I wrote the post below in August of 2018, which seems like a VERY long time ago and a different world. Still, the three things I reference in the post are as relevant today in a post-2020 world as they were when I originally wrote the post.
As I have mentioned before, I think a beneficial exercise for any school community is to discuss what the “basics” are in education today and maybe even discuss how they have changed.
For example, one of my biggest influences for writing, when I was a high school student was sports writer Rick Reilly, who wrote the back page article for Sports Illustrated. His articles were written about sports, but he always made a very emotional connection to his content, so it wasn’t just about who won and lost, but more about the human condition as told through a sports lens. Honestly, I try in many ways to do the same thing with education and learning, and when I genuinely think about it, Reilly was an inspiration for me.
But as a student, I wasn’t allowed to bring Sports Illustrated to classrooms for independent reading as I was told a magazine was not “real reading.” I don’t think this is an issue in education today with magazines, but could it be with blogs or website articles?
I believe, to this day, reading is a “basic,” but we have also to discuss the different ways we have access to reading and that we can feel a connection to an author and their style, whether they write blogs, books, graphic novels, or magazine articles.
The “basic” is the same, but our access has changed. How do we leverage that opportunity with our students?
Also, as you read below, think of the “learn-fast” idea I shared in 2018 and how vital it has been over the last couple of years!
Just a couple of things to consider as you read the content below!
I gave it the Grammarly treatment, but I present the ideas very similar to what I wrote in 2018. Thanks for reading!
Throughout the years, I have focused tremendously on the ideas of “change” and “innovation” in my speaking and writing. Change is a constant in our world, but I have noticed that I have been thinking a lot about what needs to stay the same in education. Nothing stays the same 100%, but some big ideas are as true today as they were when I went to school, although they can sometimes be forgotten or pushed aside for the sake of “new.” Although the big ideas are the same, the context evolves.
Here are three things that will always be a foundation for education and our school communities but are ever-evolving:
Relationships are probably neither forgotten nor pushed aside in education today, but I would be remiss not to acknowledge how important this was when I was in school. The teachers that treated me as an individual and cared about me first were the ones that I wanted to focus on working harder for in class.
Although relationships have always been meaningful, I feel that with technology, we have created opportunities for learners (at all levels, including staff) to share a voice that they might not have thought they had before. The ubiquitous access to technology should allow us to build better relationships than before. Simple video creation will enable us to connect when it is not possible to be “there.” I remind people that if a picture is worth a thousand words, what do you think a video is worth?
This is not to say face-to-face isn’t important (it is crucial), but the thoughtful use of technology should promote better face-to-face connections, not less.
2. The importance of content.
I have shared this quote from Thomas Friedman many times:
“The world only cares about—and pays off on—what you can do with what you know (and it doesn’t care how you learned it).”
The part of the sentence that is often focused on is the “what you can do” element but the “what you know” part is just as essential. Content is not unnecessary in education; it is crucial. But what has changed is that content can be gathered from many different sources than when I first went to school. A school was the place where you went to access knowledge. But now, information is abundant, yet finding good information is as vital as ever.
The best analogy I had ever heard on the importance of content was from John Medina (author of “Brain Rules”). He stated (paraphrasing), “Creation without knowledge is the equivalent of playing the air guitar; you might know the motions, but you aren’t able to play.”
Although the content has always been valuable, the shift in education has been to focus more on understanding and deep learning than solely retention. Information retained yet not understood may look good in the short-term but has little benefit in the long-term.
3. A focus on lifelong learning.
I have heard the term “lifelong learning” in education for as long as I can remember as both a student and an educator. This is not new in the 21st century. What is new are the opportunities for learning and the rate at which change occurs. I wonder if the term should be modified to “rapid-lifelong-learning,” as even things you get used to seem to change when you least expect it (hello, new Gmail interface). I hate terms like “fail-fast” or “fail-forward” because they insinuate something negative about moving along, whereas “learn-fast” or “learn-forward” make a lot more sense to me.
Lifelong-learning is something that will never change, but we might have to get quicker at it.
I have heard this question often:
“What has changed, and what has stayed the same?”
But a little shift in the question that could lead to some meaningful discussion is the following:
“What has stayed the same, and how has it changed?”
There is so much to learn from the great work done in education throughout the years, and the goal is not to rid ourselves of these great things but to create something better with them.