Meet Me In The Middle?

“Long before there were schools as we know them, there was apprenticeship — learning how to do something by trying it under the guidance of one who knows how.” – ‘The Objective of Education Is Learning, Not Teaching’

This week in #eci830 my group was tasked with the challenge of presenting an argument that suggested schools should not be teaching anything that can be googled, our opponents argued the opposite. What was ironic about the debate was that both sides spent a fair amount of time talking about critical thinking skills.

In our opening statement, my group discussed the need for educators to understand that:

  1. Knowledge is changing at a rapid pace
  2. Schools need to prepare students for that change in knowledge
  3. Technology allows for efficiency

Channing explains each of our introductory arguments further in her post, Educating The Google Generation.

Whether someone felt they agreed or disagreed with the idea that schools should not be teaching things that can be googled before the debate, I think you’d have been hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t agree that critical thinking skills are vital to student future success, after the debate! So if critical thinking is so important, just what does that look like and what does it mean?

What I found most interesting about this video was that it really doesn’t matter where in the world you live, what language you speak or your life experiences – critical thinking skills are valuable!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/acidmidget/13910556505
Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/nceeP8

Every day we are bombarded with information all around us. Whether it is in a store, on a billboard, on social media, the radio or pretty much anywhere we go – there is something to be consumed.  As educators we have to ask ourselves, what are we doing to prepare our students for the overwhelming amount of information they are being exposed to? Though both groups in the debate disagreed in some areas, Kristen highlighted in her blog that we did agree on the idea that critical thinking is something students NEED to have an opportunity to practice.

So we then have to ask ourselves how are we providing our students with these opportunities? I believe that we need to change how we look at learning, as a whole, in order to truly prepare our youth for a world that we don’t yet fully understand. The skills students will need to be successful are not things that can be memorized or copied. Rather, they are abilities that these individuals will possess! I believe that when we give students the skills they need, to learn about the things they are passionate about, they will internalize (I like that word better than memorize) the information they need to be able to share their knowledge and passions.

If we truly want to provide opportunities for students to develop critical thinking skills I think there are a few changes we need to make in education. Often times while planning units and lessons I have found myself questioning some of the things in our Saskatchewan Curriculum. Not because I don’t think learning is important but rather because I don’t think we allow for enough autonomy in our students learning.  Now, dependant on the age of your students, this certainly looks different but I think it is possible. As a bit of a side note, I do think we need concrete knowledge in areas like reading, writing and math but I do believe there are ways to provide student choice in these subjects as well.

Some changes I would make in my education dream world…

  1. Change the mindset around the role of the teacher from the knower of knowledge to a guide for students
  2. Provide guiding questions rather than answers/final destinations of learning in curriculum documents
  3. Integrate digital citizenship skills into all areas of the curriculum as a mandatory piece
  4. Eliminate traditional grading practices in the K-5 classroom
  5. Remove the idea that students of a certain age need to meet a certain ‘level’ by a certain time. Keep growth and development as a staple but remove the constraints of time.

In the real world, I believe we must seek to find balance in our classrooms, finding the middle ground for integrating tools like Google and learning skills like how to read!

All week I had this song in my head and I think Zedd, Maren Morris and Grey say it perfectly… meet me in the middle!

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7 comments

  1. Nicole, this is so thoughtfully written. I wanted to comment specifically on change #4 that you would make about worrying what ‘level’ a child is at. This is something I have really struggled with since becoming a teacher. Hearing colleagues talking about how a child is not good enough, not up to standards, or not a good reader because they are not a level 10 by the end of grade 1 kind of breaks my heart. Instead of being focused on the child and what he or she needs we get too caught up in the ‘standardized’ way of thinking where all students need to be the same. Ugh. You really got me thinking with that one! ❤️

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts this week! I love your connection to music as well. So far all of my posts have been about being situated in the “middle” of the debate continuum and about finding balance. We are totally on the same page. Additionally, I really enjoyed your education dream world suggestions. I agree with all of them. On the surface, they seem like relatively easy ideas to adopt and sensible changes to make but when we think about past and current educational practices, a colossal shift in education must occur as we re-imagine teaching to embrace the changes you have suggested. Change is amazing, but often a slow process!

  3. Thank you for your post and strong argument for the debate this week! Your “education dream world” has given me something to think about – it would be a great exercise for all teachers to try. I think we would be able to accomplish a lot with these changes, especially if we could improve the student to teacher ratio. It seems like educators are in this tough middle ground where we still have to teach and use tools of the past, but then we are trying to incorporate technology and create 21st century learners…where do we even begin? But like you said, balance is key and finding a middle ground to guide our students.

  4. I agree that the critical thinking skills are key. I really believe that the skills in education far outweigh the knowledge as if you have the skills to begin to find and build knowledge you will be successful in learning. I appreciated your “dream world” ideas as I feel that as teachers we often have these ideas but sometimes are not able to accomplish them due to the pressures of curriculum and all that other stuff we are required to accomplish in a school year. Great post!

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