I’m Learning, They’re Learning, We’re All Learning Together
I spend a ton of time learning with students. Let me make sure you heard me: I spend a ton of time learning with students. I’m not paying lip service here, I learn so much every semester as a new batch of my students create their own learning experiences. I talk to them at length to unearth their feelings about previous time in the education system.
Learning Has Not Been Positive
The kinds of words I hear as my students describe their previous experiences in education:
pointless, boring, sucks, dry, OK (with a shoulder shrug), typical, awful, irritating, flat, hollow, unproductive, false, f**ked up, annoying, a waste, nonsense
The kinds of words I don’t, but long to, hear:
fun, invigorating, challenging, awesome, killer, fantastic, orgasmic (OK, maybe that’s a little bit of a stretch but it would be cool!), addictive, brilliant, epic (I hate that word, but the kids sure do love it), useful
Peeling the Learning Layers Back
We need to change the vocabulary. The best way to do that is to talk to students. Don’t let a bunch of old folks continue to develop and deliver a model of education that was meant for a society over 100 years old. We live in the 21st century and our education system needs to reflect that. Do administrators really understand how students today learn? I sure as hell don’t, and I spend my time with college and high school kids, and with an 8 year old at home. Their brains develop in a different age than anything I could have comprehended as a kid. It’s digital. It’s flat. It’s magical. It’s overload. It’s plugged in. It’s opportunistic.
How absurd, ignorant, and egotistical of those of us who design learning experiences to think we know what that experience should be for a generation of kids that we never take time to understand? Giving the students a voice can’t make it any worse! It would by nature create more relevant content, more relevant tools, more relevant experiences. And the vocabulary would change. Instead of “yeah but” we would hear more “yes, and”. Instead of silence in classrooms, we would hear cacophony. Instead of defending education and learning systems, we could all focus on building them. Together. With students.
I’m so tired of the negativity. Of kids counting down to the last day of the school year. Of teachers celebrating as much as students for snow days. I want the potential of impact that I see in the students and in the system to be blatantly obvious to everyone everywhere. Wishful thinking, perhaps. But I do know one way to start down that road is to let the young guns have more control and put the old thoroughbreds out to pasture.