John Spencer (@spencerideas) gave one of the best analogies I've ever heard last night on #IMMOOC, comparing the love of baseball to school. It was one of those moments where I thought to myself, “that describes the state of our educational system exactly.” John’s analogy was:
“If someone had given me a rulebook, I never would have fallen in love with the game of baseball. I had to watch it, experience it and participate in it."
This analogy causes me to think what schools have become, vs. what they need to be. I love innovation and innovative ideas. I have developed a passion for not just being innovative, but being better. I want to be better each class period, better each day, and better each year. Even with the drive for innovation we see emerging in education, I feel as there is a truth in education that has been somewhat lost. This truth is that, at its core, our schools need to be a place for students to have an experience unlike any other. Every other function and purpose of school will fall in behind the experience we create for kids. As I pursue this, I have had to ask myself hard questions, such as:
I am a firm believer this experience starts in the classroom, and spreads throughout the school. I cannot create an environment students want to be in if I marry my content to traditional methods day in and day out. Students know the game of school, and its time teachers introduce them to a new game with new experiences and new rules. For too long, we have only given students the rulebook without allowing them to experience the wonder and awe school can and should provide. This is where the concept of design thinking comes in, and the freedom each teacher has to create his or her own framework. The goal is to provide experience. If we provide the experience, students will fall in love with the process.
SHRINK THE WORLD
One of the things that has really become a focus for me in my classroom and with my students is the idea of shrinking the world. There is so much truth in the idea that tech does not necessarily equal innovation, and that just because it is new doesn’t make it better. However, there is also the reality that our students now have access to the entire world at their fingertips. With just the push of a button, students now have access to information, resources, and connections on the other side of the globe. I would absolutely encourage you to leverage this with your kids. Allow them to use their phones to document learning. I started doing this in my Science class, and students began putting together some amazing things. When doing research, talk to them about resources such as YouTube, social media, and blogs. Give students the freedom to create in the ways and with the apps they are good with. These types of things are the building blocks for providing awesome experiences, because it makes school part of the student’s real world. Don’t just do new things, do better things… but also leverage the tools students use everyday.
Joe Robison is a Middle School Science Teacher in Valdez, Alaska. He is passionate about connecting with kids, building relationships, and innovating in his classroom. He enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife, Wylie, and their four small children. You can follow Joe on Twitter @joerobison907.