Here is a video I shared on Twitter last week:
A couple of thoughts:
1. Traditional practice does not equal bad practice. We can’t use the terms interchangeably.
— George Couros (@gcouros) February 13, 2019
I have been thinking a lot about the terms “traditional” and “innovative” lately and how they should not be terms that are used in contradiction with one another but are interrelated. If a teaching practice that was used in the past works for a current student, why would we not continue to use it? On the other hand, if a method in the past that worked for students doesn’t work for a student you are currently working with, why would we continue to use it in that specific circumstance? My focus on relationships is predicated upon the premise that if you know the learners in front of you, it is easier to pull from your toolkit and provide what the student needs to be successful.
Not all knowledge and practice from the past is irrelevant, while not all “future” practices are meaningful. Students all should have the opportunities to be successful, but that doesn’t mean that all the practices are the same for each child.
As a student, I would say that my school experience would not be deemed progressive, innovative, or “future ready.” I would say that my experience in school would be considered pretty traditional. But that doesn’t mean skills that I learned back then haven’t benefitted me today and that some of those same practices would not benefit current students. I was taught to challenge ideas and critically consume information. I distinctly remember a teacher holding a package of matches in science class and telling us that the reason matches are covered in packages is because if they are exposed to too much oxygen, they will light on their own and which would be quite dangerous. She held the matches in front of us, exposed them to “the oxygen in the room,” and we all sat there and waited nervously for the matches to light on fire. After about 30 seconds passing, she looked at us and said something to the effect of, “Don’t always believe everything an authority figure tells you; learn to question before you assume something is the truth.” Then she and our entire class started laughing that we actually fell for her trick. That interaction is one that I remember to this day and has helped me slow down judgment on information which is incredibly useful in an age of rapid information. This is LONG before the Internet was used in schools yet the lesson still resonates and applies to today.
Some practices from the past were not beneficial to today. I can freely admit that. But we should always consider, “How does this help the students in front of us for today and the future?” If we can’t answer that question, we are in trouble, but no practice should be negated merely because it utilized in the past and no practice should be embraced only for the reason that it is new. What matters is the learner in front of you and how we serve them in their own journey of growth and development.