While plowing through my literature the other day, I found this beauty of a post by Dennis Harter and Justin Medved, where they talk about re-designing their technology plan for the International School in Bangkok. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that place when the thinking churns out some wonderful ideas like this:
Technology is in a constant state of evolution and change. Access speeds,hardware, software, and computer capabilities all evolve and improve ona monthly basis….Is it not time that we create a curriculum model that understands this fact and works with it rather than tries to control it?
When I hear thoughts like that one, and like this one here:
Instead of asking the question “What technology skills must a student have to face in the 21st century?” should we not be asking “What thinking and literacy skills must a student have to face the 21st century?” These skills are not tied to any particular software or technology-type, but rather aim to provide students with the thinking skills and thus the opportunities to succeed no matter what their futures hold.”
I get excited that minds like these are helping to shape policy for schools somewhere in the world; the fact that it is halfway around the world is a bit unfortunate for my immediate needs, but in this ever-shrinking world, one of the graduates from that school may turn out to play a major role in my life at some point, so I am warmed by their progressive ideas.
They go further and define some essential questions, a la McTighe and Wiggins to really spell out their purpose:
From this, which would have wholly consumed me, I found myself searching for some more research on teaching thinking the thought process. Now, a few months ago, Harter and Medved would have been enough for me, but things have changed, and the world of technology has shrunken for me, so to speak. In dealing with larger numbers of teachers, I have come to realize more than ever that there use of technology has less to do with good teaching than I thought or had experienced before. If you are not convinced of this, go read the T.C. Williams debacle and its various off-shoots.
In my search for more information, I came across Marion Brady‘s article in Educational Leadership “Cover the Material–Or Teach Students to Think?” in which he argues that our obsession with standardized testing is more than just irrelevant, it’s downright criminal to the upcoming generations. One of my favorite discussions in the article deals with the passing along of information from one generation to the next, which Brady describes as language of allusion, the information that allows societies to share complicated information in only a few words for the purpose of sending
students on their way with meaning attached to thousands of ideas like
those, efficient, society-sustaining dialogue is possible.
In most cases we often argue for the need for schools to socialize our children, and, while this need is apparent and real, it may be less necessary for our students to learn the language of allusion of a world whose solution sets don’t serve the future.
Now before I get all future-drunk here, the thinking and the teaching of thinking is what is critical in our schools today. Time is always an issue, as is adherence to state standards when teaching material, but I like what Brady points out near the end of the article: that teaching these skills is not as difficult as we make it out to be. Look locally. As near as your own school environment, opportunities for teaching thinking skills that draw upon the need to transfer the “” skills they have memorized and assimilated from textbooks, abound and present themselves as legitimate modes of inquiry. Some examples:
For example, at the middle or high school level, teachers can pose
myriad school-focused questions related to every field of study: What
kinds of energy power the school? How are these energy sources created
and measured? At what cost to taxpayers? At what cost to the
environment? What kind of waste does the school produce? Where does it
go and how is it processed? What could be done to decrease the school’s
Getting back to the ideas of Harter/Medved/Wiggins/McTighe, huge questions that cause learners, whether they be teacher or student, to draw upon their knowledge or ability to acquire necessary knowledge, are key. However, as Brady points out, their location geographically is irrelevant.