We all have our very different ideas about education, and we have every right to do so. However, the pace of change in life nowadays is too fast to hold on to any educational concept for too long, and that is not a very pleasant fact to any of us, whether we are educators, students or parents.
Before the dawn of personal computers and their crazy fast emergence in companies, lifestyle and work style had not experienced any dramatic change over a concise period, not since the time of the industrial revolution. However, since the second half of the last decade of the last millennium, we have not been able to get used to one style long before it is replaced by another one that is entirely different. An obvious and easy example is computer literacy, which started to be an essential requirement for any job by the end of the 20th century, and now even that is not enough. Computer literacy has become second nature to most people, so more is required today from us and undoubtedly from the next generation.
Against this crazy bullet-fast train of development, we can see a lot of educational leaders holding their ground planning on facing the flood without getting into the Arc. I am not trying to be sarcastic here, but with all due respect, no one can withstand this technological tsunami alone. I hate this quick change, too. I honestly believe it is against human nature and Mother Nature, but my children and my students mostly do not share my convictions, especially the nostalgic ones; they just do not understand them. This is the reason why I see that we have to adapt to the new requirements for this coming age of uncertainty. The lifestyle of our fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers was pretty much the same, but we have witnessed many changes in our lifestyle in one yet unfinished lifetime.
The argument can lead to distant lands of opposing opinions and unfruitful discussions, yet my goal today is to see how much is leaning towards adding knowledge to the minds of our students and how many skills are we providing them with. Without any doubt, the older methodologies have supported students with both, so effectively for a very long time. Both were equally important and necessary for all aspects of life. However, if we look at it today, we can notice that things have changed in terms of the required amount of information we need to carry around with us in our brains wherever we go; the amount requested has been on a sharp decline curve for the past decade due to the emergence of the internet and cloud computing, which can hold any amount of easy-to-access information, anywhere, anytime. I can’t convince my students that they have to memorize the birth and death date of a writer or some other famous person. “Teacher, we can google it, you can open this app and …” they immediately start to explain how easily you can do it on a mobile phone, a tablet or what have you. When I tell them that I knew this, they will give me a creepily surprised sort of look trying to find a logical reason for my request, in vain. I mean, how can we ask our students to do something we do not do anymore? I cannot remember more than a couple of phone numbers now compared to over two hundred twenty years ago, thanks to the mobile phone memory. There is a lot less information stacking needed today, but a lot more skills to mine this information efficiently. We will never stop providing information at school, yet we will need to shift our focus to teaching more skills than just mere piles of information treating our students like physical hard disks.
There are many examples that I will talk about in more details in the posts to come, but just to name some of them, there are critical thinking, logical reasoning, and problem-solving skills, which everybody is talking about nowadays, but let me be honest here, their application at most schools have never passed the threshold of talking, discussing in a seminar, or maybe taking a teacher training session on them. When we go back to our classes, very few of us can resist the temptation of returning to our old good traditional ways. However, to be positive about this, at least the level of awareness of the importance of coaching those skills is growing in our educational world. However, we tend to start things off from a mathematical perspective, where critical thinking, logical reasoning, and problem-solving are self-evident. More often than not, we tend to forget the skills that have gotten us here in the first place, grit, self-motivation, creative thinking, and many more skills that do not have to do with our ability to only calculate stuff, but also to practice the one thing we are very special for as humans, which is self-awareness. How can we transfer these survival skills to our students that can help them adapt to any technological weather that might be coming their way, knowing that these things are tough to predict these days? Maybe, we should learn these skills ourselves first before we try to pass them along to our students. If we keep an open searching eye for new opportunities and affordances we have nowadays; nothing is complicated. In the coming posts of educational skills, we will be exploring the skills above and many more with their possible application in class in as many different situations as possible. So stay tuned.
March 10, 2015