince EA’s poetry video called ‘I Sued The School System.’ Once again, we dive into the ideas on how our society is constantly changing, yet our methods of evaluation and teaching of future generations remains the same. So to answer the question, do schools need to change? My answer is absolutely. We are currently preparing a generation of the first “digital natives” to work in a world that is constantly changing, in a world where many manual jobs will be eventually replaced by machinery. Jobs will continually become obsolete, and the skills our students need are far greater than we have seen in the past. They need to be creative problem-solvers, who can work collaboratively with others, and think outside the box. Most of the careers our students will have don’t even exist yet.
I checked out this article (9 Things That Will Shape The Future Of Education) to see what others think will be the future of education, and the results were what I expected. Teachers think there will be more creativity and freedom in education, and we will no longer test knowledge that can be googled. Instead students will be critiqued on their critical thinking and problem solving skills. One teacher, Nicholas Provenzano, said “Math will be taught as a way of learning how to solve problems and puzzles. In literature, students will be asked what a story means to them. Instead of taking tests, students will show learning through creative projects. The role of teachers will be to guide students in the areas where they need guidance as innovators.” I love this idea, and I hope it holds true. I try to get students to think in this manner already, but it is difficult because our students are used to having ONE right answer, and they just want to be told what to think instead of thinking for themselves. I think this will be one of the biggest hurdles the education system will have to overcome – students being okay with being wrong, or not knowing the right answer, or there not being one.
Another teacher even mentioned the idea that schools and teaching could be a dying profession. This is an interesting concept to me; I always thought teaching would be ‘safe.’ I might be wrong, but I know the way I teach now will change in the next ten years. I think teachers will become more like directors, helping to oversee student progress and learning but not be the ‘keepers of knowledge’ we have been in the past. I think the future of education needs to change regardless of whether it wants to change or not. However, I also don’t think it is something that can be mandated, like the mandatory online courses in Ontario. There is no one way for students to learn, and as Albert Einstein said, “if you judged a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it would live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” The future of education will be more flexible for the student and the teacher, allowing students to showcase strengths and work on weaknesses in a supportive environment where it is encouraged to make mistakes. This dream might sound idealistic, and like a lofty goal, but I think it is possible if we want to succeed as a country. We just need the opportunity and the resources to try.
Until next time,