Crossposted over at TechLearning. Drop by and add to the conversation.
Think all the buzz about school soon becoming irrelevant is just hype? Meet George Hotz, (geohot) a 17 year-old from New Jersey who blogs. What makes George significant?
He has just “unlocked” the iPhone, finding a way to get around the device’s restrictions and allow it to be used not only on AT&T’s cell phone network but also on T-Mobile’s network and overseas.
George Hotz remembers taking apart his first computer, an Apple II, when he was 4 or 5 years old. He also dismantled an answering machine, remote control, vacuum cleaner and more computers. Now the 17-year-old from Glen Rock, N.J., has taken hacking to a scientific level. The sad part, at least to me, he had to do it over the summer because cell phones are not allowed in school!
The 'George' in Your Classroom
I know, I know, you're thinking George is some child prodigy. That he is not typical of kids in your classes, and as an educator you have plenty of time to master digital and the other new literacies before most kids catch up. Think again. Read this and tell me this is not the average student in your class. In fact, some, if not many teachers would read that assignment essay and label George as a troublemaker.
Looking around his Web site I read over and over again how bored he was. Bored at school (except for his freshman year), bored during the summer and yet look at the potential of this kid! Why aren't schools places where students are motivated to achieve their full potential? Why is the culture of school such that passion based learning has no place in the classroom?
A Sense of Urgency
We have a generation of students arriving in our classrooms that are more and more comfortable with technology, in fact, more comfortable than we will ever be. And that makes many of us very uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that we react with banning and filtering rather than modeling how to connect with content experts and teaching responsible net citizenship.
Living in the Dot Rather than Living in the Line
As educators we have to think of the impact of our teaching in two phases. I'm going to illustrate this with a dot and a line, a line that extends from the dot.
Our classrooms are the here and now. They are the dot and for each student we teach, the classroom experience has a beginning and an end. It’s temporary. And as teachers, we live in that dot. But from our classroom there extends a line that stretches out for the life of the student. That line is the preparation we have given our students who will be living the line.
Right now we’re living in the dot (preparing them for normed tests) but if we really understood our role in the lives of the students we teach we would learn to live for the line (the new literacies and 21st Century skills-- the changing learning landscape.) There’s nothing wrong with here and now. It’s where we are, and it’s where we do whatever policy makers have given us to do. But the truth is-- with knowledge expanding exponentially-- much of the here and now will become irrelevant as our students get jobs and live their lives.
Michael D. Higgins, the former Irish Minister for Arts, Culture and Gaeltacht said,
The roots of a creative society are in basic education. The sheer volume of facts to be digested by the students of today leaves little time for a deeper interrogation of their moral worth. The result has been a generation of technicians rather than visionaries, each one taking a career rather than an idea seriously. The answer must be reform in our educational methods so that students are encouraged to ask about "know-why" as well as "know-how". Once the arts are restored to a more central role in educational institutions, there could be a tremendous unleashing of creative energy in other disciplines too.
We are at a crossroads in education. Mainstream society seems to be re-inventing everything - except the school system, which should, at least in theory, be leading the change. The main crisis in schools today is pending irrelevance. Our educational thinking is concerned with the "dot" or ' what is', when we should be concerned with designing "the line" or ' what can be'.
By providing rich and varied contexts for our students to acquire, develop and apply a broad range of knowledge, understanding and skills, that are tied to the very things that interest them and about which they are passionate, we will give the "Georges" in our classroom the opportunity to become creative, innovative, enterprising and capable of leadership to equip them for their future.