Who do we look to for the future of education?

Often in class we’ve bantered around about the benefits and risks of a pedagogy that is more constructivist and progressive.   The video below looks at what is happening with technology and education in the emerging world.   It’s rather interesting but poses some daunting questions for us to think about the purpose of education.

In the video Leadbeater speaks of the need for the education to “pull” the student to something practical and useful rather than the “push” of a formal curriculum.   In many places around the country especially urban settings there is a renewed push for vocational education or the teaching of immediately employable skills?

While the concept is certainly wonderful I wonder though if it is good to consign a certain class of individuals to vocational education because of the zip code they live in?  Do all students deserve a truly rigorous college prep education?   These questions often lead me to think of a bigger one:  What is the purpose of education?

Every educator and every district needs to wrestle with this core question.   Why do we do what we do?   Is it to create strong citizens for a vibrant democracy?  To prepare workers for the world?  Or is it something much deeper and more profound.   In some ways I have to believe our attitude towards technology and its use are tied to our beliefs about the fundamental reasons our schools exist.


19 thoughts on “Who do we look to for the future of education?

  1. I loved the slide that showed the equation “education + technology = hope.” For many around the world and even students in the US, education is just something that everyone has to do. Everyone is “pushed” through school. With technology, students start to feel a gravitational pull if you will, toward education/school. Students want to be at school and want to learn new things simply because of the means used to educate them. Technology can enhance the educational experience for everyone involved and I truly believe that student achievement will start to rise simply because of the use of technology by students on a regular basis. Presenting students with flashcards doesn’t have the same effect of students practicing flashcards on an iPad. The simple method of technology in using iPads motivates students so much and motivation is such a big piece of the learning process. Technology not only motivates students, but with the availability of information through the web, and the use of technology in an informative way, technology has started to revolutionize education.

  2. This speaker is right on when he explains that our education system hits the target, but misses the point. Why do we do what we do? It’s our passion, but we remember what it was like in school. It’s time to reinvent education and I believe that can start with technology. As educators, we need to engage and motivate our students from the moment they enter the building. It’s our job! All learning should start with questions and projects and not a textbook. We need to stop pushing our students through the system and let them want to be pulled because of the love of learning.

    PS – I love the Chinese restaurant example (so true).

  3. Education is more like a “push in” rather than a “pull in.” I never really thought about it that way, but how true that has become. We’ve turned education into something one has to do not what one may really want. I do think by incorporating more technology into education, we will not only engage students in learning, but mold them into lifelong learners. There is so much information available to students, we as educators, need to facilitate critical thinking skills by posing questions and familiarizing them with the plethora of resources at their fingertips.

  4. Your vantage point determines what you see. This is so true!

    We are teaching in a school system that is antiquated, using methods that are failing some students and not challenging others. With today’s challenges and looming reforms, it is time to move away from the one size fits all format and offer education opportunities that engage, motivate and teach.

    I think the idea of beginning lessons with games, activities or questions really makes sense. It’s the “hook” that will pull the students in. The project will provide intrinsic motivation and a student centered learning experience. Technology will enhance these experiences and enable students to go further in their learning. The vast amount of tools and information that are available to today’s students offers them many ways to be productive, engaged learners.

    Why are we dragging students along the old road? With technology they can go fly!

  5. Education is the worldwide religion. Leadbeater makes an excellent point here. What is the common link among nations besides money? Education. Education to some degree is happening in the poorest of places, but using technology in such a different manner that gets through to the children. As both the video and Janelle both mention, education needs a new approach that draws students to education and a future.

    I instantly thought about schools fighting their student’s economic status and illiterate family roots here in the U.S. Are teachers in these schools approaching education in the wrong way? Are teachers in Dunlap, Morton, or Metamora using technology in the wrong ways? What are we trying to create? Do we really understand what we mean when we say “Diverse 21st Century Learners,” or do we use these popular phrase because it is what people want to hear? All I know is after watching this video I realized how much of a “push” we give to put children in our society through school. Can we truly keep this up for forever? Aren’t we hurting them more than helping?

  6. “You have to engage them before you can possibly teach them.” This quote struck me in that are we aiming for this as teachers? I think we often focus on what the curriculum says and what students are supposed to learn. Yet, are the students engaged so that they are absorbing the information? I liked the idea of starting the school day or lesson with a question. If we gave students questions each day that we would work on together to answer, would they excited about what they would learn and discover that day?

