As educators, we know we need to make changes. We need to make school a positive place for students and teachers alike. We need to turn schools into places relevant to modern life. Those opinions are not very controversial, but it is difficult to answer questions they raise: What is the problem? What does solving the problem look like? Does changing how we do things really impact students? How does the teacher’s role change? What should we aim for when changing the way we teach?
For that last question, we should focus change on two areas: making classrooms and schools student-centered and future ready. Those two terms are not interchangeable. Student-centered learning is the idea that the classroom should be centered on students rather than a dominant teacher. Future Ready Schools is a US Department of Education initiative working towards making school a place where digital learning tools enable student success after post-graduation. The term is often used to describe classrooms and schools where students are working on 21st-century skills.
These concepts are inter-related. Classrooms are teacher-centered when memorizing content is king. Memorizing content does nothing to give students future-ready skills for 21st-century jobs. Student-centered classrooms have students creating, collaborating, communicating and problem-solving. These skills are likely to help them achieve future personal and professional goals.
So grab some popcorn and get fired up to make your teaching student-centered and future ready!
Video 1 – What is the problem? XQ: Rethink
This video makes a strong case that American high schools are relics of the Industrial Revolution. Viewers should consider how this problem applies to elementary and middle schools too.
Videos 2 and 3 – What does solving the problem look like? Architect of the Possible and NCMS Ed Camp Period
Architect of the Possible starts with EdTechTeam CEO Mark Wagner speaking about Google Apps for Education (GAFE). It is well understood that GAFE are awesome for teachers and students. The video gets really good at the 3:07 mark where he describes a public high school in New Zealand. Its innovative practices are obviously future ready. When Mark talks about student agency and 20% time at the school, it becomes apparent that it is student-centered as well.
The educators at Northfield Community Middle School in Northfield, NJ trust their students so much, they turn a period of every day over to them. Edcamps have grown in popularity and have been shown to be effective for educators.
Video 4 – Does change really impact students? Penn Manor: The Power of Open in Education
Penn Manor School District in Pennsylvania has a very student-centered approach. Charlie Reisinger, IT Director, says the district starts conversations with students by saying, “We trust you.” Students are given root access on their district-issued devices. This approach is as student-centered and future ready as it gets. At the 6:00 mark, the video tells the story of how this approach affected one student. Warning: anyone with any emotional attachment to children, people with learning needs, or education might get a little misty-eyed watching this part.
Video 5 – How does the teacher’s role change? I am NOT a Teacher
In keeping with being student-centered, let’s address the question of teachers last. This is not to lessen teachers’ importance. It is meant to emphasize the need to make it about the student. This video is uncomfortable for teachers at first glance because of its title, I am NOT a Teacher. Keith Hughes is a
teacher FOLE. His insights will make you reconsider how students learn and how teachers facilitate that process.
Thank you for considering these ideas. If you would like to discuss student-centered and future ready teaching, please comment below or Tweet me at @edtechtom.