Three Reasons Why These Are Exciting Times to Be in Education

 

Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land…

Your old road is rapidly agin’

Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’

Bob Dylan, 1962

Dylan’s lyrics are as true today as they were in the ‘60s. In our daily busywork, we can easily lose sight of the fact that we are in the midst of radical change. Demographic, technological, and economic forces, which surpass those of the Industrial Revolution, are transforming institutions and human interaction. I think this is an exciting time to be in education, and below are three reasons why.

Big ideas are changing how we think and act

In our consumer society, we all fall victim to planned obsolescence. In the near future, I inevitably will need to repair my old car and replace my new phone.  However, while the marketplace of “stuff” is subject to entropy, the marketplace of ideas is not. Innovation sparks more innovation. The idea of the wheel led to the idea of the cart, which led ultimately to how we travel today. At the Brock Prize, we seek to discover, award and share the ideas that make a difference in how we think and act. We currently have fifteen laureates whose ideas are changing the world. As a result of some of their ideas, we can better adapt to the multifaceted learning strengths of all students and organize educational systems to maximize success. We will continue to look for big ideas that make a difference and be part of the evolving narrative that is shaping a global culture of innovation and discovery.

Professional development opportunities abound

Not long ago, professional development was an annual “event” led by an alleged expert who came to your institution from some remote, more prestigious establishment. The assumption was, “the further the person traveled to your context, the more enlightening the message.” However, this traditional “sage-on-the-stage” notion is gradually dissipating and being replaced by “the guide on the side” and more comprehensive approaches that consider adult learning differences and context-specific experiences. Moreover, many educators are now taking ownership of their continuing career growth and finding pertinent online resources, self-directed learning venues, and innovative professional learning communities. Today’s professional development is slowly evolving into a personal and professional maturation process driven by a commitment to the vocation of — or calling to — education.

Shift from students as consumers to students as creators

Many educational institutions are developing physical and virtual spaces where students collaborate and integrate product-centered activities as part of their learning. One study reports that the shift from “students as consumers” to “students as creators” is progressing rapidly and should reach its full impact in about five years.[1] Corresponding with this shift is the challenge of existing leaning models. For instance, the traditional notion of  Bloom’s Taxonomy is that learners cannot reach higher order learning activities, such as evaluation and creation, until the lower-level thinking skills are addressed. Today, many are arguing that instead of a linear progression, Bloom’s levels of development are much more fluid and interactive, and higher order skills are sometimes put at the beginning, rather than at the end of lessons.[2]

The above are only three reasons I believe “the times, they are a-changing.” Major challenges of twenty-first century education include adjusting to these changes as well as shaping the cultural landscape to improve human interaction and learning. To me, these are exciting times. I am interested in what you think.

[1] See the NMC Horizon Report 2014 – Shift from Students as Consumers to Students as Creators at https://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/HR2014.pdf

[2] Readers can learn more about this challenge in reading the ideas of two international teachers and bloggers:

(1) Canadian teacher Shelly Wright – http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/05/flip-this-blooms-taxonomy-should-start-with-creating/ and

(2) Kenyan teacher Gioko Maina –  http://dailyedventures.com/index.php/2015/02/18/anthony-giok/

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