I find myself looking at our readings always with a lens of a Kindergarten teacher. I have had other roles since I’ve become a teacher. (I currently teach 2/3 Education Artistique, 3/4 Arts Ed, 3/4 Core French and 7/8 Education Artistique in addition to my Kindergarten class.) However, I often find that when reading new information, I relate it to my five-year-old learners the most.
I’m not certain sure why I think with a Kindergarten lens, (especially since my university training was that of a high school Core French teacher) but 50% of my day is spent with five-year-olds, so I’ll roll with it. When I listened to Pavan Arora’s talk about how Knowledge is Obsolete, I agreed with most of his points. It’s true that the job landscape is changing very quickly. The learners we produce need to be incredibly flexible. I remember reading an article in my undergraduate classes about the fact that the average person will have ten different jobs before they are 40. That number is even higher for the millennial generation. I would assume that the number would be even higher for the kids who are currently in my Kindergarten class.
One thing that Arora’s speech made me think about is the line “We’re going to have a Quantum Leap in Education. Finally.” He’s referring to the fact that with the new technologies and innovations, we are finally going to have to have some sort of change to the education system. Which is great. I fully believe that we need to use and adapt new technologies into our every day plans in the classroom.
And then that one thought crosses my mind: Where does it start? In Pre-K and K programs in Saskatchewan, the curriculum is that of play based learning. We look at science concepts and art and even writing from a “playing” perspective. And then in Grade One “real work” starts. No more play. Homework happens. Kids need to buckle down and learn to read.
This is where I start to have questions. I agree that we need to change, the system needs to be more flexible, adapting to the needs in our classroom and incorporating new technologies and knowledge as needed. We need to provide students with the tools to access their own information and create new pathways to new knowledge. However – we have to start from somewhere. Do we need to stop, disconnect and teach children how to read before anything else amazing can happen?
Then I remembered reading about project that put computers into the hands of illiterate children and after a few months, they had taught themselves not only how to use the computer, but how to use it the way they wanted – for fun, for literacy, for knowledge. It would seem that kids, when given the opportunity, will use tools to teach themselves the skills they want to know.
However, this is not a complete “cure-all.” Even before the previous article was written, there were already articles about studies showing that the laptops do not improve test scores. (Although judging value of laptops based on test scores might not be the best idea) What the article mentions, though, is that guidance and leadership with these devices is what is really important. Having children attend school regularly, with a teacher who is able to help them learn is incredibly beneficial.
Another article, Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0, added weight to these thoughts. There is so much available online – from YouTube to Wikipedia. Students need a mediator, someone who is willing to guide them on their own path to their knowledge.
So back to the Kindergarten lens. From what I see, I need to be able to equip the children in my class with the skills needed to go forth and learn things themselves. As Californian researchers Brown and Adler said, students need to be able to decide what to learn and then get that information, rather than teachers deciding what will be learned and then forcing that upon students.
We now need a new approach to learning—one characterized by a demand-pull rather than the traditional supply-push mode of building up an inventory of knowledge in students’ heads.
This, like Pavan Arora said, needs to be something that changes in our education system quickly – a Quantum Leap forward so that the five-year-olds in my class are not already left behind.