Tuesday, June 5, 2012

How do we Fix the Outdated Education Model?

Last August, I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at the #140EDU Conference in New York City. The topic of the discussion was the Alternatives to the Outdated Education Model; the premise of which was that the current education system isn’t broken, but rather completely out of touch with the needs of today’s learners and therefore ineffective. Because of the limited time allowed for the panel, we could only offer general ideals and best practices rather than practical solutions for change. After all, updating the very structure and purpose of education would mean a massive overhaul in a legacy system embedded within U.S. culture – not really something that can be accomplished in a 20 minute panel discussion.

I thought about this experience last night while browsing through a friend’s photo album on Facebook. He’s a bit of a political junkie, which explains why the album was from his trip to the Jimmy Carter Historic Site and Museum located in Plains, Georgia. Among other uber-nerdy shots, one was of a replica of Carter’s sixth grade classroom, circa 1937 under the direction of teacher, Ms. Julia Coleman.

 Look past the inkwells, hardwood floors, and dusty chalkboards and you’ll notice something rather profound – the layout is not unlike many of today’s classrooms. Sure, 75 years have brought significant change in technology and ergonomics (I assume those wooden benches were less than comfy), but the essential geography of the classroom has stayed the same. How can we bring about fundamental change when the teacher remains at the head of the class, and students remain isolated in evenly spaced rows?

I know what you’re thinking – My classroom doesn’t look like that! - and you’re probably right. But understand that you are not the norm. To prove my point, I did a quick Google search for “2012 Classroom.” Below is the first classroom picture to come up. Notice any similarities to Carter's childhood stomping grounds?

Much like my brief time as a panelist at #140EDU, I am unable to offer an answer to the problem of our outdated model of education within this meager blog post. Instead, my goal was to use visuals to help better illustrate that despite fancy projectors, cell phones, social networking, etc., we are still doing education wrong. 

How do we fix this?

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5 Responses:

Adam Cross said...

In my mental rebuild of the education system students proceed at their own pace by concept rather than as a class organized by birth year.

Unknown said...

I wrote something about education system in which I pointed out the same thing. http://back2goforward.com/education-plinko-is-no-way-to-teach/ . I just can't understand how as the world that is constantly changing and our education system, which is supposed to prepare our children for the ever changing world we live in

Lindsay Parvin said...

Lindsay Ann from EDM310 at South Alabama chiming in again. I taught for almost four years, and I agree with you wholeheartedly about a change being needed. I have been recently inspired by a video we watched the other day, href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PcSafUTNd8">Dr. Lodge McCammon's FIZZ - Flipping the Classroom . I think this will really help in my classroom and bring some new light into what we are supposed to be doing.

You can find me on Twitter also @LAWATTS9!

I apologize if you are already aware of 'flipping' the classroom, but I thought it was so interesting!

Christina Mason said...

Hi Mr. Mikulsky. My name is Christie Mason and I am enrolled in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. While I am only working toward my education degree, I have substituted for many years. The greatest percentage of these classrooms resemble your comparison to President Carter's school. However, some classrooms have created tables or groups consisting of 4-5 students. I find I have had a more positive experience in the latter of the two classrooms, especially when I move/walk around during a lesson. This keeps me engaged with all students. This cluster arrangement also seems to make it easier for students to work in groups and help one another. Thanks for pointing out what should be obvious to so many, but somehow escapes them.

Sofia Sana said...

Good idea... Look past
the inkwells, hardwood
floors, and dusty
chalkboards and you’ll
notice something rather
profound – the layout is
not unlike many of today’s classrooms.
Hats off to you! You are the one to make your post understandable for most of the people.

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