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Prepare Students for the Real-World

“The average age of community college students in Texas is 27 and many have Bachelor’s degrees. Some have Master’s degrees,” quoted Richard Moore, Executive Director of the Texas Community College Teacher Association. There are barriers for older students, because these students attend classes with everyone else who may be much younger and have goals to attend a four year college.

JoAnn Jacobs writes in her article Reinventing higher ed in California in the Community College Spotlight “Currently, more than 70 percent of the state’s college students enroll in underfunded community colleges. Most attend part-time, leading to high attrition rates. Only 18 percent of community college students earn an associate degree. By contrast, 45 percent of California State University students and 90 percent of University of California students complete a bachelor’s degree. Instead of increasing access, Cal State campuses are cutting enrollment to cope with budget cuts, which have forced faculty layoffs and reduced course offerings.”

I don’t think this is a unique situation for California or Texas. JoAnn added, “…In Florida, for example, the experiment is about “training people for real jobs,” says Miami Dade Community College President Eduardo J. Padron, who cited nursing and teaching programs.”

Richard shared with me that there is a Student Success Movement in Texas with several initiatives that fund innovation. The issue which seems universal is that community colleges are separated by community college districts. In Texas, there are 50 districts. Each is a different terrain where they often have an impact on each other. This can affect how community colleges are funded. The terrains are…

  • Policy

  • Geography

    — State by State

    – Region by Region

  • Discipline

    — Academic vs Vocational

    — Within each discipline

I believe the community colleges will be impacted more with the increase in fees and limits on attendance at four year universities. It all comes down to money. Times have changed. I went to a community college before I went to a four year college. It was a great way to transition and get to know what I really wanted to do with my life. Some people are lucky that they know early what they want to do and that career is also one that pays enough for them. I wish I could make it that anyone could go to the school or university they want to to learn anything they want. They can take classes online. There are open source courses available, but until accreditation changes, courses are universally accepted from different colleges, and life and work experience counts, this is going to be a difficult road for many.

I also believe that if…

  • community colleges are able to change the accreditation process, more adults could take advantage of an amazing source of learning.

  • learners can challenge courses where they have life and work experience, this could be a way to move more people to real jobs and provide a revenue source to community colleges. This could also be a source of revenue for four year colleges and maybe even high schools.
  • we pull together as a nation, we need to look at the bigger picture: people need jobs. We need to rethink four year colleges and who can afford liberal arts studies and who has the skills for specific types of real-world jobs. We provide a learning guide with each student that enters college.
  • we start early in middle school to provide a personal learning plan for each student and a personal learning coach to monitor their progress, they won’t get lost in the system or drop out early.
  • we provide a mentor or advisor to each high school student to help them identify their strengths and weaknesses, learning styles, and guide them to choose an appropriate learning path.
  • we offer multiple learning opportunities including online courses along with a learning coach, learners will not feel lost in a system they feel doesn’t care about them.
  • we rethink the Community College system as a stepping stone to the real-world and fund them appropriately, we help our people get back to work.

Learners are all ages now. Everyone is reinventing themselves. We need to rethink our entire educational system.


The Educated Unemployable

Thomas Friedman’s article China, Twitter and 20-year-olds vs the Pyramids wrote:

“Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia today are overflowing with the most frustrated cohort in the world — “the educated unemployables.” They have college degrees on paper but really don’t have the skills to make them globally competitive. I was just in Singapore. Its government is obsessed with things as small as how to better teach fractions to third graders.”

This issue is not the middle East’s problem alone. The world is changing and education is not looking at the bigger picture. We are in a global crises everywhere. Young people 15-29 are realizing that their education or lack of it is impacting their ability to get the type of jobs they need to live. They are finding they have a voice: on the Internet. People making sure they are heard: on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media. Friedman writes:

“The Arab world has 100 million young people today between the ages of 15 and 29, many of them males who do not have the education to get a good job, buy an apartment and get married. That is trouble. Add in rising food prices, and the diffusion of Twitter, Facebook and texting, which finally gives them a voice to talk back to their leaders and directly to each other, and you have a very powerful change engine.”

