The Biggest “Game-Changer” in Education

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Kate Ter Haar

Recently, Jon Samuelson and I were having a conversation and he asked me, “What do you see as the big ‘game changer’ in education?”

I hate this question (as I think Jon does as well).  You hear things like MOOC’s, tablets, the Flipped Classroom, coding, gaming, social media, blah blah blah, and how they are going to change everything that we do.  If you are going to pick a single “thing” that is a game-changer in education, it is the Internet.  This is not just for education, but for everything.  Honestly though, this is years ago and I think that many of understand the opportunities the “World Wide Web” has provided to us in so many facets of our life. That being said, that “game changer” has already happened.

The real game changer isn’t something external; it is internal.  It is the way we think and grow.  It is moving from that “fixed” mindset about teaching and learning, and moving to the “growth” mindset.  It is thinking differently about education and understanding that all of us as people need different things to succeed.  To some students, the “Flipped” model is hugely beneficial, while to some others, gaming is going to push their learning to a new level.  Some learn better in isolation, while others excel in collaboration.  There is no single “thing” that is a game changer. If there was, we would have figured it out and adopted it by now.  We have to stop looking for standardized solutions to try and personalize learning.  Our mindset towards teaching and learning has to be open to many approaches, not any single one.

If I was standing in front of you and speaking, I would say the following:

The biggest game changer in education is not out there (as I point all around me).  It is in here (as I point to my head, but symbolizing all of our brains, not just mine) and has ALWAYS been in here (pointing to my chest, around the heart area).  

I am not trying to be hokie, but I am sharing what I believe.  Change is the one constant that we will always have in our world and if we do not grow and learn to embrace it, then we will become irrelevant.  This mindset towards learning is only one part of the solution; making the connections with our learners is also equally (if not more) significant.

Do we need to look at all of these new “trends” in learning? Absolutely.  This is not an anti-technology rant. In fact, it is the opposite.  Innovative teaching starts with innovative thinking.  We have to look at all of these things around us, ask questions, learn, be open to the opportunities that many different technologies give to us and our students, and help them work for our kids.

The “game changer” is, and always will be, being open to new learning opportunities, doing something with them, and making that human connection to our learners.

The best teachers have always done this, and will continue to do so.

36 thoughts on “The Biggest “Game-Changer” in Education

  1. Marlina Oliveira

    To change or transform anything, we must change ourselves first. It is all in the way we think. Another excellent post.

  2. Robert Schuetz

    Hello George. I subscribe to your blog because we consistently agree, and because we speak the same language of learning and growing. I think that Dweck, Covey, and Pink are right at the core of changing the education game. We, as educators, need to recognize that the Internet provides personal learning opportunities at any given time. Can schools say the same? Another terrific post – thank you for these good words.

  3. Vivian 慧雲

    Game changer? Understanding that the pathway of understanding starts from the heart and travels to the head; instead of the other way around. 😉

  4. Elisa Carlson

    Great post. I do think that the real game changer will ultimately be the teachers. It is what they have the power to do in their classroom with their students in a new world.

  5. Andy McDermott

    Thanks George. I liked the way you refer to the game changer as being internal rather than external. Trends in education will come and go but good teaching and learning will happen when teachers see themselves as learners.

  6. Jon Samuelson

    Thanks for the mention George. I don’t like that question at all, and I loved the fact that you shot it down immediately. Your answer to the question was dead on, and it is what politicians don’t understand. There is no magic bullet, just good teachers doing a good job building relationships with students.

  7. joebeckmann

    The comments and, in fact, the larger question are just fine. But they all ignore some really substantial thinking that puts education in a larger context. In his book, “Seeing Like a State,” political anthropologist James C. Scott re-framed the issue of “larger societal context” much more fully than tech/testing/subject curriculum. In comparing many well intended, often very well designed failures, he pointed out that intention and even design is often far less important than context. Thus a beautiful city like Brazilia could still fail when planted nowhere, with no cultural infrastructure. A brilliant approach like “Common Core” may still fail until what’s common is more than a core.

