Warning – this is not a funny blog. I have realized that when I am away from students, I no longer have as much funny material for blogging, and while I love attending education conferences, adults are just not as entertaining as the kids in Room 128 (no offense to my colleagues). I did, however, want to recap a one day conference I attended this week. I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Bill Daggett from the International Center of Leadership in Education on Wednesday who spoke to leaders in our county about emerging trends that he sees in education.For the record, I would also like to say that testing was barely mentioned during the day, and hopefully, in time, less testing will become a trend in education.
Trend 1 – The use of digital information
Schools are no longer the keeper of information as students have access to information at all times now. Our job as educators needs to shift from giving out information to teaching students how to use information responsibly. As painful as this can be for teachers, I believe it’s true. Back in the Dark Ages without the Internet, I went to school, and the teacher gave me the information I needed to learn. No matter how you feel about technology, the reality is that kids no longer need teachers to impart information but to teach them what to do with information or how to use the information they can get at any time 24/7. I personally love this because it really moves us to use higher level thinking skills as opposed to spending time with simply downloading information.
Trend 2 – Helping students be career ready
Schools typically get students ready for more school. Think about it: if you’re in first grade, you’re getting ready for 2nd grade. If you’re in 8th grade, you’re getting ready for 9th grade. If you’re in 12th grade, you’re getting ready for college. However, the business world and the military are finding very few students who have the skills to work for them. According to U.S. News and World Report, “The Department of Defense estimates that 75 percent of young Americans are not eligible to serve in the military because they didn’t graduate from high school, are obese, or have criminal records.” You read that correctly. Is this alarming to anyone other than me?? Something has to change here. When I first began teaching in the great state of Texas, I taught business letters, resumes, job applications, etc. Those days are gone in the English classroom, and our kids are missing out.
Trend 3 – Focus on application
Many students feel as if they are coming to school and not learning anything; they are simply watching the teacher work. Education must move more to helping students apply skills and knowledge instead of simply acquiring them, and this is done through making the information relevant to students. I love what Dr. Daggett said: “Relevance makes rigor possible for most students.” Think about your school experience. If you were interested in the lesson or knew you would use the information in the future, you were more motivated to learn. Teachers must think about relevance and move toward problem based learning. I admit this is a huge challenge for me, but as long as I’m in education, I will work toward this goal.
Trend 4 – Guiding principles
Guiding principles, soft skills, EQ, or what I like to call character qualities should be taught in schools. Character education was originally one of the founding components of the American public education system, and now in the 21st century it is an upcoming education trend. How did this happen? With all of the focus on academic rigor, character education has taken a backseat in schools, and people who study schools and education are realizing that this is an important part of education. Daggett posed the question yesterday, “Are we measuring what is most important or what is easiest to measure?” What a great question. He continued by stating that schools need to make the shift from prevention to intervention. To that I say, “Amen.”
With all of the bad press about education, I am thankful to work in a county and with a group of people who genuinely care about students and having successful schools. This summer my mind will be contemplating these ideas and working toward making our schools better (and this will be done while I am sitting by the pool). Don’t give up on the system; be a part of the solution instead. Happy summer!
Which of these trends do you see as the biggest challenge for educators and why?