Why It's Time to Change the Role of Education

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This article is more than 9 years old.

Veteran teacher, blogger, and educational technology expert Will Richardson was recently interviewed by Edweek. There are so many, but here are some of my favorite quotes:

"I look at my kids’ tests all the time—it’s just factual stuff. You know, “What was the third ship that Columbus sailed?” I can’t stand it, because it doesn’t have any relevance or any bearing on anything that they’re going to do in their lives. But they have to spend a lot of time on it, because if they don’t get that test answer right, then the school looks bad on the state assessment. It’s just so screwed up. I get how it made sense 50 years ago. Maybe 30 years ago. But I don’t get it now, when my daughter could pull out her phone to find the answer in two seconds. It’s just silly... We have to be willing to put kids—and assess kids—in situations and contexts where they’re really solving problems and we’re looking not so much at the answer but the process by which they try to solve those problems."

I think we’re at a point where we really need to think about not just reforming education but transforming it. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t have teachers and classrooms and schools, but the interactions that happen just need to be really, really different—because the world is just such a different place right now, with everything we have access to. You know, when I think about my own kids, I have no doubt that the best teachers they’re going to have in their lives are the ones that they find, not the ones their schools give to them. And that to me is a huge shift in the way we think about the role of educators in kids’ lives. And I think that kind of captures a piece of how differently we have to think about this.

"...This is a real period of transition, and it’s natural for us to do some hand-wringing when we go through periods of transition, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that 50 years from now we’re going to be stupid because of the Internet. In many ways, I think the Internet has made us immensely smarter. But there’s no doubt that the ways we process and gather information is going through a big change. That can be scary, but we can’t just put the genie back in the bottle."

A teacher responds:

Sad to say, many of us hard working teachers are quite lazy when it comes to our own learning: the learning that will make us relevant and capable leaders for students who must enter a digital society where the challenge is not the facts they know, but what they can do with newly-acquired knowledge. Which means our students will be expected to master the very skills teachers refuse to learn.

Read the rest of the interview. It's good stuff!