Education is no longer a one way conversation. Gone are the days where the teacher stands in front and downloads (in an authoritarian manner) the information for the students to regurgitate back. Go into any classroom where the teacher is dominating the interaction, and you will find the students are unengaged. Students have to be involved in such a way that they at least direct the experience in some part. After all you don’t find meaning by listening to someone else, you make meaning by doing. One of my fears as we move to create a more uniform national curriculum is that we will be even more concerned with “covering” the prescribed material than we are now. What we are asked to emphasize to students at every level is becoming so broad that there is little hope that we are creating the deep understanding our students really need to experience. It is more efficient for the teacher to guide students through information, but learning and efficient are not necessarily synonymous. An old rancher once told me as I was fixing fence “Dave, the spacing of the barb wire sure is pretty, but your fencing ain’t worth a plug nickel.” Then he proceeded to knock my fence down by hitting one post really hard with the sledge. “Dig your post holes deeper!” he said, as he walked away. The wisdom of the ranch hand really applies to what we are doing in education today. If we do not take the time to have the students experience a deeper understanding of concepts and build skills they will use for a lifetime, their education experience will be as flimsy as the fence that was knocked down. No matter what the standards say, our students have to learn to:
- Collect and analyze information
- Connect with others
- Think Critically
- Practice Digital Citizenship
These are the “fence posts” that must hold up the learning experience for students today. No time is wasted if we are challenging each student to do each of the above at a level which is appropriate.