Why the Edge-ucators Way is Needed
The Edge-ucators Way provides a comprehensive approach that every member of a school’s teaching staff can use. It doesn’t pretend to address every way that a teacher can use technology in the classroom, but it does establish a framework on which any new and interesting technology can be integrated. Such a comprehensive framework is what has been missing for the last two decades as we’ve tried, and so far failed, to bring the transformative powers of technology to the essential and critical challenge that is the education of our children.
To establish this necessity, let’s ask a few apt questions. First, why is a comprehensive approach so important? One reason is that every school has a few teachers who do amazing and creative things to leverage the power of technology to make learning for students more Real, Rich and Relevant. The problem is that these experiences don’t reach every student, every day. And the biggest part of the problem is that two other experiences do: the Assembly line school and the New WWW — Whatever, Whenever, Wherever — a culture of digital media, entertainment and communication. Our students’ days at school are filled with artificial timeslots and chopped-up content that we call the curriculum. Because our Industrial Age approach has been in place for over one hundred years, we tend to think that this logistical approach to schooling the masses is the same thing as education. The fact is that the assembly line approach made sense when learning resources were limited and the goals focused on indoctrination and transmitting cultural foundations along with the essentials of Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic. Today’s Digital Era is bursting with resources and our main stakeholders don’t call out for the “indoctrinated” students suited to life in the factory or the large hierarchical corporation, but adaptable life-long learners who can problem-solve and innovate in a world that is constantly changing and full of competition and unknowns.
A second main influence that our students experience is the aura of always available entertainment and communication through their personal technologies. The predictions of a decade ago have been readily realized: affordable broadband coupled with easy to use applications enable anyone with a phone to access Whatever they want, Whenever and Wherever. The problem with this is that this access comes without parameters and can just as easily enable incredible learning as mindless chatter, text-based cruelty, self-demeaning pornography or obsessional gaming. We gave our children phones to keep them safe, so that they could call us when they were stranded on dark nights and left in dangerous places, but, in fact we have abandoned them to late nights surfing online in dangerous Web locations. This is not to say that all children succumb to risky online experiences, but such an outcome is made more likely when children are bored, stressed or find their lives lacking in inherent meaning. What many schools fail to see is that they play a major influence in whether students are bored, stressed or find meaning in their lives. A sign of schools “not getting it” is that they think the answer to helping students avoid online dangers is to “teach” them about “CyberSafety” instead of doing the hard work of abandoning the assembly line and using the amazing powers of technology to enrich learning experiences for students that are personally inspiring and engaging and that matter to the world, to whet students appetites for the joy that is learning so that online access is seen as a powerful means of making a difference in the world, not avoiding its school-induced boredom.
There are truths that schools have forgotten and lies that have been told so often they have come to sound like the truths. The essential truth that schools — not teachers — have forgotten is that “everyone loves to learn.” The visceral experience of truly learning is a joy that is the birthright of humanity. We see the wonder and enthusiasm of children dull and withdraw as they become indoctrinated into the lie that learning isn’t a joy, but it’s what we call sitting at school quietly for 40 minutes, not bothering others and keeping your crayon in the lines while you make sure the trees are green and the sky is blue.
The Edge-ucators Way provides a framework for whole schools to shift our notion of the curriculum from calendar-based topics that are “covered” or “taught” to learning-focused inquiries where students uncover meaning and build knowledge in a spirit that honors the personal joy of learning. This can be done. In fact, it must be done if schools are to make the transition from the 20th Century’s Industrial Model of Schooling to the 21st Century’s Digital Era. Why? Because it works better and feels great. Isn’t this what we want for our schools, for our children?