A week after the intense media spotlight of Education Nation, NBC's foray into the education reform movement, conversations in the robust online community are going full force. Though there's broad criticism of the event -- of teacher-bashing, of political duals trumping important issues, of grandstanding and finger-pointing, of media's fickle attention span -- the topic of education has inarguably bubbled up to the top spot of public dialogue.
That's the good news. But as the parent of a public-school student, I wonder how all this talk is going to shape the classroom, and by extension, how my daughter learns.
Will Richardson eloquently addresses this topic in his post "The Wrong Conversation." His main point is, without intending to oversimplify it, that educators should invest their finite time and energy in innovating and pushing boundaries on a day-to-day basis in their classrooms, rather than trying to hash through the loudest and most controversial fight du jour. That fight, he says, is not clearly defined, changes moment-by-moment depending on who's holding the bullhorn, and above all, distracting to the public and those who are doing the heavy lifting in classrooms.
Will also points out that the public at large may not be ready for the true education revolution -- the start-from-scratch theory that supplants our current understanding of what education is: a school, a classroom, a teacher speaking to students, and students absorbing and regurgitating information.
The mainstream is not yet open to the opportunities for learning our students now have, due in large measure to these technologies, and it’s nowhere near open to the idea that because of these innovations, the best outcome for our kids may be “schools” that look very little like what they look like today.
Admittedly, the idea that schools will fundamentally change -- from the very structure that defines the space to the actual instruction and learning part of the equation -- can be alarming to the general public. Isn't it anarchy? The idea that the teacher's role may be changing from instructor to guide, that the community may be involved in developing curriculum and becoming a part of the "school" day, that learning just for learning's sake may not be the main objective of education, all these ideas can be destabilizing.