Monday, July 29, 2013

God's Vision for the Classroom

As I reflected on my previous post about traditional schooling I realized that there is such a contradiction between how God has designed us to be able to learn and comprehend things in such a variety of ways and the way this industrial style of educating only draws on one single form of intelligence.

The more I explore alternative ways of schooling, the more parallels I’ve encountered between the best learning environment and the way God has designed us to live. Let me explain…

One of the most proven ways to learn something is to experience it in a variety of ways, through different senses or intelligences. It was fitting that the devotional from Jesus Calling that I read this morning said this, “I (God) speak to you continually: through sights, sounds, thoughts, impressions, scriptures. There is no limit to the variety of ways I can communicate with you.” Amazingly I still manage to misinterpret or miss completely what He is trying to communicate to me. So, imagine how difficult it is for some students to understand concepts that they only experience in one way, offered to them using one sense, one form of intelligence. I wonder if God is disappointed when he has blessed us with such an intricate, unique human body, and we put constraints on what it can do. Do you know that we have over a dozen senses? Often we only give our body credit for five. Pretty incredible to think about!

Just observe the numerous ways we could appreciate a setting like the one pictured to the right.

Over time I think the industrial teaching strategies can numb the awareness we have of our surroundings.
Scary to think of an educational system that could actually diminish the range of our abilities.

There is another major aspect of learning missing from the traditional, industrial model of teaching and it happens to be the most accessible resource we have: The tool of collaboration and the strategy of learning and growing with and through those around us.

 It appears God agrees because Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” In many places in the Bible we’re warned for the dangers of living in isolation, apart from guidance or support. We must allow students the opportunity to interact with and explore the world around them while sharing purposeful dialogue and conversation with peers. How can our children become a “city on a hill” or a lightbearer for the world if they don’t have an accurate understanding of the world around them?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Traditional Schooling: What Is it Good For?

For those of us who had an adequate experience in a public traditional school, we might think “it didn’t seem so bad, it did the job for me.” Well, what is the job of the traditional educational process? You got your diploma, maybe a college degree, and hopefully a job. Could it have been better? Would you want more for the future of our children?
Here are a few video clips I mashed together. I think each bring up good points about traditional schooling.

After doing some reading and research about the original purpose and goals of schooling, I see a couple that are still way too powerful in today’s schools.
1.  Conformity: There is still an initiative to make all students alike. Unfortunately I think many teachers fulfill this unknowingly (me included). Too often I have robbed students of having a choice and have at times told them what to think and insisted the best way of doing things.
2.  The Selective Function (Darwin’s natural selection): Students are closely compared and judged. Are we basing our assessments on how the individual student is developing or are we blinded by how they compare to others? Do we look at the whole student’s broad range of intelligences and abilities or are we narrowly focusing in on their ability to take multiple choice tests?

Some teachers still believe that they hold all the information the students need to know for the year and it is there job to simply transfer it to them. This practice usually leads to every student learning a preset, universal curriculum, all the same way. In this classroom, would you be engaged, inspired, reaching your full potential? This is an absurd way of teaching in today's informational technology age with complete connectedness. 
It’s like telling an ambitious fisherman that he is only allowed to fish in a small stocked pond while the ocean is 100 yards away. Don’t get me wrong; there are some foundational skills the fisherman should learn at the pond before taking on the ocean. Even when given access to the abundant waters, there is still a need for guidance, support, and encouragement regardless how skilled the student is.  

I think this final quote sums up the traditional approach quite well. Seth Godin cautions modern leaders with this: “Trying to lead everyone will result in leading no one in particular.” Most public schools are achieving this, leaving students disconnected, disengaged, lost, and at-risk.
There IS a way for EVERY individual to be passionate about their learning with a curiosity to inquire, determination to discover, and an eagerness to apply! Traditional education is not it.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Let's Get to Eureka!

My intentions through this blog are simply to refine my views on education and faith that hopefully lead to building a solution. Refining and constructing involves those of you that read and relate to my thoughts. I would encourage you to share what you envision to be the ideal school for this world (even if it doesn’t blend obviously with my thoughts).

This video describes where I’m at with my dreams for education and the purpose of this blog.

The purpose of my ideal education: Nurture and equip self-regulated learners who can recognize, evaluate, and develop the tools/skills they have and adequately utilize them to inquiry, discover and apply them in authentic opportunities.  The students realize the talents and interests they have been blessed with from God and utilize them in becoming the uniquely designed light bearer He has called them to be!

“Chance favors the connected mind.” I would adjust Johnson’s phrase from the video just a bit. "God favors the heart and mind that connect to His will." I believe this favor includes orchestrating connections that can collaborate and construct something much bigger and better than I could come up with on my own.
Let’s get to Eureka! Can your ideas, dreams, and visions meld with mine to make something better?