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Sunday, May 4, 2014

Something's in the Air...

Something's in the air, and it's not just the sneezy pollen of springtime.

aside: Tree-sex is what Bit Boy calls pollen - I was going to correct him (his attitude, not his accuracy), but then I thought - he's right.  Pollen is tree-sex, and it's kind of funny that we breath it.  
Don't do that - agree with your teen - it just encourages them.  
Now he's calling our goose's eggs goose periods.   It kind of shines a different light on breakfast.

The last two days I've had long talks with 3 different people about education and homeschooling.  AND (drum roll) every single one of them was about how beneficial homeschooling is, despite the fact that all of the people I was talking to had kids in public schools, and 2 of the three are educational professionals.  I was sad they were not familiar with the works of John Holt, and happy that I could share his work as a resource for them.  I was pleased to find that they were familiar with the more recent writings of John Taylor Gatto.  These two touchstones could inform a lot more educators about where the future of education is going.

One thing all professional educators seem to know is that their profession is changing.  School has always been a mixed bag, a necessary evil, the attempt to make the best of a perceived necessity.  Standardized testing, class room management, and shifting parental and teacher roles have made public school a far different place than it once was - and even what it once was wasn't really all that stupendous.   Changing modes of communications - first books, and now the internet - have changed the roll of teachers.  Teachers are no longer the gate keepers to knowledge and skills.  Just about anything you want to learn to do has books, Youtube videos, several websites, and enthusiastic open source gurus waiting to help you.  Waiting to help you learn for free.  For. Free.

You don't have to pay for an education anymore.  You don't have to pass a test to get into the right class.  You don't have to be in the same country, much less the same room, as your teacher anymore.  The internet provides limitless access to the accumulated knowledge of the modern world.   Firelord taught himself to play Irish whistle using Youtube videos.  Bit Boy taught himself binary by reading an essay by Isaac Asimov.  Lego Kid is working through an online Python book.  I was looking for a welding teacher for Bit Boy last year and a friend who welds asked "Have you looked for some tutorials on Youtube?"  (Seriously.  I kinda didn't go there.  Something about the thought of my teen with a tube of flaming gas in his hand having only had a video tutorial for his training made me nervous.)

Today you can work at your own pace, whether that pace is quick or slow, focused or distracted.  You don't have to have anyone tell you whether you're ready or if what you want is appropriate for you.  You want to learn a new skill?  Do it.  Want to get better?  Practice.  There you go, now you know something new.  It's the ultimate education in a democratic meritocracy.

Is there a place for teachers in this new paradigm?  Is there a place for a brick and mortar school? 

Yes, but it's a very different role than before - or perhaps it's a very old role.   We admire those who do what we want to do, people who make things, who have useful skills.  We  still benefit from mentors.  We still like to hang out with people who have similar interests and abilities.  We are still social animals and so there is still a place for something we might call a "school."  But it's a very different place than what we think of school today.  It's not a place you are forced to go and told what to do once you're there.  It's a place you may choose to go (or not) and where there are people who have intellectual and physical resources you wish to access.   I see the future of school in Maker Spaces, Hacker Spaces, libraries and the Sudbury model.

Some would argue that you still need a college degree to get a good job, a real job.  For the moment that is still mostly true.  To be a physician, a lawyer, and most types of an engineer, yes, you still need a degree.  However, there are signs that the value of a degree is lower than it has been for generations.  And signs that the lack of a degree is not the hindrance it used to be.

Becoming a teacher in the future will mean first following your own passion, and if your own passion excites another enough for them to ask "how do you do that?!?"  then, and only then, will you have the opportunity to be a teacher.

1 comment:

Gail said...

For many careers now a degree becomes more important when there are significantly more people looking for the same job than there are jobs available. They begin weeding out based on who holds a degree.Still not a reason to waste time and money on a degree you probably won't need.