Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Forget Textbooks--Discover the Well

Books and Wells by Ken Willers

       Once Upon A Time, there was a man who said he wanted to search for deep Wells. Before he set out to seek his desire he thought it would first be wise to consult all the great books that had been written on the subject of deep Wells. The man read many books on where to find Wells and the differences in depth that they possessed. One day while he was strolling casually along engrossed in his reading of Wells he failed to notice a large deep Well right in front of him. When he bumped into the deep Well his book flew from his hands and fell quite far into the deep recesses of the Well. The man quite upset at the loss frantically lowered a near by bucket to retrieve his book but his attempt was in vain. The man went away very sad that he lost his book for he thought, without his book, how could he ever hope to find a deep Well.

Is this the type of learner today’s schools are manufacturing? Textbook dependent learners who need their ‘book’ to feel secure about what they know or even worse, to pass the test?

Has learning for our students become so far removed from the ‘real world’ that the application of knowledge seems to have descended into the deep recesses of the impossible? Apparently, yes. More than half the employers surveyed in Britain, replied that none or very few of their new hires, (recent graduates) were ready for work and were not equipped ‘with life skills.’ (Daily Mail Online, UK, September 12, 2013.)

How is it that today’s classroom, with all our technological advances, is so far removed from the real world?  Staying true to the story’s metaphor, it’s because, students are seldom given the opportunity to experience the ‘well’ directly in the learning process. Instead, students are repeatedly reminded to only ‘know’ what the ‘book’ says or what the ‘test’ will require.

This is certainly what I attributed to Albert Einstein when I referred to his quote in my previous blog, Forget Everything You Learned in School, “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” 

In the article cited earlier, it is interesting to note that the life skills our graduates were not prepared for, as identified by the employers, had little to do with their ‘knowledge’ but everything to do with their lack of ‘skills’ to apply what they knew. The findings fueled fears that schools were “failing to equip students with life skills, such as the ability to work in teams, communicate, and be punctual and determined.” (Daily Mail Online, UK, September 12, 2013.)

Now, let’s imagine a classroom where the ‘well’ is the source of learning. Imagine a learning process where the ‘reality’ informs the ‘theoretical’ and the ‘lived-experience’ affirms the acquired-knowledge.

Imagine a classroom where the curiosity of the student directs the content and skills that need to be acquired. Imagine a teacher who is interested in what motivates a student’s desire to learn and is able to develop that student’s talent. Imagine an environment that encourages ideas, enables abilities and empowers outcomes to be shared. Imagine an assignment where what is produced actually has value to the student and is immediately applicable to real life.

Can you imagine it? Well, what you are imagining is 21st Century Learning: where the student is self-directed, the teacher is learning-coach, the lessons have life-relevance and the environment is transformed into a center for collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity.

A great source to explore these ‘wells’ of learning possibilities is Twitter. A simple search of project-based learning or PLB will direct you to some awesome tweets. No need to use the ‘book’ (Internet) to find what you need to know—go right to ‘well’ (Twitter-where people actually are sharing their learning in real-time every day).

You will find that there are some amazing students, attending some amazing schools with lots of amazing teachers, generating amazing projects.

If more of our students were given the opportunity to encounter ‘wells’ in their learning—then perhaps more of our graduates would ‘commence’ into the real world with the skills that 21st Century ‘life’ is demanding. ‘Wells’ -- such as projects that engage a student’s creativity while deepening his/her understanding of core curriculum. ‘Wells’ – such as projects that require critical thinking, while supporting a student’s discovery and application of content knowledge. 

Now, if you’ll excuse, I’m meeting with a group of students—they are going to lead me through the process of how they are going to create some amazing project-books using collaboration, communication, critical thinking and creativity as they guidelines. They are members of the school’s PYBclub…

What’s the PYBclub? I’ll talk more about that in my next edition.

To read other stories go to my blog at: http://21stcencathedleadership.blogspot.com

And follow me on Twitter @21stCenPrinKW