Almost everyone wants our school’s to be better, but almost no one wants them to be different.” ~ Dr. Tommy Bice
Today, I had the opportunity to attend the Virtual School Symposium in Glendale, Arizona. It was a great opportunity to hear about innovation in the world of 21st century education and network with others interested in utilizing technology to enhance and individualize student instruction.
My “take-away” issue from the first day of the conference is the hesitance of our education system, in general, to embrace true change–particularly with regard to technology. How often do we (my school included) continue practices because that is the way it has always been done? How often do we present self-imposed hurdles to the integration of technology, or balk at giving students creative latitude with regard to technology in the classroom?
For me, the most powerful part of the day was the opening keynote by Dr. Tommy Bice–Deputy State Superintendent of Education, Alabama Department of Education. Dr. Bice discussed the need for educators to embrace educational change for the best interest of students. He described the 21st Century learning environment as one where:
- learning is the constant and time is the variable
- student progress is measured by proficiency
- schedules are varied and based upon individual student needs
- demography doesn’t determine a child’s destiny
Unfortunately, many of our current educational practices are not effectively meeting the needs of all students. Dr. Bice shared the following quote:
Most students don’t learn how to succeed in the American education system, they spend most of their time learning how to survive the American education system. ~ S.R. Sugar
We would all agree that school should not be about survival, so how do we ensure that our instructional methods move beyond education as an end? Educators are frequently encouraged to “think outside of the box.” I would argue that we not only need to think beyond the box, we need to question its existence. We need to pursue educational reform without restraints–examining every possible strategy/model that will benefit students.
Technology has the power to help educators deliver individualized instruction–differentiated at a remarkable level. In order to do that, we need agents of change, not CAVE dwellers (Citizens Against Virtually Everything), as coined by Dr. Bice. Nor do we need the boxes within which they think.