Let's Transform Education

 Photo by Jens Stolt/Hemera / Getty Images

Photo by Jens Stolt/Hemera / Getty Images

A few months ago I was asked to be a part of a national group committed to re-imagining education,  Convergence Center for Policy Resolution.   This group is focused on creating a new paradigm for learning.    Convergence created a vision that outlines  five interrelated elements essential to a new learning paradigm:

  • competency-based

  • personalized, relevant and contextualized

  • learner agency

  • socially embedded

  • open-walled

Simply put Convergence recognizes the current educational system was designed in a different era and structured for a different society.  Their vision is a call to action, not to tweak or modify the current system but to create a drastically different paradigm of learning that will serve all children. Convergence hosted a “Pioneer Base Camp” of educators who have demonstrated their belief in one or more essential elements outlined in the vision.   It was honor to be invited along with four other educators in the Los Altos School District.

After spending time with educators, policy makers, private corporations and foundations dedicated to improving our education system for ALL students, we all returned with  renewed commitment to revolutionizing learning for all students and BIG ideas about how to accelerate our work.  It was a tremendous experience to connect and learn with so many diverse groups.  Here is a list of some of the other Pioneers that attended:  Big Picture Learning, Design39 Campus, High Tech High, Iowa BIG, Lindsay Unified School District, MC2, Quest to Learn, Re-School Colorado, and Roycemore School. Our reactions to hearing what is happening elsewhere in the country ranged from “We do that, too!” to “Ooooh, we could do that!” to “How in the world did you do that?”

Fundamentally, our world is changing and so should our education system.  Is your organization working to embrace this new mindset?  Knowing we need to grow and adapt is only the first step, we must now apply new strategies and approaches across entire systems. This is challenging.   Especially, when we are talking about making changes to a system that so many of us are products of. Too often I hear, “I survived school…. It worked for me, what’s wrong with it?”

Yes, that system worked for me, too. Everything I needed for research could be found in the Encyclopedia Britannica and I relied heavily on my ability to memorize content.   In this traditional system, we “learned” at school, and then we left to “do” at work.  This approach no longer works - in today’s world learning and doing have become inseparable.  If we continue down the same path, are we preparing students for a world that no longer exists?  

Having just participated in this national conversation about transforming education, I am asking a lot of questions - questions that challenge the core of our learning system.  Here are just a few of the questions swirling in my mind-

  • Why do we determine what a child learns and is exposed to based on how old they are?

  • How can we design a system that embraces the fact that not everyone learn in the same way or at the same pace?

  • What role does learning outside of traditional school “hours” and “walls” look like and how can we partner to make sure we are expanding opportunities to learn, not limiting them?

  • How can we re-organize our current resources (time, money, people, space) to shift our system now, rather than waiting for a full-scale, start-from-scratch re-design?

Knowing that there are big challenges ahead for all educators and educational organizations, I am curious to know what questions you are asking. Let’s stop tweaking our educational system around the edges and start re-imagining based on the needs of our students.