MindShift: How we will learn

students!

It is surprising how much talk there is around the “education revolution”, yet few publications or platforms that are capturing the conversation, yet alone doing something about it. Then I discovered something amazing.

KQED and NPR launched this entire platform dedicated to exploring the future of learning, called Mindshift: How we will learn in 2010.

The articles transcend beyond political discussions of educational reform or No-Child-Left-Behind, but instead dive deep into the critical issues facing the shift in how we learn today, and how this affects learners and the institutions that are responsible for their education. The call to action is for a shift in mindset about how we can “fix” education to instead thinking in terms of transforming “learning”, given the new world we live in and tools that can open new possibilities.

Two extraordinary pieces I read were: Escaping the Education Matrix and Choice Equals Power: How to Help Students Develop Motivation to Learn. These really got to the bottom of what I have been thinking deeply about and shared several conversation with others around, yet hadn’t found solidarity with other public writers yet.

Steve Hargadon wrote very eloquently about the need to think outside of existing paradigms, and create a new narrative: “People are almost in this Matrix-like existence. They don’t question schooling. How do you tell a story that opens the door to rethinking what people have believed for decades? So much in their lives depends on that story being what they think it is. How do you tell a new story that involves people reclaiming their destinies, children not being defective, and learning not being owned by one organization?”

The primary challenge facing a transformation in learning (and the transformation of culture overall) is the greedy politics and vested interests in defending the status quo. There is no strong incentive to change the system. The feedback loop of those in power (and who are making the decisions and signing the contracts and checks) reinforce the fact that “everything is good the way it is” — or at least good enough to benefit my family and my people. When the reality is: this is so far away from reality for most citizens.

“The people who benefit from us not being active citizens, from all buying the same things, and being willing to take jobs that demand we leave our personal values at the door—they all benefit from the current schooling system, because it produces a populace that does not feel confident in being critical,” Hargadon notes. “At an institutional or personal level, those who benefit don’t have much incentive to promote changes in education that would lead people to question their motives or challenge their practices.

Katrina Schwartz also wrote an insightful piece about the real root of the issue: motivation to learn and the power of finding something you love to learn about. Having talked to a number of teachers, a common struggle is to either get students to do the work and maintain good work ethic throughout the year. From a students’ perspective, they say they are often bored by the topics and wish they could learning something different.

This illuminates the fact the power of choice and intrinsic motivation to learn and be curious. Offering students genuine choice in the own learning is the greatest source of power anyone could give you. On top of that, if educators could develop more of a mentorship relationship and seek to understand what students connect with, everyone’s jobs may just become easier.

“The process of becoming a self-directed, independent learner is a very human process,” Hargadon says.

The recent discourse around data-driven education and the integration of technology is also a powerful one, with some limitations. “Helping students to identify personal learning styles, tricks to improve research and studying and an awareness of how he or she learners, is much more personalized than any data report spit out by a computer.”

What I’ve gotten is: Maybe we can work less on trying to force our kids to work harder and more efficiently, and instead create a new narrative that our educators’ purpose is to help each student develop their personal learning style and channel resources to support their learning in what they are genuinely interested in. Imagine what a different world we would be living in! Imagine the type of creativity and discover that the world could benefit from this shift! Let’s continue to imagine together….

Mindshift KQED also produces a robust video series here.

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