What if oil prices rise? They will. It’s inevitable. Then food prices. Yes, they will rise too especially if more countries have government turnovers and the people of the country revolt. It is now happening in Algeria. What about developed countries like the United States, the UK, Australia, and Europe. If the unemployment rate does not go down in the US to 8%, the US is going to make some changes maybe not to where we need to go. Also are the numbers correct? What about the 99ers who have been unemployed for over 13 months?

We have educated people who have been looking for work for months. Work has changed. Businesses are running slimmer and cutting costs because of the uncertain economy and less cash flow. So things have to change all over. If people 15-29 are educated, use social media, then maybe we need to teach them how to use social media to create businesses and entrepreneurial skills. For those in under-developed countries, this will be a very big challenge. How to create enough jobs or businesses for 100 million people? Oh my!!

There just are not enough jobs for everyone. When I look at organizations like Kiva that provide small loans for people around the world who want to start their own businesses, I see hope. Everyone of us has a dream somewhere down deep. We were born as unique individuals who have interests and passions. If we continue to teach the same way we have for hundreds of years, we will continue to get the same products. People looking for work that is not there.

It is time to review all this emphasis on testing and standards and question “are we preparing our children for their future?” Our competition is not the school next door. It is China and India. Our children are part of the global marketplace. As long as they believe school as we know it today may prepare them for their future, they are caught in a system that could lead them down a road of failure. Some jobs are definitely needed: doctors, lawyers, engineers. But even if you become a teacher, it does not mean you will be assured there will be a job for you where you want to work.

How about teaching how to do projects, create projects, and market your projects? People who have critical thinking skills and are creative how they find solutions will get projects. Jobs where you received benefits and a pension may not be the same anymore. Just having a job now does not give anyone security anymore. We are in a revolution. Education is the key but what it looks like today is not what we need for the world’s economy. It is not all about jobs anymore. It is about how we are preparing people for their own survival and how it benefits society or the people in your area. If we start children very young asking questions and being curious about the world, they will come up with solutions.

Why not create a project about the climate, the creeks in your area, housing market, or another major issue that impacts your community? Except ask the students to create the project, ask the questions, and own the process. Any project can match standards. Students own the learning when it is relevant and real to them.


The Purpose of Education

Purpose BadgeThe purpose of education is to provide opportunities for all children to meet their fullest potential. That’s not happening. The dropout rate in the United States is higher than ever. More children are left behind now since the law No Child Left Behind. Now we’re Racing to the Top expecting all children to be at grade level by 2014.

Schools are designed the same way they were hundreds of years ago. The teacher is delivering instruction and facts very similar to the lessons they taught with an overhead projector or chalkboard. Schools were designed after the factory model starting in the 1800s. Grouping by age meant a teacher would have more control over their classroom like a manager in a factory behind closed doors. Standards were developed so at each grade level, students at one age would learn skills and attain specific knowledge that would prepare them to move to the next level. Just because one child is at a five year level doesn’t mean that all five year olds think alike or have similar prior knowledge.

Each child learns at different rates, and has different learning styles and intelligences. One six year old may be reading and writing fluently where another has never had the opportunity to read at home nor owns books and may not even know the letters of the alphabet. Since No Child Left Behind legislation, instruction is more teacher directed with the focus on increasing scores. Textbook companies created content that taught to the test. Several of the textbook companies own or are closely tied to the testing companies.

My dream is for every child to be in control of their own learning. The purpose of education needs to shift to the learner learning in any environment.. Now with digital textbooks, online courses, Web 2.0, social media, and access to everything a learner needs at their fingertips, the purpose of education is changing.

We cannot continue to deliver instruction feeding students facts. We need to rethink how to structure learning. Does it have to be at a school? What if students could review what they need to learn by the end of the year and collaborate with their teacher, peers, and parents to design real-world engaging and innovative activities? Students should be able to assess their prior knowledge and be able to challenge a class so they move at their own speed.

