Katrina Schwartz | December 26, 2012
It may come as no surprise that the ideas that are top-of-mind for educators, parents, and policymakers are the very topics conveyed in the most popular MindShift posts this year. Giving kids the tools to create, teachers the freedom to innovate, making students’ work relevant in the real world, giving them access to valuable technology. These are the aspirations that have resonated most with MindShift readers this year. Here are the top 10 posts from 2012.
Being able to use the Internet and operate computers is one thing, but it may be just as valuable to teach students how to code. Giving students an introduction to programming helps peel back the layers of what happens inside computers and how computers communicate with one another online. Programming knowledge, even at a very basic level, makes technology seem less magical and more manageable. Programming also teaches other important skills, including math and logic.
So much about how and where kids learn has changed over the years, but the physical structure of schools has not. Looking around most school facilities — even those that aren’t old and crumbling – it’s obvious that so much of it is obsolete today, and yet still in wide use.
The conversation in education has shifted towards outcomes and training kids for jobs of the future, and in many ways the traditional classroom has become obsolete. And yet many people fear change, preferring to hunker down and take the conservative route. Yet, it’s exactly during these uncertain times when people must be willing to try new things, to be more open, curious and experimental, said educator Madeline Levine.
Can creativity be taught? Absolutely. The real question is: “How do we teach it?” In school, instead of crossing subjects and classes, we teach them in a very rigid manner. Very rarely do you witness math and science teachers or English and history teachers collaborating with each other. Sticking in your silo, shell, and expertise is comfortable. Well, it’s time to crack that shell. It’s time to abolish silos and subjects.
At its core, the issues associated with mobile learning get to the very fundamentals of what happens in class everyday. At their best, cell phones and mobile devices seamlessly facilitate what students and teachers already do in thriving, inspiring classrooms. Students communicate and collaborate with each other and the teacher. They apply facts and information they’ve found to formulate or back up their ideas. They create projects to deepen their understanding, association with, and presentation of ideas.
If we’re serious about preparing students to become innovators, educators have some hard work ahead. Getting students ready to tackle tomorrow’s challenges means helping them develop a new set of skills and fresh ways of thinking that they won’t acquire through textbook-driven instruction. Students need opportunities to practice these skills on right-sized projects, with supports in place to scaffold learning. They need to persist and learn from setbacks. That’s how they’ll develop the confidence to tackle difficult problems.
As open educational resources and OpenCourseWare (OCW) increase in popularity and usage, there are a number of new resources out there that do offer opportunity for interaction and engagement with the material.
In a traditional classroom, the teacher is the center of attention, the owner of knowledge and information. Teachers often ask questions of their students to gauge comprehension, but it’s a passive model that relies on students to absorb information they need to reproduce on tests. What would happen if the roles were flipped and students asked the questions?
In preparing students for the world outside school, what skills are important to learn? This goes to the heart of the research addressed in the Deeper Learning Report released by the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science in Washington. Simply defined, “deeper learning” is the “process of learning for transfer,” meaning it allows a student to take what’s learned in one situation and apply it to another, explained James Pellegrino, one of the authors of the report. “You can use knowledge in ways that make it useful in new situations,” he said.
So what if we were to say that, starting this year, even with our children in K– 5, at least half of the time they spend on schoolwork must be on stuff that can’t end up in a folder we put away? That the reason they’re doing their schoolwork isn’t just for a grade or for it to be pinned up in the hallway? It should be because their work is something they create on their own, or with others, that has real value in the real world.