It hit me this morning after reading Seth Godin’s post “Lousy tomatoes and the rare search for Wonder” that schools are like supermarkets. Seth writes that supermarkets stock “waxy, tasteless tomatoes from Chile, Mexico and Florida” mainly because it keeps the price cheap and the store profitable. Also someone just might need a tomato in the middle of the night in winter and any tomato might do. He also wrote…
“Over time, as institutions create habits and earn subscribers, they often switch, gradually making the move from magical (worth a trip, worth a conversation) to good (there when you need it). Most TV is just good. Magazines, too. When was the last time People magazine did something that made you sit up and say, “wow”? Of course, you could argue that they’re not in the wow business, and you might be right.”
Here’s where I see the problem with schools. Schools are there because students are required to go. They were designed to deliver information in a form that just doesn’t work today. Today’s students are used to getting what they want when they want it with “on demand” everything. How can we expect our students to accept a waxy tomato when they are used to salsa with a spoonful of guacamole?
Everything in our lives is changing because of supply and demand. Schools will change because students are leaving for other options or dropping out. Schools will change because we are not meeting the needs of our children. Even online schools need to restructure how they deliver their curriculum. Today’s Kindergarteners use technology. 3rd graders have cell phones. I can guarantee that more than 75% of elementary students text their friends. More families are switching from TV to the Internet or Netflix or other ways to watch what they want when they want to watch it. Less families are subscribing to newspapers and magazines. Information is there at their fingertips now. I have CNN, NY Times, and lots of my shows on my iPhone.
Google is restructuring YouTube Edu to have curriculum matched to standards on playlists. iTunes University is in your pocket. Mobile learning is going to level the playing field for all children. Each child will find what they want or need using different apps. Thousands of apps are being developed every day.
So where does the teacher fit in this new world? The teacher is the guide, the advisor, the co-learner in this world of wonder. They design the environment that lets students take risks and find what they need to meet their learning goals based on their personal learning plan. Who knows what school will look like in a few years? There may be a physical school or learning center where learning can happen anytime, anywhere. A teacher cannot compete with the “Wow” that our students have with games and apps that are new each day. Think of a place where students question everything and it is our job as teachers to encourage questions, provide opportunities to build things, fix things, experiment with new ideas, collaborate globally, and push students to explore outside of their comfort zone.
So the teacher’s role has to change. How about teachers as learning agents for the search of wonder?