I have to say I was quite intrigued, enlightened, and simultaneously frustrated as I listened to Will Richardson's presentation. He discussed the demand that lies on education to reform to meet the needs of our children in an exponentially changing world. Technology has changed the way we can obtain information, and teachers, like newspapers, are no longer the sole sources of accessible knowledge. However, the framework of our schools do not support this change, and Richardson suggests that we are doing an extreme disservice to our students, and ultimately society, by not adequately preparing them for the real world. The real world is not the same as it was 10 years ago, and surely will not be the same in the upcoming 10 years, so why are we spending all of this time preparing our students for a world that used to exist?
I certainly agree with certain aspects of Richardson's view point. There is an infinite amount of information that can be found online. Teachers are no longer the fountains of knowledge; the Internet is. With information being so easily accessible, we have the time and power to be more innovative and creative than ever before. The world has evolved, and will continue to evolve, so undoubtedly we need to alter our practices. But, how do we guide our students to access the information they need to develop the skills they will need for the 21st century with the vast, unlimited possibilities of the World Wide Web?
Although I agree that reform in education is necessary, I believe that he dismissed and discredited a great deal of things that are done in the classroom. I am a high school biology teacher. Although I teach basic concepts of biology, I teach thinking skills that go much deeper. I focus on teaching my students how to think critically. I teach them how to synthesize complex information and how to understand what they are learning in a holistic way. I teach them how to ask questions, to help them not just understand the content taught in my classroom but how to apply those skills in their everyday lives to become effective citizens of the world. Richardson generalized every modern classroom with
his "Story 1," implying teachers only require their students to attain low-level acquisition skills in the
classroom. That is far from what my colleagues and I expect from our students.
With all of the information, people, and connections all over the Internet, students' need a great deal of guidance to know what to do with the Internet and how to use it as an appropriate tool. This guidance must come from the teacher. There is no supplement for the necessity of that interaction, which is important far more than just acquisition of content. The personal relationship that is between student and teacher is incredibly significant. In six years of teaching, I'm always amazed to hear students' tell me that I had a positive impact on their life. Khan Academy cannot offer this. The computer screen will always impose an interpersonal gap.
It will be very challenging to change our current teaching practices until educational policies, including high stakes testing which is only become more high stakes, enable us to. There are content standards that our students are expected to know, and the ratings of our schools (and soon us individually) are dependent on it. With that framework in place, it poses great challenges on us as educators/learners yearning to evolve our practices to help better prepare our students for the 21st century.
I want to improve my practices. I care a great deal about my students' learning, and I want them to be prepared for the world---and to make a difference in it. The time now is for me, and educators as a whole, to reflect on how we can overcome the hurdles of educational policy to do what's best for our students.