A few days ago I was trying to open an unripened banana in our kitchen. I was digging my thumb nail into the stem of the banana and struggling to get it to snap so that I could peel it down and eat my breakfast. My son came over to me and said, “dad, is that hard?” I replied with frowning yes. He simply said, “well, why don’t you open it from the bottom, where the yucky part is?” The “DUH” moment hit me. He was so right (on both accounts, opening the banana and the location of the yucky part of the banana….plus, what is that gross tasting part at the bottom of the banana anyhow?) I slid my thumb through the bottom of the banana with ease and breakfast was served.
I started reading a book this summer called, Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education. One of the authors of the book is a friend of mine and I figured I would buy a copy and help him make a few bucks (just kidding Rob), but the book has got me thinking (and that is dangerous on so many levels). I am only a quarter of the way through it but it does a great job framing the fact that we have changed from the model of education that you and me (anyone 30 and above) grew up with (the industrial age model) to that of the Information Age. The skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, inquiry and more are so much more relevant now than ever before. These were the skills that we “sometimes” got to when I was in school. It was more important for my peers and me to memorize information and dates than to synthesize and connect it to something bigger.
This brings me to an early point. I use the line, “when I was in school” all the time and way too much. When I was in elementary school, it was boring (comparatively), plain and simple. I had great and loving teachers who no doubt had a major impact on my life, however, I don’t ever remember coming home saying “I can’t wait to go back to school tomorrow to take turns reading aloud from a science textbook.” I have shared this before with many people, but I once got in trouble in math class for getting the answer correct. Yes, you are reading this right. I got the answer correct, properly showed my work and was then asked to sing “My Way” by Frank Sinatra as I stood on my desk (my classmates happily reminded me of this about a month ago at my elementary school reunion). See the problem was I did not solve it the way the book told me to do so, so therefore I as wrong. This example epitomizes the Industrial Age model of education. A machine has no choice in how to make widgets! There is only one way.
The good news is I feel fortunate to work at a school with educators that believe in critical thinking, inquiry, collaboration and creativity(among other 21st century skills). One that believes technology (along with other mediums) is a great tool to enhance these skills. I look forward to reading the last three quarters of the book to find even more ways to bring these skills and others alive through personal learning networks. The Industrial Age model may face the “final curtain” but the Information Age provides us with endless possibilities.