During the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, amid the chaos in my home with my grandchildren, my children, and their spouses, it occurred to me once again how learning has changed since I was a child. I’m keenly aware of the pace of this change across generations from my 31-year-old son, to my 15-year-old daughter, to my 2-year-old grandson. The evolution of learning from static to dynamic is akin to the evolution of yesterday’s Encyclopedia Britannica to today’s Wikipedia. Technological advances are transforming us from passive learners to active learners.
Information is everywhere and is available all the time, fueled by the passion and interest of our learners. My children download recipes for a delicious meal or watch a video that teaches them how to bake a pie or prepare sweet potatoes. Learning is becoming more personal because technology provides information instantaneously. This instant access to knowledge is pushing the education profession in directions we thought were not possible just a few years ago.
PK-12 education truly sits at a crossroads and is in the midst of deciding its future. We must remain relevant by designing educational opportunities that embrace the technology and help our students understand what they are learning. We must guide them as they apply their knowledge and show them how to behave ethically with large amounts of information. Today, teachers must be conduits of learning, instead of the sole purveyors of knowledge. They must engage all students to become independent learners.
I hope we take this moment to shake off the legacy of the factory model where we sort and select kids. I hope we design a future where we support our teachers and administrators as they transform our schools from a “one size fits all” to a collaborative, problem-solving environment where students think critically and globally.
We must support teachers as they help students discover the joy of learning through real-world opportunities. As educators, we must share their excitement for learning. We must give students nurturing and supportive environments where they can create, solve problems, make mistakes, and find their voice under the watchful eye of a professional educator.
At Westside, we are developing programming to help students direct their own learning PK to 12th grade, through approaches such as school-wide enrichment, internships, and possible academies. These approaches allow students to understand the relevance of school and how classroom content applies to the real world. We want to develop opportunities where students can identify interests and see a glimpse of a possible future, one that is meaningful to them and fuels their passions.