Preparing our students for Yesterday Today!

My brain is full. That’s a good thing though. I think.

At the conference today, the two keynote speakers really stressed the fact that we are preparing our students for a future that we can’t even imagine using technology, strategies, and pedagogy that really hasn’t evolved much since the 19th century.

Public education as we know it today grew to develop a population of literate workers for the industrial revolution. But what did that actually mean? 

It meant that workers needed to be able to read print (maybe), do simple arithmetic, and follow instructions. So we told students to sit in rows, be quiet, do the same thing as everyone else, and not ask too many questions.

Well, jobs that require workers who can do that are rapidly declining.

And yet, the majority of classrooms still bear a striking resemblance to those 19th century classrooms. 

And I can’t TELL you how tired I am of the response, “Well that’s what they’re going to get in university so we might as well prepare them for it.”

First of all, if we acknowledge that something qualifies as “bad teaching” then doing more “bad teaching” to prepare them for “bad teaching” seems ludicrous to me!

Secondly, we as teachers have this mindset that we need to prepare the majority of our students for university (because we did, and probably most of our friends did), when the fact is that very few of them are GOING to university–and not because they’re not smart enough, but because many of them realize that having a degree behind their name isn’t a guarantee of anything anymore.

 Sir Ken Robinson on how schools kill creativity

I strongly believe that the world they encounter within school at least needs to acknowledge the richness of the world that exists for these students outside of school. They’re doing all kinds of learning without us. Think of the potential for learning that could happen if we saw ourselves as facilitators. We don’t need to teach the kids how to use the technology, but we need to give them opportunities to use it to demonstrate to us what they know.

Now, I have to figure out how to do that in my classroom. 


3 thoughts on “Preparing our students for Yesterday Today!

  1. If you haven’t read Little Brother by Cory Doctorow – you should. Gives you an insight into the world of technology that kids have mastery of and the potential we all have for learning together. I can’t agree more that we are being left behind in the dust as educators when it comes to preparing kids for the future – a daunting task.

  2. Wow– lots to think about.

    I completely agree with your assertions about technology. I think it’s imperative that we keep up with technology as if we don’t, we really are doing a disservice to our students. I think the challenge often becomes finding that balance between form and content; using technology for “technology’s sake” without relevence to the curriculum is redundant– the bells and whistles must support something. I think that balance, however, can be found, and perhaps we should work harder as educators to do that. If, as English teachers, we look to more innovative programs like Communications Technology courses, we can adapt many of the things students learn to our programs– and I think students would be willing to help design options.

    I also totally agree that in many schools there is a “university” mind set. (And let’s face it, if secondary classrooms resemble 19th century classrooms, university lecture halls resemble 17th century institutions– at UWO, even the furniture does!) There are many schools, however, where this isn’t the case. Very few students from my school go on to university, and I think that to a certain extent, that face has changed the way many of my colleagues (and I) teach. It’s certainly changed our language.

    Programs that use CLA’s, therefore, become more relevant and if we perhaps adapt the Specialis High Skills Major model for many of our students, contextualized experiences with pathway-specific technology could be the result.

    The video clip got me thinking about creative writing (off topic a bit, I know). I have such a hard time with it. I find that the majority of students dislike it immensely– especially boys– and that it’s rare to receive well written submissions. (To be fair, I’m specifically thinking short stories– they always seem to be about alien wars in the Middle East… seriously). Poetry is a bit different– it’s hit and miss still though. I try to incorporate creativity in other ways (writing responses and letters as characters, arts-based a. & e. etc…), but traditional, longer “creative writing” is still not something I’m totally comfortable with. Am I alone in this? I fear I may be…