    Also, every student should have the opportunity to receive a college-prep education. However, it may not be necessary or practical for every student. As Leadbeater stated, 10 years is a long time to wait for a pay-off when you have to take care of siblings or worry about getting food on the table. We need to be sure that education is practical for every student. I’m astounded at the innovative ways that education is brought to third world countries. It’s all about pulling in the students to make the learning meaningful to them. I wonder if we even consider pulling in our students or if we are just used to pushing the information at them. College is not a good fit for every student, but is that all that we are focusing on in the United States? We know that more and more jobs that are created in the U.S. are based on technical skills, but are we providing an education that provides that?

    • Your comments do a good job of hinting at what the purpose of an education is? I really believe it is this debate that drives education reform. Is it college prep, citizens for democracy, skilled workers?

  7. Interesting video…however a little fearful that RADICAL change is a little too intense of a term. If change is expected too quickly – could the change be superficial and not deep-rooted change. Change does take time. Teachers and other educators need to believe in something and value it, in order to truly embrace it and communicate that in their instructional approaches. I don’t disagree, we need to move from a traditional classroom setting to a classroom that embraces and values collaboration, critical thinking, problem-solving, risk-taking, and application of strategies and skills in a safe environment that embraces 21st century skills. Motivation is key! The value of intrinsic motivation can be compared to nothing. Teachers need to look for ways to encourage and create an educational environment that allows for students to have ownership and drives them to be involved by choice and desire… not by demand.
    I also liked the McDonald’s/Chinese Restaurant analogy. Also, I thought that this was interesting, “We are experiencing the schoolification of the world.” Isn’t that what he said?

  8. I can appreciate what he has to say about need for relavance in education. As a student it is easy to get wrapped up the mechanics of learning without really thinking about the value and application of education. I liked his McDonalds and chinese resturant example because I think our school systems take pride in turing out a fairly consistent, homoegeneous product. I think that students, though they may deny it, like the system to an extent that is setup because it may not require as much from them as something that requires them to be more engaged. I as teachers we think we are doing a good job if we make something ‘simpler’ or ‘easier to understand.’ Sometimes I wonder if in reality we are not challenging our students to think more deeply and independently and thus limiting them. There is no doubt it is a harder, and some ways more frusturating teach but I think at the end we may get a more genuine eduational experience.

    • “…. it may not require as much from them as something that requires them to be more engaged.”

      One of the interesting observations we see on student survey forms annually at PND from the students is a few complaining that they seem to work harder but in different ways now that the curriculum is more integrated with technology and hopefully more authentic assessment. The student that has a great short-term memory and can passively play the game with the minimal effort is truly confronted with a new challenge in a more constructivist classroom.

  9. Well…Rosemary stole my quote 🙂 “engage people first before you teach them.” This quote is definitely on display from the examples of people in his presentation. The young man who dropped out, because school was boring to him and went into the drug business was saved through technology. Then his life was turned around through education when the computers were donated into his city, Monkey Hill (first of all…nice creativity with the name…no wonder education is boring there). Shows there was another way for a student to be reached to become willing to learn. We as educators should never give up on finding new ways to motivate those students which seem impossible to reach.

    I believe our education needs to find ways to “pull in” in the students through technology (which schools have been finding ways recently). Technology has shown time and time again within the last few years to draw in student engagement, and raise the excitement levels for the students to become motivated to learn. Look at the examples the teachers have seen just after winter break with the student excitement to bring in their Kindles, nooks, or other e-readers into the classroom. We need to channel that excitement and move forward to create lesson plans to transfer that excitement into the classrooms (easy for me to say – I’m P.E. and have no technology into my classroom unless I fight for the portable projectors, which I’m starting to do with bring P90x into the fitness curriculum).

  10. When Leadbeater said in the begining of the the video that radical innovation often comes from places where you have hugely unmet needs and not enough solutions for traditional resources and professionals I couldn’t help but think is that why our school system doesn’t see radical innovations in the areas of technology and curriculum? We are fortunate to have our needs met with supplies, textbooks, and technology. I think maybe we sometimes take these great resources for granted and stay within our comfort zone (McDonalds) and not truly strive for innovation. We can simply go chapter by chapter because it’s right there. We can easily read off the internet because it’s right there.
    What if all that was taken away and we had nothing? If this were the case I do believe we would dig a lot deeper to motivate our students and take the risks needed to provide them with a better education. Taking risks like reaching out to the community for grants and initiatives for technology. Then when provided with those grants or gifts, proving to others around us that we deserved them. Could we then turn into the Chinese restaurant and be different from the McDonalds of the world?