Let’s redesign schools into learning centers similar to Reggio Emilia schools. Teachers as observers and co-learners. Students ask questions that mean something to them. Everything is inquiry-based. This approach can be adapted for K-20 even if you base it on standards. Students can learn at a higher level if they are motivated. Look at collecting evidence of learning in an ePortfolio posted online and showcasing projects that mean something to the world so students celebrate what they know and do. We can bring joy back to learning and create amazing citizens who collaborate on global projects.


Changing the Paradigm

I mentioned Sir Ken Robinson and his talk about “Schools kill Creativity” in my webinar. I just watched this animation where he explains why the current education system is failing our kids.

Some questions he brings up:

  • why do we need to group students by age anymore?
  • why do we need to separate kids into separate subjects?
  • why are degrees not a guarantee for jobs?
  • why are we not waking up children to what they have inside themselves?

I saw divergent thinking in preschool using the Reggio Emilia approach that I shared in my webinar. Divergent thinking is the process of having original ideas that have value. I mentioned this as Flow. Schools are starting earlier squashing creativity and divergent thinking. Now are kindergarteners are told there is only one answer or not to share. To prepare our children for their future they need an aesthetic experience and to collaborate so they are not isolated and all doing the same thing at the same time.


Technology and its Impact on Society

Society has always been impacted by technology. Each invention has affected how people relate to one another and how cultures have expanded or ended. Technology impacts how cities grow, where people live, and who owns what. Technologies are the reason a few people are very rich, that people are more social, and that teaching and learning is changing. We are at a crucial time in history where educators can make a difference in how our students interact with one another and make a place for themselves in society.

Historical Perspective

People developed a language so they could communicate and learn from elders through their stories. They invented tools for agriculture, to build homes, and to create weapons for hunting and protection. Civilizations have been impacted by natural disasters, encroachment from other civilizations, and from problems within their own community. Technology not only increased humans’ life span but how we live, how long we live, and how many there are of us.

[Human population growth over time]

The population doubled from 2.5 billion to 5 billion in only 40 years after 1950. The world population passed 6 billion just before the end of the 20th century. It is estimated that the population will reach 8-12 billion before the end of the 21st century. More people means more technology.

People migrated to find a better life. For most of history, only the wealthy had access to literature and a good education. The printing press allowed the masses to receive news, read books, and attend school. Inventions changed the way we worked like the cotton gin where slaves were stolen from Africa to be used as free labor with no rights, and the railroads that were built with Chinese labor who had little or no rights, no property, or a fair wage. Communities developed within large cities to protect and sustain the different cultures.

After World War II, freeway systems led to the suburbs. Public transportation changed when the automobile became part of every family. Television shows replaced dinner conversations. We saw man walk on the moon and the horrors of war in our living rooms.

So Where are We Now?

The Internet and mobile technology are changing the way people interact, work, and learn. Everyone can report the news or share a picture from their cell phone. You can produce your own music, publish your own book, blog your thoughts that you usually keep to yourself, create a website with even personal information, Twitter what you are doing right now, and talk on your cell whenever and wherever you want. We are using technology for our own use yet it infringes on others. Does this technology allow us to respect each other and value each others’ time and work or do just the opposite?

Consider these questions about today’s technology:

  • Do you answer your cell phone when you are at a party, in line for coffee, dining with friends, etc.?
  • Would your children rather text message instead of talking to your friends face-to-face?

Image from Consumerist

  • Do you post to your blog your thoughts and link to others without researching if the information is valid?
  • Do your children have a FaceBook profile with links to friends they don’t know?
  • Would you rather visit a museum in SecondLife than visit a real museum?
  • Do you believe that all music, art, and literature should be free?

