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Blended Bites Blog

Shifting Education: More Questions Than Answers

Jessica Anderson

Today, I watched "Changing Education Paradigms" shared via @wlweber one of my #MTedchat colleagues.  If you haven't seen it, take the next 11:41 minutes and then come back. I can guarantee that you'll have reflections of your own after viewing.

While watching I found myself comparing my education and my thoughts on teaching to what was being relayed via the presentation. Below are a few of those reflections:
  • I played school...very well 
I enjoyed school up until about 5th grade. Beyond that point, I went to school to socialize with my friends, dish on the latest T.V. shows (like Dawson's Creek), and ogle new love interests.  School became a game. Literally, school was no longer about learning but about getting good grades and achieving all A's on the report card. Seriously, I held the lead role in "playing school." 

As a teacher, I see this all of the time. It is one of the reasons I feel so passionate about going to a "gradeless" environment (at least as much as I can with the current system). The majority of my students are not passionate about learning. They are driven by grades and, in some cases, consequences from their parents. I feel strongly that a shift needs to be made if students are going to change their learning mindset. Reflections: What else can we change as teachers to shift this paradigm? Would a "grit day" help establish a drive for learning or change in mindset? All I know is that something needs to change for our learning culture to change.
  • Many teachers just won't let go of control
If we are going to make any headway in the classroom, we must relinquish our control.  The year of my schooling that I remember the most was second grade with Mrs. Betts. As I reflect on why I remember this year, I continually come back to the idea that she put more control in our hands. We were always doing activities where we took ownership of our learning and we were continually sharing our work with authentic audiences. With the current knowledge I have about students and teaching, I feel a strong urgency to shift classrooms to a blended environment where students have more choice, take ownership of their learning, and are guided by their own personalized learning. I foresee a shift towards more online courses, especially since I've seen some stellar online programs grow (Quest Virtual...awesome!) and just this year had four students leave their freshman year to take online courses. I'm also partial to the idea now that I am both a blended and online teacher. There are benefits of both--- with a variety of learners in mind.  
  • Schedules need to vacate the system
Part of the reason learners love online courses is that they can complete the course work when it fits into their schedules. Why not make this available to students in a traditional school? Every year we discuss the schedule. Who's class has only 5 students because of scheduling conflicts? How can we give students enough time to go to the rest room and get from class to class? How do we eliminate roaming in the halls during class? 

I'm tired of these conversations---Why are these even questions? Why not eliminate the problem--the set schedule? Why not let students chart their own course? Why not integrate subject areas and have teacher's team teach topics? Heck, if you wanted your class all in your room (at one time at least once a week) why couldn't you schedule this on a shared school calendar? 

I know there are many questions regarding liability, accountability, etc., however, with any change comes adaptation to requirements and expectations. Students and teachers will adjust to change (although I'm still hot about losing block schedule...) and establish learning environments that meet the needs of the students. 

I could go on and on...These are all questions that need to be answered, tested, and modeled. They are the questions behind what I believe is a necessary shift for our education system.  If our schools don't change, our students will find other avenues to hack their education. And believe me, there will be choices for those students. 

Who's with me?