(I don’t know where this graphic originally came from, but thanks for sharing it, Karen Blumberg.)
A couple of years ago, social media was supposed to be the thing that unlocked so much potential in education. We can communicate with each other online! Revolutionary! No it wasn’t, no it isn’t. It’s the way people go about their every day anyway.
Then the maker movement came with its emphasis on creation, which was supposed to unlock the practical, engaging, and innovative. This works, and it’s great, but it’s also almost exactly how kids play anyway when given the chance.
Design thinking is all the rage now, and we’ve taken a meta view to creation, focusing on the process of creation and making it ok to fail safe in our classrooms. It’s a great thing and all, but I think the empathetic element of DT is actually something that’s been missing from most education for a while. This feels a lot more like we’ve restored some balance in our classrooms more than anything else.
So… what’s going to be next? And how revolutionary will it really be?
Each of these three things — maybe a snapshot of some educational trends from the last five years or so — is nothing new or revolutionary. What they do more than anything else is move classrooms from a one-and-done model of assessment and proof of knowledge (“Oh, you got an 55 on your math test? Then you know 55% of math.”) and make them more in line with how the rest of the world works — more than one chance to do something, often with a chance to have a little fun while you’re doing it.
The true innovation in these three examples was the reintroduction of real-world relevance and immediate engagement into classrooms that needed it. A student should never have to ask “Why am I learning this?” or “What does this have to do with what I’m learning in that other class?” If we’re not making that clear, then we’re doing our students a disservice, just as we’re doing them a disservice by asking them to operate, between the hours of 8 and 3 on weekdays, in a way that is fundamentally different from the way that they would ordinarily get things done. We should be making our guiding questions, significant concepts, or whatever else you want to call them make sense for our students, and making sure that they can see how the things that they learn in one classroom connect to another.
So students should know that social media today is not only a great way to communicate — both personally and with the rest of the world — but that it’s also the modern day equivalent of American Revolution-era pamphleteering. They should know that people have been making things using trial and error and iteration, and also trying to design better solutions to real problems for a long time. And they should know that empathy isn’t a new thing, and in fact is something that should never have been out of any discussions.
A very wise and now-retired colleague once told me, as we were making a push for rapidly increased technology integration, “Young teachers won’t have an easier time using technology in their classrooms. Good teachers will.” So let’s all be good teachers who know what will work and how to use it. Whatever comes next, let’s just figure out how to let common sense guide us past the restrictions of practicality. I bet we’ll have more fun with it, have an easier time trying, failing, and improving with it, making better teaching and learning experiences for everyone involved.