Our connections seem personal, but are they? Many young people value the number of friends they have more than the quality of those friendships. The appeal of technology is real. Do you have an iPhone or a Droid? What about an iPad? Today, the arts, artists, and culture do not seem as valued as in the past. Who owns the work? How would the Beatles promote their music today? They probably would create a FaceBook site and give away samples of their work. With a Creative Commons license, they would probably allow others to use but not modify their work. How do artists make money? How does the viewer find this artist if the artist is not tech savvy? How do you know if the artist is the original artist? With the proliferation of social networking tools where everyone can share and publish on the web, artists will have to be innovative and entrepreneurial to be successful.

Web 2.0 allows us to be self-absorbed yet more connected than ever.

“The consequences of Web 2.0 are inherently dangerous for the vitality of culture and the arts. Its empowering promises play upon that legacy of the ’60s–the creeping narcissism … with its obsessive focus on the realization of the self.” . [Andrew Keen’s reference to Web 2.0]

Every day there are new Web 2.0 tools that let you create, publish, and share. This is a time in history we will look back and say either “I wish I had created my own Web 2.0 or mobile app”, “I lost everything because I gave it away” or “what is Web 2.0?”

Okay – so I twitter [], blog [], and have my own learning community []. I’m not alone. People are leaving landline phones, books, and television by the millions. They use Internet-based services like YouTube or Hulu to watch their favorite shows and Skype to virtually connect — for free. It is a generational shift with even older generations jumping on board. Companies are marketing to a new kind of multinational and navigating the digital Silk Road. The growth of technology in China and India already affects how we use technology just because of the numbers of people involved. Video games have professional leagues with international online contests and self-made celebrities [Major League Gaming:]. Digital fads that are global may work in one country and not in another. Student tutors mentor students in another country. The old hierarchical system is falling away. Textbooks are starting to become open source such as and MIT OpenCourseware. Even marketing is changing. Viral marketing launches companies like Threadless T-shirts where the consumers design what they want. Will our students design what they need to learn? Will teachers learn how to be the digital guide?

Value Arts and Culture

With more people and crowded conditions, new technologies will be necessary to support and sustain us. Let’s also make sure we use these tools to tell and protect our stories. Video, audio, images, and interactive features open doors to worlds and cultures that children could never learn in a book. We need to allow for private spaces for confidential discussions and provide guides for tentative and eager participants. It is our duty as educators to guide students and other educators as they become innovative producers, teach them to become cautious consumers, and learn how they can use these tools to reach their fullest potential. We need to support the arts and artists and value each others culture. Let’s take these next few years to design digital ways to connect us not only to each other but to promote our values, to respect each other, and to encourage innovation as we develop a place for ourselves in the 21st century!

This post was updated from the original post on Rethinking Learning September 2007


Are you indispensible? Seth Godin Interview about his book

I was one of the lucky few who was given an advance copy of Seth Godin’s book: Linchpin: Are you Indispensible? His book hits home for me especially involving education. To see all of the interviews, go to I asked him how his ideas fit with schools today and how we can better prepare for our students’ future:

Q. Since I work with educators, I am curious how you see teachers leading this change to more of a gift-giving and artist model? How do you see teacher education in the future as it relates to this model?

Seth: Teachers are the key to the whole deal. All successful people I know can name one or two or three teachers that had a huge impact on them. But why three? Why not thirty? Why is it that the rest of the teachers were competent at giving exams and getting us to do well at those exams, but didn’t teach us enough to change us?

The system has hamstrung teachers, handicapped those that want to stand out an make a difference. And yet a few still stand out.

What happens when more teachers realizing the opportunity and start challenging the status quo? Until that happens, we’re in real trouble.

I think we can’t wait for the teacher’s colleges to change, or the schools to change. We need teachers to care so much that they can’t stop pushing until they create change in the students who really need (and deserve) it.

Q. Universities take the longest to change. Does everyone need to take classes with information they mastered already? How can university students set their agenda, challenge material they know already, and demonstrate what they understand?

