Why bother with all of this? Why bother taking the time to change your classroom culture? Why worry about finding all these digital resources and taking the time to train your kids how to use them?
Aside from the benefits of differentiation and meeting the diverse learning needs of your students, you are building some far transfer skills! When you teach students how to manage their own learning and how to find digital resources that are academic and reliable, you are teaching them to be independent learners!
If you set up your students on Khan Academy, for example, they can continue to use that tool for the rest of their academic careers. They can even enrich it by branching out into other subjects like Computer Science and Animation. They can study for standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. The possibilities really are endless. Most importantly though, if a student knows how to find and utilize a resource like Khan Academy, they are no longer dependent on a teacher!
The classroom teacher will never be replaced, but they will eventually leave the academic world behind and join the workforce. However, the world will continue to change and evolve. Simply consider how the workforce has changed since the year 2000! More and more, employers value critical thinking skills, adaptability, and collaboration. They know the game will keep changing and they want employees that can keep up! Technology and information will continue to explode in growth and, as educators, we have an obligation to prepare our students for that growth.
Nearly all employers surveyed (93 percent) say that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than [a candidate’s] undergraduate major.” -Employers More Interested in Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Than College Major (2013) Click here to read more
It is clear that creating independent learners through a culture of agency and diverse digital resources is a good thing for our students!
Making students independent of teachers also increases their critical thinking abilities! They need to analyze online resources to find our if they are trustworthy. They need to reflect on their own strengths as learners to choose what resources are best for them. They can improve their collaboration by working with the peers on content rather than running straight to the teacher for answers.
It all comes down to a cultural shift in the classroom. We need to prepare our students for the rigors of the 21st Century and we will not accomplish that with old educational testing paradigms. International testing data proves this!
The above image shows that, despite the relatively high amount of money we push into education, we aren't getting very far. America barely scratches the top 10 performing countries in math and science! So what will push us farther into preparing our students for the 21st Century?
In my opinion, it will not be curriculum. As a nation, we flip back and forth on educational models far too often for them to have a lasting impact. Common Core has barely gotten its feet under it and already people are clamoring for a replacement. We design our educational systems from a K-12 perspective but rarely give them the chance to follow through on that perspective!
What can make an immediate difference while we figure out the practicals of educational policy is the culture of our classrooms. When we shift our paradigms to empower students to keep up with the changing world, rather than create cookie-cutter factory workers, amazing things can happen.
Listen to Sir Ken Robinson discuss the issue of our educational paradigms below.
Check out Jo Boaler's awesome website about changing the culture of your math classroom!
Click here to find some resources for setting up your class to be good digital citizens!