The age of technology is in full swing and rapid innovations are persistently changing how we how we do business, how we eat and travel, interact with one another, and even how we imagine ourselves. The unspoken expectation for every young person growing up in this dynamic world is to keep up with the onslaught of new Apps, streaming services, tech lingo and etiquette. These are strange and complicated times for most of us, but today’s young students are surely faced with the lion’s share of challenges. The world for which they are preparing to enter will almost certainly look different from the one in which they are currently living.
There appears to be a growing acknowledgment that the classical school model, which cleanly separates the world around us into discrete subjects, is not only not preparing students for the workforce they’re likely to enter, but is actually inhibiting their adaptivity to function successfully in the modern work place.
These exact ideas are beautifully compiled within the 2015 documentary, “Most Likely to Succeed“.
The high school featured in this film, High Tech High, reveals a glimpse into a refreshingly holistic perspective of education. The school’s founder, Larry Rosenstock, strongly believes that the classical model of education is insufficient and even detrimental for students soon entering the workforce and life in general.
He developed High Tech High based on four key integrations:
“students across social class,
“school and community”,
“head and hand”
“secondary and post-secondary”
This film provides an amazingly immersive perspective into the daily experience as a student at High Tech High, and in its entirety, allows for a very clear understanding of what this school represents: The transformation towards a model of education that truly prepares students for a the collaboration, multidisciplinary mindset, and creative thinking that is needed to succeed in their futures.
Through my experience in Elementary, Junior High School and High School, I can confidently say, this is exactly what I would have preferred. Instead of being given the opportunity and resources to explore and approach subjects from the exciting perspective of discovery and project-based inquiry, the majority of my schooling involved the memorisation of facts, simply given to me. I can attest that this classical schooling method that emphasises standardisation leaves students frustrated, overwhelmed, uninspired, and sometimes left behind the rest of the class. High Tech High, with its inquiry and project-based learning environment, fully acknowledges these issues and has, among many revisions, done away with the rote memorisation of facts for standardised testing, in their assessment of students’ abilities.
Since its foundation in 2000, High Tech High has been a revolutionary force in shifting how educators envision a classroom for the 21st century. Schools based on this model have since gained traction and can now even be found here in Victoria at the The Pacific School of Innovation and Inquiry (PSII), which offers itself as an alternative to the other more classically-oriented public schools in the region. As he explains in his TED talk, “Education as if people mattered”, Jeff Hopkins, the founder of PSII, believes the learning which students are receiving through the current classical education system is not serving the world, specifically because “the system we’re in right now was developed about 150 years ago, in a very different context, and for a very different purpose.”.
Much like High Tech High, the PSII curriculum is flexible, as they state on their website:
“…we do not pretend that groups of learners will learn optimally from exactly the same activities at exactly the same time.”.
I find this type of teaching completely inspiring. The awareness of individual needs that is stated here is so obvious and yet, the education I have received throughout my life has felt completely devoid of this sentiment. Of course we all need a curriculum specialised to our needs to allow us to truly develop into our best selves. We need mentorship. We need respect and the responsibility to explore and discover. We need to be taught beyond the narrow lens of single subjects. We need classrooms that are connected to world beyond their walls, and classes that actually prepare us for that world. We need the freedom to be creative, to experiment, to dig into ideas and examine them from different perspectives, to have the opportunity to test where our limits are and grow them, and the supportive environment to be able to fail and try again.
Jeff Hopkins began in his TED talk saying, “education is not the filling of a pail, but rather the lighting of a flame”. This quote (which it turns out has been likely wrongfully attributed to WB Yeats), captures the essence of the paradigm shift needed to move the education system from a 20th century, standardising institution into a forward-looking, 21st century, individualised model.
Whether we like it or not, technology has become entwined within our daily lives. As teachers entering the workforce, we must decide how we will integrate technology into our classrooms and evolve our teaching styles with it to best prepare our students for this ever-changing future. A world of endless information is at our fingertips and we should not be teaching our students as if this isn’t true. The world of social media, for example, is impossible to escape, especially within the high school community. Educators should be learning how to benefit from this online social world. I am now realizing that blogging could be a very effective way to organize information for my future classes. I have also just discovered how social media platforms, like Twitter, have such a strong community of educators who are sharing with each, among many things, great teaching ideas and resources. I have already connected with a number of like-minded educators from around the world, and am looking forward to participating in the weekly online Twitter meet-ups that educators in BC organize.
Technology integrated properly into the learning environment should foster a more inquiry-based, hands-on, and overall, more personalised education. We owe it to our students and, consequently, our future generations to be responsive to technological changes and promote a dynamic learning environment that will prepare them for real world problems of the 21st century.