Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why We Struggle to Change

Photo - snbeach: http://21stcenturylearning.typepad.com/
Education has struggled to join the 21st Century.  While businesses are utilizing new technology, videoconferencing, and innovative practices to boost their profits, few educators are comfortable doing the same things.  Part of the problem is the culture of standardized testing we are immersed in.  I've written enough about that. 

Another problem is that few teachers are innovative by nature.  Most teachers chose this profession because they care about kids and because they liked school.  In general, teachers were the kids in class who did what the teacher told them to do and then beamed when they received praise for doing it.  We weren't challenging the system.  We weren't innovating.  Those things were frowned upon in school.  We were trained to learn facts in quiet, neat rows and then spit them back when asked.

Now we are the ones in front of the classrooms and we want our kids to be compliant in the same way.  Some are, but most know that the world has changed.  They realized way before we did that compliance and facts are obsolete. The 21st century belongs to those who can innovate.  It belongs to those who can think of solutions that others cannot.  Companies don't need book smart employees; nuggets of information can be obtained instantly on one's phone now.

So, we struggle to change education in a way that focuses on 21st century skills that many teachers don't possess and find threatening.  It's impossible to teach what you don't understand. 

Our teachers aren't at fault.  They played the game very well, but the rules were changed.  Now it's time to adjust to those changes, and for those in power to pave the way for this adjustment by providing professional development and policies that allow teachers to take risks.

We need to start recruiting innovators into the profession.  That will take time and resources.  We need our educators in the profession right now to embrace change instead of fighting against it.  We need them to both realize the new reality and take the difficult steps of changing their entire way of thinking about school. 

It won't be easy.  We are 12 years into the 21st Century.  How long are we going to make our students wait to begin building the skill set they will need in their futures so that we can feel comfortable?

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