A Shift in Mindset for 2020

During the 2018-2019 school year, I created a regional Professional Learning Community(PLC) entitled "Technology in the Classroom". This was a diverse group of individuals who came from a variety of schools with a vast array of technology competencies. We met four times throughout the school year and conquered many educational technology tools, practices, and theories.

The last meeting of the year consisted of my PLC participating in a design challenge to solve one of the UN Global Issues. The premise of creating an environment in which they became a part of the learning process, was for them to experience learning first-hand that involved risk-taking, working with limited resources, presenting to a panel of judges (my wonderful colleagues) and, most of all, working collaboratively.

After the presentations to the judges were given, we reflected upon their personal experience partaking in the design challenge. Great conversations took place about the future of education as we reflected how much time has been lost in the attempt to make our students competent and efficient users of technology in this global and digital age.

As the 2019-2020 school year begins, I would like to share one of my favorite quotes from one of my educational heroes, Sir Ken Robinson, and the ways in which you can begin to shift your mindset as I did mine.

The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed -- it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.

-Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything

A shift in mindset can be both enlightening and intimidating. For me, it was both my personal experiences in education and the fact that I was at one point in my career I was ultimately unhappy in my profession that lead me to my shift in educational mindset. “What is our goal of education?” I found myself questioning. (Recently I reflected in my recent post where I explained how I thought it my problem was with my curriculum when I discovered that ultimately my teaching was the issue.)

If you were to Google the term “education definition,'' the first result provides you with two definitions:
  1. “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.”
  2. “an enlightening experience.”

Definition number one is what most of us educators pretty much do on the regular. I would like to focus on the second definition, “an enlightening experience.”

I often ask educators to think back to when they attended school. Who was your favorite teacher and why? What did you learn? Did you retain that information still to this day? What do you remember the most: Was it a project? A book? We all know it wasn’t math worksheet, pg. 43: just complete the even numbers.

So, what made this institution called “school” an enlightening experience for you? And why, WHY, did you want to pursue the career you did? More importantly, what exactly is an “enlightening experience”? {Please feel free to reflect on this as well.}

If you want to see something even more earth-shattering, do a Google image search of education. Look at all those nice children sitting in rows with their hands up facing the teacher in the front of the room. That’s not how I envision education.

I envision education, or school, to be a place where children and adults are encouraged to be genuine risk-takers, thinkers, and advocates of their own learning. This is a place where all participants systematically co-create their enlightening experiences that emulate authentic, real-world problems. This type of learning is not some tissue-box book report that they have to complete to demonstrate their level of understanding which otherwise would not be used anywhere except for a few children within the classroom with runny noses. That is why I shifted my classroom from project learning to project/problem based learning.

The integrity of student learning is embraced by incorporating human development into the curriculum and instruction. Student’s social, intellectual, and character are nurtured to enhance student curiosity and to develop them into productive citizens of the world. PBL embraces individuality and diversity of students as well as their individual learning styles and self expression.
To put it best, I offer another quote by Sir Ken Robinson:

If you're not prepared to be wrong, you'll never come up with anything original.
-Ken Robinson, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything 

I have to say my road to changing my mindset was filled with bumps, loopy paths, and bridges with trolls. I took risks and shared my failures collectively with my students. I failed and made mistakes. I also had many instances of success that outweighed any thoughts of “Why did I change?” My ask for you, as we now embark into the 2019-2020 school year, is to begin to make that shift in your mindset. Do the research. Take the risks. Change it up- one lesson at a time. Put the students at the wheel of their own learning vehicle. Prepare them for tomorrow, but embrace the world today.

I leave you with a few resources and individuals who helped redefine my thinking:
AJ Juliani
Geoffrey Canada
Sir Ken Robinson
PBL Works
Battle for Kids


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