While I experienced more than that about which I'm writing today, it's this morning's keynote speech that impactfully resonated with me and one which my brain simply refuses to evict. It seems an exceptional presentation on which to reflect and dissect, and with which to conclude my series on #OETC15.
Fixing the Past or Inventing the Future: Education Reforms that Matter
Yong Zhao is the Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon
You gotta love a man (and a Duck!) who bravely comes to Columbus on the heels of losing the national championship.
And I'm so glad he did.
Dr. Yong Zhao's message of entrepreneurial-based education reform is desperately needed in this day and age of "college and career readiness." Especially in an era where 53% of our most recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. (That is not a typo.)
Instead of touting college and career readiness, Dr. Zhao encourages us to instead embrace a culture of "out-of-the-basement readiness," which is especially apt with our boomerang generation. (And, frankly, especially hilarious when you think about it. Or especially sad if you yourself are the parent of said basement-dweller.)
The disconnect between education and career these days, notes Dr. Zhao, can be contained in the metaphor of Nokia vs. Apple. (The metaphor appeals to the former English teacher in me.) Do you remember Nokia phones? In a nutshell, Apple didn't kill Nokia; Nokia killed Nokia by trying to add smart features to a dumb phone, and in inventing the smart phone, well...we all know how that turned out for Apple.
If you apply this metaphor to current education reforms, our Industrial Age model of education is the dumb phone, and yet we're trying to pile on smart features (technology, Common Core, NGAs) to that dumb phone. It epically failed for Nokia, so what makes us think it will succeed for education?
Dr. Zhao asserts, and the current statistics certainly support, that our children are miseducated in that they are educated for the wrong economy. A good education should keep your children out of the basement--not destine them to it.
So our current model is failing our students; certainly not making them college and career ready. Our "homogenous sausage-making" approach fails to give birth to visionaries, creators, makers, inventors, and problem-solvers: which is exactly what a global economy needs.
Dr. Zhao urges us as educators to invent a new smart phone. If creativity is job security today, then let's (please!) abandon the homogenous model of learning. We tend to devalue innovation and creativity in the classroom because we're pressured to get the students ready for "the test." And as we all know, "the test" precludes innovation and creativity. (An interesting fact: 40% of Google employees don't have college degrees. Think about THAT.)
Our new smartphone model of education should both permit and accommodate the following for each and every student:
- unique talent
In Dr. Zhao's words, "schools should become personalized learning ecosystems."
How great is that?
What if we allowed for product-oriented learning? What if--instead of testers--we created innovators? What if we provided future-oriented experiences for our learners? What if we practiced what we preached? What if we truly decided to start a revolution to make our students both college and career ready?
Yes, I suppose we need to have the tests; they measure growth. But if employees have evaluations, shouldn't students have the same--with authentic products that serve a REAL purpose in our real world? Do we have to have tests only?
We have to chuck the idea of "traditional" classrooms and "traditional" learning. We have to, as Dr. Zhao asserts, "stop fixing the past and invent the future." We simply have to.
Or America's going to have a lot of dumb phones on its hands.