I need to extend a personal thank you to Will Richardson for giving me the figurative slap across the face that I needed to get this off my chest. I had the good fortune of hearing him speak (three times last Friday) and watching him show a group of educators one resource after another that would allow us to better engage students. He is the author of Blog, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. I highly recommend you visit his blog and/or wiki.
My two passions are my chidren and public education. My biggest concern at the moment in each of these areas is actually the same and the concern revolves around the following question:
Are my children getting the education they need to be successful in our rapidly changing world?
Of course the question is also relevant for any parent. The worst part for me is that I know the answer is no and I feel that I have taken a much too passive role in working to address this concern. I guess I have been a typical parent (no offense intended to other typical parents) with my willingness to accept that the same schooling that I received would be good enough for my kids.
The fact of the matter is that my children are being prepared for a world that no longer exists. My kids attend a nice elementary school where the principal greets each child by name outside the school each morning (rain or shine). The kids are happy going to school each day and they have hardworking teachers who care about them. So what's my problem?
I guess it is probably the sands of the hour glass that are flowing faster each day. My oldest Tim just turned 11 and is headed off to middle school next year. Bryn (8) is not too far behind as she heads towards the completion of grade 3. Then there is Mary Clare (3) who will begin in the same elementary school next year in the pre-school program.
There are really two big problem areas for me. First, I have never had one teacher talk about either child's growth as a writer by showing me writing from the beginning of the year and then writing from later on in the year where focused instruction has helped them to improve. I have not seen one exemplar or heard about the focal areas of the writing instruction at any grade level. Maybe I am not asking the right questions?
My second problem is the limited use of technology at the school. We are in an age where technological change is happening overnight and we are not utilizing these resources to help our children learn. In fact in most cases, schools are denying the existence of these new potential learning tools and punishing those who would be foolish enough to utilize one during school hours. I feel like we are educating our kids in a manner that looks like an episode of the Flintstones when in reality our world looks more like an episode of the Jetsons.
Did anyone else go to Disney World back in the late 70's when they had this people mover at the end of the Space Mountain Ride that showed all of these amazing technological innovations that would be coming in the future? Space Mountain is still there, but the glimpse into the future is gone (or should I say is here). Some schools (not many yet) are embracing this fact and allowing these new technological tools to enhance the education of students. That is the type of education I want for my kids!
Mary Passage Middle School in Virginia is one school taking advantage of new technologies. Stay tuned for more examples of these innovations. We are also starting to scratch the surface of the possibilities in the BPS. (I will follow with a post on specifics)
It is the most exciting time in history to be involved in education thanks to the tidal wave of technology in which our world is engulfed. As the adults in schools, we need to start modeling the appropriate use of these technologies as we have done with other past innovations. Until we take on this monumental challenge, we will be selling ourselves (and more importantly our children) short.