I just read a great post by Alice Keeler, titled “In the Real World“, where she discusses the irony of the idea that schools need to prepare students for the “real world”, yet many of the things that happen in our schools do not necessarily mirror the current realities of the world we live in at the moment. Here is a sample of some of what she listed as the world’s current realities:
In the real world, we look things up on Google.
In the real world, YouTube is one of the most popular tools for learning.
In the real world, collaborating is not cheating.
In the real world, finding information on the internet is a resource.
In the real world, my job does not ask me things I can Google. I need to use critical thinking.
In the real world, I use my phone for everything.
It is a great post meant to push thinking, and she even crowdsources more ideas, if you are so inclined to add your own.
This being said, I am not about absolutes. In my own experience, I have seen more schools open up sites like YouTube, and encourage students to not only bring their mobile devices, but encourage them to use them in meaningful ways for learning. There is a definite shift happening in education. Yet I am sometimes baffled how one organization can block things like YouTube stating that it is unsafe for students to have access, while other organizations in nearby areas have the same site open. I always wonder why they don’t just talk to each other?
There are many schools that are starting to understand that they are closing powerful learning opportunities down for their students, and they want to get to the place where students are encouraged to bring their own devices, or free up access to social media and sites like YouTube to create powerful and collaborative learning opportunities. My advice to them? Don’t do it tomorrow, but you need to set a date of when you want to create some of these opportunities.
What is important to understand that simply flicking a switch and unblocking opportunities from students does not mean anything will change about the teaching and learning in the organization. It should not be teaching plus a mobile device, but it should significantly change the way learning looks like in the organization. Why I am adamant that there is a time frame is that we do not ignore and constantly put tomorrow out of reach.
In reality, this is not meant to be an evaluative tool as much as it is a conversation starter and guide. One possible way you can use this is to have a discussion on where you want to be, how you are going to get there, and when you are going to be there by. Obviously nothing is perfect, but having a date creates an accountability to not only yourselves, but your students.
As John C. Maxwell says, “change is inevitable, but growth is optional”. As we manage change, it is necessary to have the critical conversations to not necessarily get to where we need to be (because it is a constantly moving target in education as it is with all organizations) but to move forward. Each community is unique, and differentiation is not just for students and teachers, but schools as well. Creating a plan of how to move to the next step is paramount if we are to take advantage of the opportunities for innovative learning that lay in front of us.