Sir Ken Robinson has an incredible ability to put the controversies swirling around my brain on a daily basis into the simplest of terms. In the video Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution, he effectively argues the need for educational reform. I agree with his argument but find myself struggling with the reality of implementing these ideas.
Our current learning environments are mainstream; they address all students as a whole instead of individualizing education. The latter would obviously be ideal, but I’m just not sure how it would work. In my English classroom, for example, we read class texts. I believe we do this for 3 mains reasons: someone out there identified those texts as “important,” they are approved by the school board, and it gives the class something to discuss together. Do all students like these choices? Of course not. Would it be amazing if skills could instead be taught through individual book choices? YES! But realistically how could that work? It would be almost impossible for teachers to know the texts students are reading. How would we be able to make sure they are correctly displaying certain skills if we don’t know the stories? Group work would be more difficult because of the variety of content. Even with all of this in mind, I do wish we could shift our learning environments so they are more personalized. I believe one way we can do this is to encourage students to find their passions.
Just in the past couple years with the new Keystone exams, I have seen a significant realization amongst teachers that the skill is more important than the text. When I first began teaching, tests consisted of simple recall. Who did this? When does this happen? Simple questions that didn’t really analyze students’ literary capabilities. As Robinson says, ideas are often formed “to cope with the circumstances of previous centuries” (TED, 2010). Fact memorization is not a necessity anymore, which is why our assessments have begun to make this shift. I believe our next step should be helping students find their passions in life. I have always told my students, especially my 12th graders, that one of the many keys to happiness is figuring out what they love to do and then finding a way to get paid for it. In order to fully embrace this idea, however, educators need to accept the fact that college isn’t for everyone. It just isn’t fair to funnel everyone into the same expectations and assume they will come out happy on the other side. Everyone is different, and because of this we need to start encouraging them to explore all options for their futures.
Technologies today are fantastic examples of how this personalization is effective. A few years ago I started wondering how Google and Facebook magically knew where I like to shop and what I like to read. These sites, along with many others, are personalized based on my preferences. It makes my experience more enjoyable because I know I will most likely enjoy the suggestions. I know step one began years ago with providing real connections to the curriculum. Now we are focusing on skills instead of content. If we can only find a way to use our curriculum and these skills to help students figure out what they love to do, we will be that much closer to preparing them for this and future centuries as opposed to previous ones.
TED. (2010, May 24). Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9LelXa3U_I