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19th Century Schools in the 21st Century

So, here we are.  If you’ve made your way to this blog, on this section of this site, you have at least a passing interest in technology and/or education.  (Bonus points for “and.”)


So here we are, a good DECADE into the 21st Century, still facing the issue of dragging students, snoring and drooling, through an education system for the 19th Century agrarian society that is SO 100+ years ago.  Why aren’t they kicking and screaming in true cliché fashion?  Because our ancient system of education is boring them into a stupor.  They just get through the school day without getting detention so they can go home, plug in, and REALLY start learning.  Online.  From their peers.  Seven things at once.

You know, this whole “going to school thing” is really slowing down their education.

It’s not the teachers’ fault.  Well, in some cases it is, but for the most part, the teachers are also just getting through the day so they can go home and feed the sheep on their Facebook farms, catch up on e-mail with friends and relatives, read and write online restaurant reviews, and upload pictures of their pets to their photo sharing sites.  Teachers want the tools and the training . . . and the trust . . . to teach their charges how to make it in today’s world.  Or better yet, tomorrow’s world, the demands of which have not even been invented yet.

Whose fault is it?  Why are we still confined to the four walls and (Heaven forbid!) chalk boards of the Dust Bowl Era while people in the real world are fixing space toilets and conducting revolutions via updates of 140 characters or less?  Your computer has Google Earth, and the GPS in your car can give you turn-by-turn directions to Guatemala, but the globe in your child’s classroom has two Germanys?

I blame standardized testing.  Who wants standardized anything?  You buy an iPhone and the first thing you do is trick it out with a cover in your favorite color and a dozen or so apps that make your pocket computer as different from your friend’s as a Hummer is from a hybrid.

TANGENT ALERT: Today, in the car, I was trying to explain to my five year-old son how when Mommy and Daddy were his age, there was only a phone in your house, not your pocket . . . and NO voice mail! . . . so if someone called when you weren’t home, they just had to call back some other time.  (Actually, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that Daddy’s family didn’t even have a phone until Daddy was an adult and had moved out.  We were already covering too much ancient history for his little brain to handle.)

(Extra bonus points if you dig how my tangent is actually related to this topic.  I do that a lot.)

Okay, back to testing (boooo!).  We force all kids to learn the exact same thing, the exact same way, and then have to pass a test.  Half of the stuff on the test they will never need to know again, or if they do, they will just pull out their smart phones and look it up online.  We don’t need fountains of useless knowledge; we need power players in the info-rich future in which our students will live, work, and run our rest homes.

So that’s what this blog is about.  How do YOU break free from the mold of chalk and chicken feed and hurl your students into their tomorrow of global teleconference, wifi hi-fi, medical record chip-implanted information overload?  (That was my lame attempt at trying to imagine the future my students will inhabit.  Heinlein I ain’t.)

What tools do you use to engage ALL students in active learning?  How do you maintain their interest in the core curriculum when you’re competing with World of Warcraft and Facebook?  Let’s share ideas.  And then, when no one’s looking, we’ll bury all the standardized tests in my backyard.  Shhhhh.

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