Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

You can just feel it. Whether inferred from blogs, books, presentations, conferences, podcasts, TED Talks, social media, or even face-to-face conversations, the vibe is definitely there. It’s strong. And it’s getting louder by the moment.

When Brad Shreffler, founder of The Planning Period Podcast and The Big Q in Edu, asked his 2018 ISTE Ignite audience:

“What’s the biggest problem facing education today?”

What a big question, right? I knew my answer immediately, because I had already expressed it in my blogs: STEM: Standards AND Fluff and MakerSpace: Standards AND Fun, as well as in tweets like these here, here, and here.

To me, one of the biggest challenges in education today is:

How do we create or facilitate experiences that are meaningful, memorable, relevant, and learner-centered, while still learning the standards?

As the world progresses, the manners in which we teach and learn are having a hard time keeping up. As technology, innovation, and Whole Child Initiatives advance at unprecedented rates, a little more mold grows on our stale traditions.

It’s not so much a tug-of-war, so to speak, as it is a transform-ative boundary, revealing the shear stress of two plated approaches sliding past one another. Or maybe, it’s just the younger plate naturally moving on, unshakable in mass and velocity, undeniable in momentum. Not just a random tremor, these massive movements have been grinding it out for years.

Nearly an old-versus-new showdown, the ed-quaking friction is real–and it’s gripping the minds and hearts of educators today:

Shall I do what’s most effective in getting kids to pass that test at the end of the year, or should I do what’s most effective for kids to be successful in learning and life?

The true art in education is to make both happen all the time.

But to many, that’s a myth. And for varied reasons.

Perhaps, Innovators Mindset author George Couros said it best when I asked him this question in an #InnovatorsMindset IGTV:

“What’s the biggest challenge in education today?” And George responded:

“The disconnect between what educators know is right, and what they’re tasked to do. How we teach both kids and the curriculum is the innovation. It’s how we think. It’s about the process.”

Here’s a quick breakdown of my answer to the biggest challenge in education today:

Learning experiences need to be:

Meaningful: Learners have to care about what they’re learning. Even if the standards seem boring, the educators must craft, market, or even sell the content–to some extent–as appealing to learn. Easier said than done? For sure.

Memorable: What do you really remember from your childhood learning experiences? Why? What made them stand out as special? Of course, every day in your learning space won’t be a grand slam or a fireworks finale, but we frequently need to have those magical, sign post moments, where kids will say: “I will remember THIS.”

Relevant: Learning needs to connect to the learner’s life. Learning opportunities are all around us every day. We just need to align and connect them to our learners, with a reason to care. Also, learning needs to be appropriate to challenge the learner’s level, differentiated as needed.

Learner-Centered: The ultimate learning experience is personalized. If you knew a student loved baseball, wouldn’t you strive to use the baseball theme with word problems or analogies? Then again, if educators have thirty students in their class, it may be a challenge to differentiate theme and choice so diversified on a daily basis. What if learning could be not only learner-centered, but also learner-driven?

Standards-Based: How well do we really know our standards? That answer may sound the ed-quake alarms. With phrases like innovation, project-based learning, genius hour, and risk-taking, the knowing-doing gap widens–that is–only if efforts to connect standards back to personalized learning formats aren’t intentionally accounted for by educators. Or, could we launch meaningful learning experiences from the standards?

And yet, how is an educator supposed to conquer Bloom’s Taxonomy before Maslow’s Hierarchy? If a child’s basic needs aren’t met first–who cares about learning the standards? If learning spaces aren’t equipped with adequate resources, aren’t choices in learning experiences limited?

Clearly, I don’t have all the answers.

I predict that by 2028, there will no longer be that “big test at the end of the year.”

But I guarantee that even bigger changes in education are coming soon. I can just feel it.

What are you feeling?

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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