Let’s face it. If any of us had a nickel for each of the education plans and ideas that have been produced on blogs, tweets and elsewhere in the last few years, I could pay every teacher in America a $2,500 bonus. Right?
Well, what are we going to do? When can we agree that we have a few educational pedagogies and foundations, relevant to our changing world and new economy, that we can identify as where all of us need to go.
My suggestions is this simple: We need to combine the best of project-based learning, career technical education and career readiness, and the best available digital tools and resources. I should be superintendent of the western world right? OK, until then, can we work towards collaboratively calling out the three areas driving it all. How complicated is this? It’s not. PBL, CTE/Career Readiness and Tech really do cover it all. Let’s do this. Here we go:
Project-Based Learning, or some derivative, is the future. Check with most people that are connected to the future of work and the world, and ask them what students should be doing. They will all describe something that looks like PBL. They may call it inquiry-based, challenge-based, problem-based or something else. But they are essentially talking about students taking on real world problems, challenges and issues - that allow them to dive deep and have ownership - while producing professional, public work. Yes, it includes lots of inquiry, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and flexibility. BTW, we can embrace this or fight this, or anything in between, but it’s going to happen one way or another. Everything most of us are encouraging educators to pursue pedagogically, who are really trying to do anything relevant or impactful, is something that is PBL-like. Yes, it’s messy. Yes, it’s more student-driven. Yes, it’s more than lesson design (it’s project design). Yes, it involves work way beyond a textbook, note taking, tests and worksheets. Work is project-based so our learning needs to follow. Anything less is not sufficient or relevant. If teachers cannot adopt or adapt, they may have to get out. Maybe new ones will want in if they see it being more interesting and meaningful.
Here are just a few of the major advantages of adopting a project-based pedagogy:
- Real World Applications
- Public Work
- Student Voice & Ownership
- Collaboration & Partnerships
- Reflection and Metacognition
- Problem Solving is Job Relevant and Leads To Job Creation
- Deeper Learning
- Portfolio Development
- Students Can Articulate Skills and Concepts Learned
- Community Connections
- Four C’s Skill Development
The Purpose & The Product (True Career Readiness)
For far long, the disconnect between school and careers has been apparent to almost everyone, including our students. Educators and others have leaned on the phrase “you’ll need this in college” when it came to explain the why to students. Simply, we need to be much more honest and explicit and make sure that we are doing in our classrooms and courses indeed has direct connection to skills and applications that our students are going to face in this very new 21st century global economy. Context, relevance, application, authenticity, engagement are all very necessary to make education work for our young people and connecting our content to careers is the means to this end. Yes, it’s Career Technical Education. But it’s really much more than that. It’s true Career Readiness that works towards creating all students to explore and identify specific career interest areas, as well as opportunities to truly develop both the technical and soft skills that the world is demanding. Career Fairs are not nearly enough. Career Reports only scratch the surface as well. We need to embed career components and connections in all of our core and elective courses. Additionally, we may need to go a lot further. For example, why can’t our English classes be a place where all students read, write, research, present and more related to various career possibilities? Since all high school students have English for four years, imagine if English became the mechanism to connect students to work-based experiences such as internships, develop digital portfolios and professional web presence, social media literacy and so much more. Our students are entering a much more independent contractor - oriented economy and they will need these universal skills regardless of career or industry.
Here are just a few of the major advantages of connecting our education to career readiness for all students and all programs:
- Work-Based Opportunities & Experiences
- Career Exploration
- Soft Skills Development and Training
- Improved Higher Education Success and Understanding
- Professional Learning Networks
The Platform (Ed Tech Resources - i.e. the internet)
Over the last several years, we have seen a huge influx of technology into education. Indeed, we call it Ed Tech. This includes teachers incorporating technology into their curriculum and instruction. But even more importantly, it’s become our students using technology to produce more professional, relevant and applicable work - individually and collaboratively. Still, a good part of our education system is clinging to edu dinosaurs like textbooks, paper and pencil, low level tests and exams and industrial models of lecture-based approaches. However, the time has come for us to acknowledge that Ed Tech is just now Education. That’s right. If we are not using technology as our primary tools and and resources, we are essentially cheating our students. We now have dozens of devices and thousands of applications that allow all of us, and especially our students, to create, collaborate, ideate, innovate and initiate.
Here are some of the advantages of recognizing tech as the tool for learning for all ages, grade levels, courses and programs:
- Multiple Sources and Resources (often free and not dependent on one text)
- Continuously Expanding Options and Choices
- Models Professional and Academic Uses of Technology
- Flexible (web or cloud-based available anywhere)
- Develops Technology Skills, Digital Portfolio and Positive Digital Footprint
- Professional Learning Networks
- Students Become Teachers, Facilitators, Experts
Well, there you have it. To me, anything else we can discuss related to education can fall into one of these three categories that have multiple iterations and paths. Our students need to experience learning related to a project-based, career-skilled and high tech economy and world. Let’s do it (ok….if it were this simple, we would be universally doing it).(Photos courtesy of Foter, Pixabay and Free Images)