Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Story About How An Email From Borders and Amazon Lead Me To Thinking About Education

The other day I received the email that I am sure many of you also received from Borders about them closing up for good and thanking us for being customers over the years. Reading this letter really bummed me out as it made it a reality that one of my favorite places to go to get away will no longer be around. I can get lost in a bookstore for hours if you let me. Let me buy a coffee in the winter and let me escape to the rows and rows of books wishing I was loaded with money to buy them all.

As I finished reading that email my next email was from Amazon talking about their latest Kindle book sale where there are over 900 titles up for sale for the Big Deal sale. It was just a few weeks ago when they had the Sunshine Deal where I purchased a ton of books for $3 or less. Here was another batch of books up for sale very cheap.

Talk about contrasting business ideas. One type of business can no longer sustain while the other is thriving. How does a store compete when a major business can sell the same merchandise for much cheaper? We are in a pivotal moment in history as we change from one technological age to another. We are seeing, living, and breathing firsthand the effects of the world changing due to technology. Just as people had to transition in life from Copper to Bronze to Iron. You either adapted and upgraded or you were lost in the shuffle. This is happening now. In some ways scary because for the first time I actually feel part of a major historical movement and in some ways cool to see how things evolve. The effects are also in the economy as we are all well aware of as many jobs that sustained families are no longer needed.

I think back to my job as an educator. We are in a more pivotal moment of teaching than ever before. Prior to us teachers knew the job market. You farmed, worked factory, went on to accounting, etc. Today we are prepping students for a job market that nobody knows what is needed or what the job market is going to be. To make matters worse, we have people running education forcing us to teach the same and incorporating methods of assessment to gauge the learning that don't work. They are forcing us to be robots and uniform when that system is no longer needed. The future depends on people creating new jobs, new ideas, new ways to problem solve. No longer is filling in bubbles and memorizing a few facts needed. Why even memorize facts when I have Google at my fingertips at all times in my life?

The point of this post is this - the time is before us where we need to change. We cannot teach the same way in which we were taught(unless we had an unbelievable teacher). We cannot teach the same uniform way because the world is far from uniform. We can no longer rely on things always being there for us(Borders how I miss you already) because it can serve no purpose from one day to the next.

We must teach our students to be advocates for themselves. We must teach the value to constantly educate themselves to stay on the frontier/cutting edge. We must teach them to be problem solvers(even when they have no clue about something they must acquire the skills to engage and learn).

There is the Hebrew Proverb that reads, "Do not confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in another time." This sums up our current state of life and education. Teachers must be innovative and think of new ways to teach. We must force ourselves to think differently and approach education in new ways.

Dr. Medina presented at a conference this year and he made the following statement(found this on David Warlick blog)

“The human brain is designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment and to do so in nearly constant motion.”

Then he said something to the effect of, “If you wanted to design a learning environment that was directly opposed to the way that the brain works, you would design a classroom.”

Here I finish typing my little rant staring at the massive pile of books and magazines I purchased at Borders before they closed to hang on to my lasting memories of a great bookstore. I look back through my post and realize that another school year is approaching. This will be my chance to help several hundred students work to acquire the necessary skills for a future yet undetermined. To think that this all stemmed from two emails from two companies.

How are you going to approach your classsroom this year? What will you do to engage students and help them be successful in their lives?
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