Skip to main content

Education May Be Changing, But So Are The Students (Inspired by a letter from a 7th Grader)

     For years, teachers and educators have pined for students to be more involved, engaged and interested in their learning and education.  Well, that time has come and we better be ready.
     Recently, I received an e-mail from a 7th grader detailing to me why he’s ready to not only start high school today, but what his expectations are for the learning experience once there.  I will return to the words and inspiration from the 7th grader in a minute.
   Education writer Marc Prensky identified this shift years ago when he wrote the now classic “Engage Me or Enrage Me” ( where he identified the changing tide in students as learners.

    We are seeing the end of a student generation that operated in or even excelled at the world of compliance.  Essentially, their expectations from school and learning were much different than now and arguably lower than what see represented in the shift. This is the last of the generation that grew up on the worksheet.  Although not always engaged, it’s what they knew and even mastered.

     However, the younger generation of students coming through elementary school now is very different.  They have grown up entirely with technology at their fingertips and have watched as young people around the world create, collaborate, communicate, contribute and more.  They are very aware of what is possible and how school could fall short of addressing that. 

    Because of technology and the changing dynamic in the world, students are more interested in ever in being involved in owning their learning experience.  They want to be active vs. passive.  They want to be engaged in things that are relevant to both themselves and the real world. 
      It’s really two fold:  They have already had different experiences outside of school that represent real learning and they will want that in school. And two, it’s as if they are all subconsciously aware that the world is demanding – both economically and socially – different types of skills and ultimately people.

      So, what is this shift really about?  What do the new students expect and want from school and learning?  Well, let’s get back to the 7th grader and his e-mail to me.
Here is a summary of his key points in his own words:
·       It’s not just the work that is boring, but also the outcome of my efforts.  Good grades are not enough for me. 
·       Although I get good grades, I want something more.  I want recognition and rewards beyond grades.  I want grades to symbolize the fun I had learning.
·       Getting an “A” on a paper is not the same as learning Java Script with a group of friends.  The experience is the reward.
·       It’s creativity, hands-on experience, real world and life affecting subjects that interest me.
·       In Language Arts, I want to understand the art of the language and be able to write professionally for jobs, college and the world.
·       I want science to be interesting.  Apparently, marine-themed cereal boxes are supposed to spice it up.  I want real labs beyond gum and bubbles.
·       In addition to learning about the past in history, I want to learn about the impact on the future.  Where are we going and heading?

     Naturally, I could fancy all this up more in edspeak.  But really, don’t we already know this?  Can’t we see it all around us?  What would we expect from school now if we were students based on what’s available and how the world is changing?  One can find thousands of articles on the changing nature of both education and students.  The change is now and they will simply tell you what they need.  We just need to listen to our students and shift.
(photos courtesy of Minarets HS and Marc Prensky)


Popular posts from this blog

Five Ways To Make All Students Into Lead Learners (Teachers)

It has been established long ago that the highest form of learning is teaching. When one is put in the position to teach others, one learns the content and concepts at the highest applied level in order to successfully communicate it to others. This reality has led many educators long ago to turn as much of the instruction in their classroom over to students through student presentations, projects and more. That being said, too many students still never have this opportunity to become Lead Learners - where they learn at the highest level by having the responsibility of teaching others. Here are five ways all educators can expand the opportunity for all students to learn at the highest level by all becoming teachers: STUDENTS AS PROFESSIONAL PRESENTERS
Again, students have been giving presentations in many cases for years in certain courses. I suppose even the early  years of Show & Tell were intended to have every student present, or tell a story. Well, we need to challenge all of ou…

10 Things That Must Change About Educators, Education

There are hundreds of things written daily regarding changes, reforms and new research in the profession of education. But much of this comes from outside entities (researchers, politicians, parents, leaders and others) aimed at educators. It’s time for educators to own the changes, thus owning the profession. We need to truly flip the whole concept of what it means to teach and be a true teacher.This can apply to all educators who understand that we have to redefine the profession.
     Here are my 10 things that must change about the profession and the practitioners:

Professionalism - Teachers need to claim and lead the professional standards of their own profession. Just like in the profession of law enforcement, the system cannot tolerate or endure bad professionals. Cops need to police their own and so do teachers. For too long, we have collectively accepted that there are going to be a certain percentage of just plain “bad” teachers. The fact is that they not only harm the profes…

Let's Drop 'College Ready' and Be 'Career Ready'

Education may not consistently be good at many things. But, it does seem to be great at both acronyms (CTE, PBL, EDI, ELL, SPED, PLC and so on)  and catch phrases (21st century learning, personalized learning, future ready). One of the more popular catchphrases as of late is College & Career Ready. Indeed, the ‘Career’ part is a more recent addition. For years, we really just said (and lived) College Ready. I’m here to suggest it’s time to drop the College Ready and only use Career Ready. Don’t get me wrong. I do think almost everyone needs some sort of post-secondary training, especially in our new globalized economy. But I am suggesting that we use Career Ready only knowing that one’s career path should dictate their post-secondary education or training path. Additionally, it will allow us to focus on the requisite skills and planning required for young people to have lifelong employability in the 21st century. One of the early questions to me is what does college ready really me…