  11. “Vantage point” this was an interesting point to bring up initially. Has our vantage point inaccurately skewed the majority into viewing education in the US into an overly negative light? I am listening to this and hearing him talk about extrinsic motivation and pulling the students instead of pushing them. This is not anything new, he says that normally we teach then add on the extrinsic motivation afterword. His method is what I was taught in college and something we should be doing everyday. What has caused him to view education as not being this way? I am in full agreement with what he says, education in many ways in the US is failing, but I don’t view this as simply being education +technology = hope. How do we motivate students first, I would argue that government regulations have pushed us more and more away from what he is talking about, motivation first has never been prominent in the one size fits all core standards kind of model that we face. Instead diversity in education, showing extensions in areas that students are interested, this is where we need to focus and in my vantage point this is what we were taught in college and should be carrying on into public education. Even if we do what he says will the vantage point of the majority change? Will it show up on a test? To me you can not test the educational success he is talking about in a traditional sense, so the viewpoint on education will always be that we are failing.

  12. Motivating the unmotivated student is a problem I deal with every year. There is always at least one student who doesn’t want to buy what I’m selling, no matter how the package is presented.

    Engaging students before educating them, and using exstrinsic motivation to transition to instrinsic motivation should be in practice in all classrooms. However, I think a point that needs to be addressed is that just because one type of education might pull students in, it is not the only thing to which they should be exposed. Vocational education may be a “pull in” in some urban areas, but that doesn’t mean students should not be provided with the choicde to choose rigorous college prep courses. On the other hand, suburban areas where college prep courses might be considered the norm, vocational education options should exist as well.

    My point is, education is going to be more meaningful to everyone if each person feels that they have some ownership in what they are learning.

  13. I think we could all agree when it comes to being engaged in learning. In order for learning to mean something, it has to be real. It is critical to evaluate the relevance of what we are teaching and how we teach it. The speaker highlights some key points about how learning needs begin with activities, games and projects instead of just knowledge and curriculum. If we continue to “push” students through school, they will begin to push back. We need to continue to provide students with opportunities that offer them to take charge of their own learning.

    I do believe that technology in the classroom is a great way to engage students but I don’t feel it is the only way. Technology is a powerful teaching tool and in itself is engaging but I agree with Becky that not every student is sold, no matter how you are presenting it. I do think that we take a step in the right direction when we integrate technology in our classrooms though. It is simply a matter of how we use it and when we use it that can be difficult.

  14. Another interesting video. The concept of “pushing” and “pulling” made me think of a phrase I just heard recently. For some reason I don’t think it’s a new term but one I had never heard- “sit and get”. I considered two things- are the kids being “pushed” the ones who are taking part in the “sit and get” or is it part of the individual. For example are those kids who are drawn to learning, passionate about learning, and set goals to further themselves everyday going to achieve success with or without technology or whether they are being pushed or pulled. Are they going to successful whether they are sitting in a traditional classroom or a 21st century learning classroom? I sometimes feel like we need to educate ourselves on what motivates us and on an individual level to make good choices as teachers to get kids to learn. Many people say that technology is one avenue to renew hope and determination in children and I agree 100% but I think there are so many more that we as teachers need to tap into to get kids “pulling” instead of “pushing”.
    And just for the record after being in this world for over 30 year why have never realized the McDonalds/Chinese restaurant comparison. I have so much to learn, haha!

  15. Education and technology is hope. I love that. This is give us hope to continue to improve test scores. You find ways to get learning relevant to people. Technology is relevant to children and they are interested in it. Learning has to be productive in order for it to make sense. If technology can keep students engaged and learning, the learning does it occur. It makes sense to them. Like they said, we need to re invent ourselves. We need to be doing something different then 40 years ago. Things haven’t changed, and things are not working in education. We need to really zone in on how we can bring skills to the students. I love when he said, we need a radical thinking so we don’t spend a century fixing this problem. Very true!!

    Stacy Lingenfelter

    • “Do all students deserve a truly rigorous college prep education?” I think about this question, and I really don’t know the answer to it. I look at it in two ways. At my high school, there were a lot of kids who knew that they wanted to go into the skilled trades field(construction, electrician, auto worker, etc.). For them, they really didn’t care about their school work or test scores, because they knew that they weren’t going to go to college. We also had students who knew they wanted to go to college and become teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc. Now, teaching these students the same subjects and preparing them for college, might not be the best approach. Then again, with so much emphasis on test scores, the schools don’t look as good because some of the students don’t take care about their test scores. I think it is a great question, and I don’t know what the correct answer is.

  16. The one comment that stuck with me the most is when he was commenting on “pushing” students through schools. I just wonder what our schools would be like if we weren’t by age but instead ability levels. I think it would bring kids to work harder because they were grouped with people with similar ability levels as themselves. As for engagement, I’ve noticed when my students are absolutely engaged is when my discipline problems go down and my classroom environment is much more cohesive. I find that technology gives me that edge to help engage my students. Technology is key to our future and might be the only way we can get their attention. They want us to relate to them and how else can we relate to them if we are not using the same up-to-date tools that they are using.

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