Why School?

Image from Edtechworkshop

This weekend I downloaded the book Why School? by Will Richardson after seeing numerous educators on Twitter recommend it.  It was a whopping $2.99, but one of the best reads (and a quick read) to challenge our thinking about school.

Here is a TEDTalk given by the author, Will Richardson, talking about how the internet resources available to us today are making learning different.  Even if you don’t watch the entire video (which is 14 minutes) please watch the first 1:28 minutes of it as he tells the story of his daughter learning to play Journey on the piano.

I cringed when he told about the piano teacher saying his daughter wasn’t ready to play Journey yet.  I then wondered if there are any times that we put similar limits on our students?

Why School? is a great summary of why schools must be different than they were when we went through school.  Schools are no longer the place to go to receive information and then memorize it to regurgitate it on a worksheet or a test.  That is the type of school that prepared children for factory work.  We are now preparing students for jobs that do not even exist today.  Richardson quotes psychologist Herbert Gerjuoy who predicts that “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write. The illiterate will be those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  I had to think deeply about that quote, but really can connect to how true it is with changing technologies. Think about how many times you have had to change something you do technology-wise because the program has updated (Microsoft word is the perfect example) or had to completely stop using a program and learn a new one (ex: change of gradebook to a new student information system).  At the rate web 2.0 tools are coming out, this learning, unlearning and relearning can happen daily!

In the video clip above (which was from 2011 so I’m sure the numbers have changed), Richardson says that by using their phones, a student could have access to 2 billion potential teachers…no, not certified teachers, but people who can teach them how to do something.  Information and knowledge is everywhere, not just in the teacher’s heads to impart to students.  I just checked the web history on our home computer and found that we have learned the following in the past month from youtube/google:

For our students to be successful, they will need to know how to find accurate information, think about and solve real world problems, be able to create and share with others and collaborate with others…not just in the classroom but at a global level.

Here are some of the “nuggets” I highlighted in Why School?:

  • “Remaking assessment starts with this: Stop asking questions on tests that can be answered by a google search.” 
  •  “Performance-based assessments, where students actually have to do something with what they know, tell us volumes more about their readiness for life than bubble sheets or contrived essays.”
  • “We can raise the teaching profession by sharing what works, by taking the best of what we do and hanging it on the virtual wall. Many would argue that it is now the duty of teachers to do so.”
  • “We have to stop delivering the curriculum to kids. We have to start discovering it with them.” 
  • Be a master learner…”in times of great change, learners will inherit the earth, while the learned will be beautifully equipped for a world that no longer exists.” (quote from philosopher Eric Hoffer).  
  • “There’s no competitive advantage today in knowing more than the person next to you. The world doesn’t care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you know.”
  •  Do real work for real audiences.
  •  “Don’t teach my child science; instead, teach my child how to learn science -or history or math or music.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Fran

    I love the idea that schools need to change as I do cringe when high school classrooms look like the ones my dad was learning in . . . more than half a century ago when he was the first in his family to graduate from high school. That meant he went to live in town during the week so he was “only” one mile from school! Life and technology have changed so much since then. “Seat time” in many schools seems to be a constant.

    Will Richardson gives us a lot to think about in “Why School?” Thanks for the reminder!

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