What if education is just fine? What if the way we’ve always taught — with students in desks and a teacher lecturing at the front of the class — really is the best way to teach?
That may sound strange coming from a guy who runs an education technology company. But if we’re going to ask ourselves some fundamental questions about education, it seems to me we need to start by asking the most fundamental question of all: does education REALLY need to change?
This week, we’re kicking off the Fusion 2015 conference in Orlando. This morning, I gave the keynote address.
In my talk, I asked conference delegates to consider five big questions in education. In my blog this week, I’m going to explore each of those five questions in a little more detail.
Let’s start with that first big question: does education need to change?
There are always going to be people who say “no.”
Just like some people get nostalgic for the days when kids rode around without bike helmets, threw lawn darts in their backyards, and no one wore seatbelts — some people are always going to be nostalgic for old-fashioned ways of learning. Who think the way they learned — sitting in neat rows facing a blackboard — is the best way to learn.
Obviously, classrooms like that don’t really exist anymore. Time has moved on. But it’s not even technology that makes returning to a nostalgic past impossible. Our understanding of how people learn — about what motivates them, what helps them retain information, what allows them to be more creative — has never been more complete or complex.
That’s what’s driving educational change. We’ve learned more about how people learn — and we have a duty to apply that knowledge.
It’s this new understanding — combined with new technological tools that weren’t available to previous generations — that allows us to create better outcomes for learners. Today, we’re able to personalize learning in a way that teachers may have wanted to do in the past, but couldn’t. Game-based learning, for example, is one way educators are bringing together a new understanding of how we learn together with technology that can deliver a unique educational experience.
The problem is that you and I know all of this. Policy makers — some of whom went to school in the days of pencil sharpeners and chalk dust — may not know this. For those nostalgic for the good old days, “learning” still means rote memorization.
So yes — education needs to change. It would be irresponsible of us not to apply the knowledge we have.
But education won’t change unless we can help decision-makers and political leaders understand what has already changed in education, understand what “learning” really means in a 21st century context, and help them envision what further changes are possible.