For some years now, I’ve been engaged in 21st century research to connect learners in the digital age with timeless objective truth. Grateful for the opportunity to work alongside entrepreneurial men and women who push us beyond the walls of a classroom and geographical boundaries of a campus to see the possibilities that exist today for learning and leadership. The fundamental work lies in the areas of designing and creating environments that can differentiate and personalize learning opportunities for the educator and those we educate. The goal of the architect is to leverage every connection we have at our disposal: proven objective truth with emerging digital capacity, passionate educators with passionate entrepreneurs, research with practice. The greatest strategy to really change education is to change educators. What we do, and how we do it for the 21st century student, is our highest challenge. The most significant educators are learners who don’t know everything but will take the risks necessary for the sake of those they shepherd daily.
We’re losing a lot these days. In the standards-driven climate that doesn’t know how to measure learning, we’re pushing more and more passion out of educators, kids and parents. We’re losing opportunity, kids and time.
We’re also wasting a lot these days. By fiercely holding onto the traditional systems from the last century, we’re increasing the populations of disengaged students across the nation. We’re wasting the brilliance of classroom teachers, the intelligence of risk-takers and time.
We have some serious problems in education and we are long past the point of getting away with simply agreeing and accepting that we have serious problems in education. You know, nodding our heads and doing nothing. Agreement without action. Who isn’t for education reform? Everybody agrees with the REforming of education. And, the most natural words out of the “nodding head” crowd is, “Yeah, we know there needs to be change. But what’s the answer? We don’t have options.” That’s just not true. We have had options for a long time. And, those options increase every year.
“If I nod my head, maybe they’ll go away.” Education reform has taken on a life of it’s own. It’s not even an idea anymore. It’s no longer a revolutionary bandwagon. It’s an industry. Education reform is cool and popular. It’s almost a requirement to categorically state that you are in favor of education reform. It would be virtually impossible to stumble across anyone who said they didn’t believe in education reform.
We have options. And, we have had them for awhile. And some of the most intelligent minds in education today are out in front talking about it, preaching it in the market square, the college classroom and from the capitol floors across our country. So, why is there so little change? We’ve developed a paradigm of education in our country. A paradigm that protects itself, guards against any disruption that demands anything more than cursory modifications that actually end up supporting the “good ole way”. It traps us, keeping us from stepping through the door of real change.
This paradigm, this way of thinking, is largely defined by three basic systems. A teaching system, a testing system and an education reform system. These three systems combine to form our understanding of education in this country.
It seems simple and simplistic to narrow down what we do this way. But, how we think about what we do is significant.
The basic premise of educational architecture is that we must replace the three systems with these ideas:
- Transformation rather than continuing to reform
- Create learning systems rather than teaching systems and do it systemically rather than piecemeal experiments
- Stop the current national testing system and start testing correctly
In other words, reshape the paradigms of teaching and learning. If we think correctly, understand accurately, the environment of education in the 21st century, we have a greater opportunity to actually change what we do each day. While the teaching system of yesterday was sustainable for yesterday, we now live in the world of “today”. And “today” is much different than yesterday.
It begins with the thought, the paradigm, how we understand what we do. Change the thought first. Transformation will follow.