My son Adam sent me this TED Talk video recently and it really hit a nerve with me considering I just retired from 30 + years of teaching art and photography at the college level. Please take a moment to watch this fascinating TED Talk and then my thoughts on it later in this blog post.
Sugata Mitra addresses where we are and where we should be heading when it comes to education and learning. Most High Schools and Colleges in America (and around the world) are still unfortunately using the Industrial Revolution teaching/learning model “sage on the stage” when students can access information in seconds online with a mobile devise, Ipad and/or laptop.
There are so many cumbersome layers of bureaucracy in our educational institutions they have become giant slow moving monsters that can’t change and adapt nearly as rapidly as our information driven culture and economy.
Essentially I believe the attributes required to be an effective teacher are still the same as we enter the next decade of this new millennium. Great teachers are creative, innovative, passionate, enthusiastic and show sincere interest and comprehension of their respective subject area. Students on the other hand have changed over the past 10-15 years and this evolution has come about in part because of rapid advances in technology and cyber culture.
Now here’s the rub. I believe teachers (at all grade levels) have to do a better job mastering the new and powerful tools (technologies) at their disposal for CONNECTING with (and engaging) their students. The attributes for great teachers is the same, BUT the tools and applications we use for teaching have changed dramatically and become much more technologically sophisticated. This is our challenge heading into the next decade. We can’t let the technology get in the way of our teaching!
The bottom line here (in my opinion) is that teaching tools (technology) have changed dramatically, but the skills and attributes needed for being excellent teachers and effective learners remain relatively the same. Both students and teachers must harness (embrace) technology for both teaching and learning to the point where it becomes intuitive and seamless. The days of the chalk board and overhead projector are over and have been replaced with sophisticated course management systems and open source communications and conferencing applications.
We don’t even know what type of jobs are going to be “out there” when students graduate from our educational institutions and here we are for the most part still preparing them for industrial age careers that for the most part no longer exist.
If we are going to get our economy back on track and continue being a viable and competitive economic force in the world, I think it’s imperative that our educational institutions recognize, incorporate and embrace new instructional models, approaches and methods instead of remaining mired in teaching / learning systems that are outdated and archaic at best.
We as educators need to empower (encourage) our students and guide them through the ever growing (expanding) technological “cyber” maze, in addition to teaching them critical thinking skills and technological skill sets for finding (and applying) the information they need to be successful in careers that may not even exist today.
That means using a combination of distance learning, blended teaching and hands-on training that is applicable and relates to the technological “ever changing” world we find ourselves living in.