Seth: Here’s what’s going to make universities change: we’re going to stop going. We’re going to stop paying. Once people realize that Full Sail and the U of Phoenix can deliver the same thing (or better) for much less money, the panic will set in, for the first time in five hundred years Universities are going to have to do something new. I think this will happen in the next thirty years.

Q. Education tends to be a top-down driven model where administrators, standards, policies, and test scores drive what teachers teach. How do you see education changing with this model where the individual sets their agenda?

Seth: As a student in a digital world, tell me again why I need the building? The administration? The system?

I don’t. And as accreditation becomes less meaningful because it’s easier to test the student than to test the system, the top heavy organizations will falter. And fast.

Q. There is a movement in social networking and Web 2.0 circles where individuals are responsible for their own learning. They build their personal learning network, use and share free resources, and find information from their connections. Is this an example of how individuals will set their agenda for their own learning? How do you see emerging technologies impacting teaching and learning?

Seth: I think this is going to happen, but I think it’s more likely that individuals with something to teach will set up their own digital schools. I offered an MBA last year to nine students, and it had an enormous impact (on me and on them). Multiply this by 1000 people in each field, and you have both an industry and a new way of learning.

Q. Schools today tend to require that everyone is on the same page. What age or grade level do we start teaching children to see? How would you teach individuals to find the artist in each of us?

Seth: Is there a number less than zero?

The job of school should be to teach people to solve interesting problems and to teach people to lead. We should start doing both in Kindergarten. The job of parents is to augment and amplify this, and, at the same time, stop yelling at schools about test scores. Test scores are a sucker’s game, the refuge of systems that can’t imagine a better way to measure, encourage and push kids to be brave and essential.

Q. It seems like you may have to create some models demonstrating how a school can prepare their students for the 21st century. Do you know of any schools that already use your model?

Seth: Some schools and some teachers have been doing this for a long, long time. The Putney international program in Vermont, or certain classes at the School of Visual Arts. We often find pockets of innovation, long-suffering teachers or small counter-culture institutions that seem like oddities until you realize that what they do actually works. Loren Pope wrote about 40 Colleges That Change Lives, and I think he had it right. We know how to do this, but we often don’t have the guts.

Q. Do we need to continue the industrial education model (school buildings open 9-3, students at specific grade levels, teachers in classrooms, and summers off), or do you have new models for education based on your ideas of giving, sharing, and artists that set their own agendas?

Seth: I think the reasons for the model you talk about left the building a long, long time ago. We need a system that permits parents to work, kids to grow, problems to be solved and a difference to be made. IT’s not clear to me why we decided to leave so many gaps in the system we’ve created (oh, no school today, see ya!) and at the same time, why we’ve insisted on a deadening march to mediocrity. It’s sort of pathetic how we’ve abdicated responsibility to a leaderless system that’s actually accountable to no one in particular.

Q. How do you see job training in the future?

Seth: I guess it depends on how we see jobs in the future. I think there are some things that the jobs of future have in common, and I hope that we can start measuring this and focusing on this and stop obsessing about the length of the hypotenuse.

1. Solve interesting problems.
2. Be self reliant.
3. Find the information you need from the Net and other places.
4. Connect.
5. Lead.
6. Invent.
7. Fail.
8. Learn from #7 and repeat.

How much time do we actually spend on that agenda today?

Q. If everyone gives their products and ideas away, then what is the revenue model for this new type of artist?

Seth: If everyone did anything, that thing would be pretty worthless. Even brain surgery. Here’s the thing: everyone’s NOT going to do it, not for a long time, because people are ill-trained for it and afraid of it.

Right now, the more you give away, the more you get. People flock to things that are wonderful, and pay to cut the line, pay to get access, pay for souvenirs and bespoke. It’s not a theory, they do. Once you cut overhead (and how much of higher education is essential?) there’s plenty of room to generate income.

I’m curious what you think of this new type of artist that we will need. Comments are welcome and encouraged below.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in change, the future, and what type of person we will need for our future. Check out my Squidoo Lens: The Future of Learning. You can set up your own Lens. This article was cross-posted on The Environmentalist