Ben Wilkoff’s Learning is Change Blog explained this tenet from the Educon 2.1 conference:
“Idea six: The purpose of school is to expose kids to people who are actually doing what is possible. Perhaps it is in finding out how things really work. Perhaps it is in not knowing everything. Perhaps it is in knowing exactly what you want to do with your life.”
Idea Six embodies the heart of education. Whether at home or in school, we strive in our human capacity to know ourselves, our talents, our skills. We want to improve at that which we show skill. We want to learn how the world works, and find avenues through which our travel adds to our strengths as we search for a way to work throughout our lives in careers that hopefully reflect our abilities.
I know; we have tests to pass and standards to teach. Why? So students know skills to be successful in today’s ever-changing world so our country stays strong and viable. Standards in content provide the background to move forward in developing our ideas and questions. Standards in process provide heuristic strategies to create our stance and solutions. They guide us in our search for how the world works.
But does everyone need to know everything, and pass the same test to prove it? If I buy a new electric car, I expect whichever one I drive home will be the same quality and standard that my neighbor’s car has. However, my neighbor will have different places to go, different ways to drive, and different purposes for his car. The thing is standardized; the people are not.
Isn’t that what we have forgotten in education? the people teaching and the people learning. The people use the standards to reach personal goals, and they grow with each goal in different ways. Remember the adage, “Different strokes for different folks.” When we standardize the people part, we dilute and detract from the possible proficiencies of each person; we funnel the future into today’s tenets instead of feeding the future with the informed heuristic possibilities of lifelong learners, whose individual and collective competencies could solve unimaginable problems.
The word “education” derives from the Latin “educere — lead out.” Education should lead students to find themselves, to strengthen what they do well, to discover hidden talents, and to learn from others who use their talents well so that students, too, become productive, creative citizens. Students don’t need to know everything, and they will learn what they need to know — when it’s needed to learn about themselves or to learn how things work as they create and interact in learning quests of which they have chosen the focus and in which the standards provide background, guidance, and focus.
At home, students choose where, what, and why to learn; the interactive Internet draws them to that which captures their interests and strengths. Unless education mirrors that interactive choice, leading students to known and hidden talents, educational institutions will find resistance from students; it won’t serve the needs to learn and use their own strengths.
Connecting students with people who are doing what is possible — or could be possible — leads students to knowing their own talents; the Internet provides a river of connections in simple texts, expert queries (“Ask a _____”), interactive projects, collaborative quests, and real-time or archived media interactions. How many classrooms today allow this interactive, student-focused curricula that leads students to “knowing what they want to do with their lives?”
How would educators do that? The standards provide the harbor, a reference point in content and process; the educators and students decide the direction of their journey into the river, planning the places and prospects that contain the current and forge the flow of learning, creating their own ports of explorations and expertise to which others connect. These ports are personal docks displaying each student’s possibilities and proficiencies — a lifelong legacy of learning. Moor to the dock to discover the scope of the scholarship and the compass of the course; a test isn’t required. I think classrooms would be more joyful, inclusive, and active places if we help and connect people in their process of developing their possibilities; classrooms would be places where students WANT to go — to augment and evince their odyssey. Wouldn’t that be something?
A Possible Outline
The Standards in Content and Process
Your presentation [of the journey; of the learning; of standard (content and process) references; of breakthrough (discovery or obstacle) in thoughts, knowledge, standards, solutions; of collaboration; of peer review; of continuing questions and quests.]
There is none; it’s a lifelong process.