    And technology is only a tool, most surely effecting a change in the context, but to an end we won’t know for quite a while. For educators to pretend that it is an end in itself, is naive at best, “seeing like a state” at worst. To use that technology to engage more learners, in more activities, and to watch how they use it to then create more opportunity, now THAT really would be a change. To pretend we know more than they, when they use that stuff more than we, is simply … stupid.

    As Louis Agassiz said to 19th century biology students in his labs, “watch your fish.” Observe and build from those observations; don’t impute goals not shared. Not “yet” shared, and perhaps not shared at all.

  8. Dr. David Gentile

    George, this one is spot on – and hit a nerve with me! Today, I welcomed back nearly 1,000 staff members to kick off the new school year. Our theme was about being in the business of Cultivating Dreams, and that regardless of what is thrown our way, Common Core, SGO’s, Teacher Evaluation Systems, etc… there are NO silver bullets, No external solutions to the challenges we face. We tried to live this out loud by having our Keynote speaker, Dr. Spike Cook, be from within the district, the breakout facilitators are all from within the district as well… we know that if we want to improve and be relevant, we must do it ourselves. Love this post

  9. The Teacher Treasury

    Brilliant Article! You are absolutely correct, our own minds are the real game changers.

  10. Karaitiana Wilson

    Absolutely agree, that human connection and how we implement technology in the classroom (and outside) is key. Like the first teacher who picked up a stick to draw in the sand our duty to students is to find new ways that work for them.

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  15. Marian Royal Vigil

    Excellent article, George. I really love the glaring contradiction in your sentence “We have to stop looking for standardized solutions to try and personalize learning”; That seems so obvious, yet seems to have eluded many policy makers. And, it is my belief that ALL change happens within first, and then one sees results on the outer. I look forward to sharing your article with others.

  16. Kristy Vincent

    Well done George! First, thank you for bringing all the ISTE11 memories flooding back 😀

    Now, let’s define “game changer”

    game chang·er
    1. an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.

    Now with that out of the way… if we HAD to give it a name, would personalized learning fit? Not the sit-in-front-of-this-computer-that-changes-its-questions-based-on-your-responses “personalized learning” but AUTHENTIC personalized learning focused on the student and their personal passions. The learning that occurs almost naturally because a child’s brain and heart is in it. The learning that consumes a student providing intrinsic motivation to poke, prod, research, and find out even more about something. The learning that isn’t scripted and doesn’t fit in a turn-key curriculum. If so (and I believe that it is), how do we scale that? How do we offer that to the millions of children on the North American continent and around the world? How do say that the industrialized revolution model of education isn’t going to cut it anymore?

    Thanks for making me think this morning George!

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  22. John Spencer

    I think the biggest game-changer is critical thinking. It’s a liberated, creative mind. It always has been. For millennia, that’s been the game-changer that has always gotten teachers in trouble. Technology has only accelerated this. And yet, what are schools often promoting? Online worksheets via the Khan Academy or Success Maker or Jamestown Intervention.

    1. Bill Ferriter

      But the thing is, John, schools promote those things only because critical thinking and a liberal, creative mind isn’t tested by anyone. My guess is that until we get to the point where parents demand something more out of school accountability systems, we’ll never see the kinds of skills that matter emphasized in our buildings.

      Does this make sense?

      PS: AWESOME profile pic.

  23. Bill Ferriter

    Another example of “technology just makes good teaching and learning easier for everyone,” right George?

    We have to stop thinking that the tool is the game changer. It’s what we do with the tool that matters most — what the tool makes possible.

    Thanks for the reminder.

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  26. Paul McGuire

    George, you are writing about the human element which I think is the most important aspect of innovation of any kind. There needs first to be the willingness to change before there can be any innovation technological or otherwise. I am finally learning this!

    Always great reading your blog and thanks so much for #savmp!

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  29. Michael Horton

    I agree with everything here except that I don’t think that anyone learns better alone. Discussions, debate, and collaboration are how we truly learn to apply and understand concepts.
    Carol Dweck’s mindset concept is a powerful one. I blogged about how administrators can use the idea to motivate teachers here.


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  32. Brian Fernandes

    Great article. To me, change is inevitable and learning is not fixed, but malleable with differentiation, personalization, a classroom where it is safe to take risks, grow, and develop, and a teacher who knows each student well both personally and as learners and isn’t afraid to take risks themselves and reflect upon them.

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