Musings of a 21st Century Middle School Social Studies Teacher
I would consider myself to be successful and well-formed product of the factory/industrialized style of education. I was prepared for college after a very traditional (lecture, regurgitate, and repeat) high school experience. Perhaps this was because my own college experience was very similar! Upon deeper reflection and being out of college for several years now, I realize that I've learned stuff, stuff, and more stuff. I had never actually learned how to learn! Before college, I learned how to listen, how to study notes that had been given to me, and to a much lesser extent... how to read to derive key meaning from a text. (Disclaimer: I have been blessed with teachers who have continued to inspire and motivate me to be the best I can in everything I do. They have inspired me to continue on this journey of learning through my adult years.) The following tweet perfectly encapsulates how I was prepared throughout much of my own education for the world and career ahead of me!
Thankfully, I heard this message relentlessly as a student, even if through more traditional learning and instructional methods.
It is very easy to prepare students to be master "Trivia Crack"ers or Jeopardy players, but are we preparing our students to learn and discover in a world where all of this "trivia" is at their finger tips in the form of a phone or tablet... or watch?!? (Who knew?) That's up for debate and reflection depending on our own practices in our classrooms.
I know I'm working toward moving away from forming "Trivia Crackers!!" In a generation in which the differentiation of assignments was even somehow standardized, I had very little exposure to exploring the creative realm. (For example, I can specifically remember in my Junior Year Honors' English Class, we were all assigned to create the same sock puppet video of a scene from MacBeth! Very fun and memorable, but this was not personalized in any way. Students had very little "wiggle room" to show their learning in their own preferred modes and methods. "Differing" from the norm of regular traditional direct instruction to create many of the same product is not differentiating curriculum.)
We have the opportunity to open up a world of creativity and change mindsets of our students. Let's change our students' expectations from solely being consumers of the information we spew at them to curators, learners, explorers, researchers, creators, and so on! This will not be easy. It's going to require some work up front on our behalves. We are going to need to break from the traditional methods we grew up with in order to learn best practices in a 21st century classroom. We need to seek out best practices to encourage creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking among our learners. Many students will come into our classrooms expecting to consume and spit back information. This must change. You can do it.