Over the course of 37 years, I have been involved in the processes of learning and teaching but have rarely stopped to consider whether what I had learned and taught or how I had learned or taught those things was effective. I have stated in this blog before that I have always loved learning and have considered myself to be a self-guided learner since I was old enough to consciously figure out my interests. I can remember my experiences in primary school as well as secondary and post-secondary as being mostly interesting to me but along the way, there have been moments when I clearly felt bored or restless. As I have come along through this class I have probably learned more than in most classes I have previously taken and especially have had my eyes opened to some very real issues in education. There seems to be so much pressure put on children to keep up with the rest of the class, to score well on exams and assessments, and to stay interested in school. However, our system hasn’t changed much at all in the past 150 years! So, what exactly can we do to help encourage our students to take a more active approach in their own learning and to ensure they are receiving a good quality education? There are so many ways to answer that question but it all boils down to innovation and change.
In an article titled “The Mindset of an Innovator” George Couros says that “I question thinking, challenge ideas, and do not accept ‘this is the way we have always done it’ as an acceptable answer for our students or myself”. This statement represents how I handled my own learning this semester. Although I enjoyed learning about many of the ideas that were presented to me I always took time to think through each idea and question those ideas. Take for instance the idea of hackschooling. While I was inspired by what Logan LePlante had to say about this idea, there were some parts of it that I had to challenge. So, in the end, I usually walk away with a modified version of the original idea. If we truly want to see a change in education, we need to begin challenging our students to think for themselves, to form their own ideas and opinions, to create their own information, and most importantly to guide their own learning through what inspires them.
“We need to unlearn the idea that every student needs to learn the same content when really what they need to learn is how to self-direct their own learning.” Will Richardson offers us ways we can strive to ensure students are getting the kind of education they really need to survive in the 21st century in his article. In order for us to send these children out into the world prepared for what adulthood will bring we need to stop thinking that they will be cookie cutter children and realize that each child carries the ability to do amazing things in their lifetime. If we do not start allowing students to guide their own learning they will not be able to see their own potential in life. We close off students’ creativity when we teach them “in a box”. Innovation in learning means that children learn how to become learners rather than pushing them through the next grade level on the system of grades and assessments.
If there is one thing I have unlearned this semester it is that tests do not provide a clear picture of learning. Exams, assessments, standardized tests, and even quizzes are just a tool that makes it easier for an instructor to base achievement of students on without having to actually get to know their students. Each person has their own unique brand of intellect and to label children or even adult students with “A’s” or “B’s”, “D’s” or “F’s” is an unfair evaluation of learning. I have not taken one single test or exam in this class and as far as I am aware will not have to take any but the wealth of knowledge I have gained from this class is invaluable and it is something that will stick with me throughout the years. I have not memorized any mundane facts that I will instantly forget once I’ve passed the test I had to remember said facts for.
I do feel that I need to continue to unlearn that we need to reach beyond the classroom and use technology to further meaningful learning among our students. Although I have begun to chip away at my fear of technology it is still something I have to constantly battle. However, this class has given me the tools and the confidence to persist in my quest to be a proficient digital learner and teacher.
For me, the main lesson here has been taught best by example. This class has been a shining example of how innovation should look in the classroom and why it should be happening in classrooms around our nation.