Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere

Posted by nliakos on October 12, 2012

by Will Richardson (TED eBook, 2012)

Will Richardson used to be a K-12 teacher. Before that, of course, he was a student in the American school system. Now, he is the father of two schoolchildren. He also blogs about education and educational technology.  Richardson’s premise here is that our educational system was created when knowledge was hard to get, and it was necessary for children to physically go to a building where they could be instructed by those few who had knowledge (teachers). Now that this is no longer true–now that knowledge is easily attainable from almost anywhere if one is connected, and anyone can quickly find the answers to the kinds of factual questions that used to be taught and the knowledge of which was assessed (names, dates, events, math and science facts, geography, and so on)–Richardson argues that we need to fundamentally recreate the system to reflect reality. Instead of trying to do what we already do, but better, Richardson wants us to chuck the old system and re-invent school.

Richardson explains that what we used to consider literacy is no longer enough; we now need to be multi-literate, and schools need to teach multiliteracies; but right now, most schools are too busy trying to put up firewalls to keep email, YouTube, and (God forbid) Facebook out of the classroom, so kids have the whole web of knowledge at their fingertips 24/–except for the time they are in school (when they are forbidden to use their smartphones).

He believes that education “isn’t about delivery [of knowledge to children]. . . . It’s about discovery [by children and adults together].” He advocates rethinking assessment (realizing that we all depend on the Internet to find our answers, and we should be teaching our kids to do that well (i.e., to evaluate websites) rather than continue forcing them to memorize and then regurgitate canned knowledge which in most cases they will never need, and if they do need it, they can find it easily.  He cites Yong Zhao of the University of Oregon, who believes that high-stakes testing in schools takes time and resources away from where they should be and forces teachers to teach to the tests, “[thus depriving] our children. . . of a real education.” He wants to “rethink teaching”, saying that “learning, unlearning, and relearning” are the essential skills of the future (and perhaps the present). He advocates that teachers share freely what they know. He believes we need to teach students to “talk to strangers” online (safely, of course!) because it is through connecting with others that we enhance our knowledge of the world. (Students in Richardson’s high school literature class studying The Secret Life of Bees had the opportunity to interact with the author while they were reading the novel.) Teachers should be “master learners,” modeling for students the behaviors we hope they will acquire. And kids should produce work that matters (“real work for real audiences”) in place of endless worksheets that end up in the recycle bin. It should be the kids who drive learning–not their teachers. (I always wonder, though: students know what they think they should learn, but there is so much that they don’t even know exists, or why they would need to know it. Can we really assume that they can figure this out on their own?)

Richardson ends by saying, “Our kids, and we ourselves, can now carry the sum of human knowledge around in our pockets. . . . We can have teachers and classrooms with us wherever we go.” He calls on us to educate ourselves about connected learning and to try to convince others of its importance.

3 Responses to “Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere”

  1. […] on Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in […]

  2. kulavuzd said

    Thank you Nina for this review! I wanted to tweet it, but it seems like you don’t have this function embedded in your blog for your entries??

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