Friday, January 05, 2007

TIME Magazine: How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century

Time Magazine's lead story about the need for changes in 21st century education identifies problems (out-of-date textbooks, out of touch with the world, aiming too low, poor training for collaboration, abstract thinking, foreign language ability) as well as solutions (EQ, ability to analyze and act on information, more global outlook on history, experience with technology), but the rub will come down to how to efficiently implement these changes in which many students are failing to meet many basic skills.

NCLB is up for renewal, and more national discussion will be on its way. A significant question is whether educational solutions by committee will be able to provide the changes students need in order to contribute intellectually and personally in the changing workforce.

We agree with many of the identified problems in the Time magazine article, but the solutions are not so easy - because the quality of teaching depends on the quality of training by the teacher, the time available for instruction in an already crowded curriculum, and the quality of the teacher-student interactions. Putting students in front of computer terminals is no answer to technological training. Powerpoints are one thing, but programming or designing is another.

When students are learning something very difficult, there is no substitute for well-informed and interactive one-on-one instruction. But teachers just can't do that in classes of 20 or 40 students. It's one reason why chasms exist between the higher and lower socio-economic school districts, and families in which older siblings and parents take an active role in a younger child's education tend to thrive.

Students often don't know what they don't know - and that's why we need guides to help provide us insights into how we think (or don't think...), what our problem solving processes and assumptions may be, and where we are making mistakes. Parking students in front of a Curriki is not the answer. Highly motivated individuals can receive quite a remarkable education on the Internet - but many with high face-to-screen times will fail to acquire the cognitive skills essential for successful 21st century knowledge workers.

One danger of an ever-lengthening laundry list of subjects to be "covered", is that there may be less time for students to learn from examples or their own performance. How to Bring Our Schools Out of the 20th Century
Bush to meet with lawmakers about NCLB

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