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I believe that the current educational systems do not work for the vast majority of students.
When I listen to the conversations that the students in my yearbook class have with each other concerning school, most of the focus is on grades. Rarely, do I hear conversations that pertain to the knowledge that the students gained in their classes. It validates the statement “education has become a relatively meaningless game ofgrades rather than an important and meaningful exploration of the world in which we live and co-create” (Wesch, 2009). Though I teach a yearbook class, the majority of my time is teaching music. I mention this because I am often questioned by students who are not in my music classes as to what they can expect to learn if they were to enroll in my music classes. Additionally, I hear conversations between my music students and non-music students about what is being learned in their music class. Music classes are normally performance based and results oriented. The class is focused on the students, and the students realize that their involvement gives meaning to (or takes meaning away from) the class.
I truly believe that our current education system does not engage our students in a two-way dialogue that allows our students to find their education meaningful. “Students…are struggling to find meaning and significance in their education” (Wesch, 2009). I think that with our current condition of teaching to the test and using Embedded Assessments as in a local Florida school district, we as educators do not readily engage our students into developing meaningful involvement into their education. Implementing a Personal Learning Environment (PLE) would do much to give students a sense of meaningfulness to their education. Students desire to express their individuality and to showcase their talent. Students involved in Art, Music, Culinary, Drama, Shop, etc. enjoy those classes because their individual contributions are recognized and valued. PLEs and Web 2.0 tools such as a Weblog (blog) give students an environment that is theirs to showcase, an environment that they can put their unique identity on.
I have recently thought that students should be able to use a variety of tools and methods to deliver their assignments in a 21st century school. For example an English class report could be delivered using the traditional expository/narrative paper, or it could be a digital story, or it could be PowerPoint presentation, or it could be a Podcast. As long as the student shows an understanding of the content the specific delivery method should be left up to the student, or at the very least the student should have a number of acceptable delivery methods from which to choose. This would support many of the findings and theories found in Brain-Based education or Gardner’s Multiple Intelligence Theory.
Schools need to make a shift from the Industrial Age teaching style to the Information Age teaching style. And that shift is not difficult. It simply boils down to allowing students to make a meaningful contribution to their own classes (as modeled by arts or “fun” classes for decades) using the tools (PLEs, Web 2.0, etc.) that are readily and, oftentimes, freely available.