Educators need to recognize that education is changing . . . schools are changing. We need to find a new model of education for the 21st Century.
There was a time when schools served the students of their school district. District lines were drawn, and students were required to attend the school within their district. Schools set their expectations, and students had little choice but to meet the expectations of the school. In those days, if schools had competition, it was probably the local parochial school. The other option was for students to simply drop out, and many did.
Then in the 1980’s, schools opened their boundaries due to open enrollment. Competition was suddenly the neighboring districts. Schools had to be as good or better than their neighbors to prosper or even survive.
But here in the 21st Century the game has changed again and dramatically. With online learning, our competition is state-wide, it’s nation-wide, it’s world-wide. And to look at the evidence, a person cannot say these online schools are not offering quality. They are. But they are also doing something more. They are custom tailoring the education programs to each individual student. They are using a business model and providing exceptional service to their customers.
To compete in the 21st Century, schools will need to emulate, and even surpass, this model.
The best schools now are challenging their students with active learning where the students are the center of the classroom. The teacher is no longer the holder of knowledge. Facts today are but a click away. Students today need to become independent learners and critical thinkers. The classroom must then be a place where students research, find their own answers, work together to solve problems, create new knowledge, and teach each other. The role of the teacher is then changed to a facilitator of learning, i.e. a guide, a problem presenter, a questioner, a librarian, and a collaborator.
The best schools are also utilizing technology tools to facilitate this higher order thinking and learning. And please understand that we should not buy technology because it is cool, or because other schools are investing in it. We need to use it because it is necessary to fully implement our vision of 21st Century learning.
If you are not yet there, this is the year we all need to find our vision.
The above was part of my address to faculty and staff as part of our back-to-school workshop.