Doug Johnson has been posting some important ideas in the last couple of days about our challenges in retooling education for the needs of millennials. His posts have earned, for better or for worse, a large number of comments, becoming, I think, a valuable conversation.
Three ideas came to mind as I read through his entries and their comments, and I began my own two cents worth and wrote so much, that I thought I would just post it also as a 2Ã‚Â¢ Worth. You’ll probably need to read Loose change or real change – follow-up and Lobbying for spare change — or real change? and their comments to get the whole context. Then read my 2Ã‚Â¢ worth.
One of the ideas is that although performance/production based assessment is messy, messy is what teachers do. Certainly multiple-choice/true-false assessments have always been a convenient crutch to many teachers. But project-based/product-based teaching, learning, and assessment were much easier to implement before high-stakes testing. The critical change is that communities have lost confidence in their teachers (for no good reason), and education has begun to lose confidence in itself. I think that we need to empower teachers and then turn education back over to them, the experts.
Idea number two (and this is actually a barrier) is that education reform is not part of the public dialog right now. Citizens, going about their lives, do not think much or talk about schools and classrooms. We’re pretty comfortable with our own memories of our classroom experiences (happy or not), and do not see the connection between what and how children are being taught and the rapidly changing world that we are all trying to adapt to. We, educators, need to get the conversations going. I think that our school and classroom web sites are our best opportunity, but we need to work out what that would look like.
This last idea concerns me greatly, though I usually get really blank and confused stares when I suggest it. Of all aspects of the education community, the one group that is in the most powerful pivotal point are our students. One day, I’m afraid that they are just going to say, “No!”. “I’m not going to take your tests any more.” “I’m not going to read your ancient textbooks any more.” “I’m not going to listen to your boring lectures, fiddle with your ridiculous worksheets, or worry over your irrelevant grades any more.”
Many of the students in our classrooms today have absolutely no tie with the 20th century. They have lived their entire formative lives in the new century. They and most of their older brothers and sisters are true millennials. They have only one direct and obvious tie to the previous century — their classrooms — and I don’t know how long they are going to put up with it.
Think about IM speak, the abbreviated text that students use when they are messaging each other. We mostly disregard it and blame these habits on declining interest in proper language usage. But think about it. These kids have invented a new grammar, one that is perfect for this new avenue of communication that their generation identifies so much with. …and they did it in collaboration. We would have established a committee of standards to create new grammar rules, then spend years teaching the new rules in our classrooms in the same boring ways that we have for centuries. These kids did it on their own. This is so impressive and indicate so much power of networking, that it almost scares me. It’s like a horse. As long as the horse thinks you’re stronger than he is, then you’re OK. But as soon as the horse realizes that the balance goes the other way, then look out! I’m looking out!