Is the Industrial age notion of instruction a "sacred cow?"
When educators talk about customizing curriculum, revamping assessment, infusing technology into our schools and classrooms, you see heads nodding in agreement and can feel the consensus and excitement. Yet when we bring up the topic of rethinking instruction, envisioning new roles for students and teachers … changing how we view “Instruction” … the mood changes.
Consider these questions in the context of digital age learning:
· Is “instruction” about what the teacher does somewhere in the “front” of the classroom, while students sit passively, consuming information?
· Or should we shift the focus from what the teacher is doing to how the student is responding, engaging with the instruction?
Taking the road less traveled challenges all of us to redefine how we think about instruction. And the key to this, in a mass customized education environment, is to redefine not just the teacher’s role, but also the student’s.
In our school district, we started with a language change (inspired by Chuck Schwahn and Bea McGarvey's Inevitable) that, while seemingly simple, continuously forces us to be mindful of the importance of these newly defined roles in the customized Central environment.
· LEARNERS: You will notice I used the word student as I referenced sitting passively in neat rows listening to the teacher. Today’s digital age requires schools to recognize that we are not just teaching passive students but active, engaged learners. Learners are required to produce and create products their learning facilitator (formerly known as teacher) design for them.
· LEARNING FACILITATORS: No longer will our learning facilitators stand and deliver lecture after lecture and impart knowledge. According to Merriam-Webster, a facilitator is one who brings about an outcome by providing indirect or unobtrusive assistance, guidance or supervision (most of us use a smart phone to look up a definition these days and not a dictionary on a shelf somewhere). Learning facilitators will create learning opportunities and serve as guides through our curricula (think shepherding – thanks to Jon Landis from Apple for that reference!). By the way, if you think I am advocating for technology to replace the human element, you are wrong. A future post will detail the human element impact in this exciting time.
Beyond this language and mindset shift, we continue to discuss the way learning itself has changed in today’s world. We are kidding ourselves if we continue to believe that learning only occurs in a school or classroom at the direction of a learning facilitator.
Instructions, videos and expert commentaries are only a click away from our learners' fingertips and not reserved to some destination and a 48-minute class period. Today’s learners interact with their friends, community and the world in a 24/7 fashion and often learn in a self-directed manner and "just in time" (credit again to David Price and Open). When was the last time you read a manual vs. searching YouTube to fix that leaky faucet? I still have a “Better Homes and Garden” volume that helps with the faucet …but there are only pictures as opposed to over 10 videos that explain every step in the process.
When you provide every learner with a device and Internet connectivity, you disrupt the instructional delivery model that has existed since the one-room schoolhouse.
The real question for public education now and in the future is this ... if we keep doing what we have always done, while everyone and everything around us changes ... will they choose us?