What will the story of education be? Who will write it?

If history is simply the story that survives, I wonder what the story of the United States educational system will be in 25…50…100 years.

Will it be a tragic story about a country that had so much promise and years of global success, but lost it all because we were unable to adapt to economic changes and a technology explosion? Will other countries remember the U.S. educational system as one that became ineffective and irrelevant because it was unable to prepare students for jobs that no longer came with a clear set of instructions?

Or will it be a story of success characterized by innovation and creative adaptation? A story that depicts educators shifting what it means to be a student and teacher to prepare graduates for heuristic jobs that require motivated, creative problem solvers.

I believe this story will be written by teachers, like me. The education system is a behemoth. Waiting for it to change can feel like standing on the Titanic plunging into the dark night headed for the iceberg. Changes are excruciatingly slow, bureaucracy pollutes priorities and the people making the big decisions do not spend their days inside classrooms. They decide which programs to cut and how many students need to be in each class based on money, not what is best for the students or our educational system.

As Adam Bellow so eloquently stated in his keynote at ISTE, we need to cultivate creativity, encourage students to make things that matter and individualize the classroom experience. I could not agree more. Yet, what I see happening around me is in stark contrast to this vision.

On the flight home from ISTE, I was remembering all of the excited educators roaming the convention center and realized we have to write our story. We are not “just” teachers as Bellow reminded us. We have the power to influence the future with our work. If we want to write a story of success and triumph, we can.

It will require that we also be creative in our approach to teaching and adapt our methodology to cultivate the skills needed for success beyond school. We will need to focus on challenges and tasks that matter, not on exams that are forgotten as soon as our students walk out our door. And, most important of all, we will need to continue learning and taking advantage of every opportunity to grow as individuals and as educators. We will need to take risks, sometimes we will fail, but, ultimately, we need to continue learning.

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7 Responses to What will the story of education be? Who will write it?

  1. Stephanie Molchan says:

    Well articulated. Thank you. Also, I am totally overwhelmed just by reading your blog. I feel that I could spend the month of July developing skills for my classroom, which already incorporates technology! Thank you for your research and explanations. I think you are my new teacher hero!

    • Thank you, Stephanie!

      I love teaching and sharing what I am doing with other educators. I’m thrilled to hear my blog has ideas you can hopefully adapt and use in your own work with students.

      Enjoy your summer! I, too, am using it to continue learning, developing and planning for next year!

      Catlin

    • Janet Brown says:

      As a former English teacher myself, I think technology is key to equipping our students for economic success. Unfortunately, many in education are using technology as the cure all. For example, I witnessed a school incorporate the blending learning model as a way to dramatically reduce its operating cost, and as result, more than 50% of the teaching staff was let go—negatively impacting student outcomes. Another school used their technology as an excuse for not providing the necessities such as paper and pencils. Yes, by all means, let’s use technology, but let us do it responsibly.

      • You make an important point, Janet!

        Technology is important for economic success, but it should not be used to marginalize or replace valuable educators. As a teacher, I am definitely biased on this topic. I adamantly believe great teachers are the key to a successful program. If you ask people about their school experience, most will reference a teacher who inspired them.

        In my book, I lament that many blended learning models are used as a vehicle to save money, when it has the potential to radically improve learning for students. Technology is not the goal. Technology creates opportunities to deepen learning, empower students and connect kids with global resources. Teachers need dedicated professional development to learn how to weave the technology into their methodology, so they feel confident creating a blended learning model that works for them and their students.

        Thank you for your comment!

        Catlin

  2. GJR Mohamed says:

    Fantastic article!Same applies here in S.A. – even MORE so!

  3. Rebecca Bidwell says:

    How inspiring! Thank you for saying what we all feel.

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