The Last Bastion: Changing our Schools

I was a terrible high school student.

Not terrible in the sense that I got bad marks, but terrible in the sense that I hated school and couldn't wait to get out of the system.

I was disengaged in most of my classes.

I didn't see the relevance in what I was being taught.

I was in a place where quiet, compliant, memorizers of information did well.

Original thought was not encouraged.

High school was something to be tolerated until I graduated.

So it's a surprise to many that I now have a career in education.

But it's not a surprise if you really know me.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I thrive on change. At least that's how my wife has summarized my propensity to be consistently doing new things.

Combine that with the fact that education is really one of the only sectors or industries that has not been transformed through the application of technology, and you will see that there is lots of opportunity for people like me.

Oh, we dabble, and there are shining stars of excellence (I like to include Appleby College in this mix), but for the most part we are educating our kids in the same manner as students have been for generations.

I'm talking transformation like that which has occurred in banking, travel, buying a house, social interaction, music, books, entertainment, government, utilities, etc.  The list goes on and on.

Education stands by itself as the most change resistant group of institutions - including primary, secondary, and post secondary.  We love our medieval roots so much that we even dress up in robes and gowns when we graduate our students.

But, as some pose, does education really need to change?

Let me ask. If everything else in the world is now done from a globally competitive, highly connected, continuous environment, doesn't it make sense that new skills, literacies and competencies are needed?

I think so.

And so do several thousand others.

While there are divergent opinions in exactly what should change, and how they should change, there are growing voices (including Bill and Melinda Gates, Davis Guggenheim (Waiting for Superman), and others) agreeing that there needs to be significant reform in education.

Every movement seems to have a seminal book, and in this conversation let me put forth my recommendation.

The book is “The Global Achievement Gap – Why our best schools don’t teach the new survival skills our children need – and what we can do about it.” by Tony Wagner of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Tony Wagner interviewed several large organizations about the skills and literacies that today’s industry, government and other large organization need in the graduates they hire. His book outlines seven critical survival skills our kids need to thrive in this century. They are:

  1. Critical thinking and problem solving 
  2. Collaboration across networks and leading by influence 
  3. Agility and adaptability 
  4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism 
  5. Effective oral and written communication 
  6. Accessing and analyzing information 
  7. Curiosity and imagination 

He then compared this list with the current skills and competencies that are developed in the current structure of delivering education. It's a fascinating read if you work in education or have kids who are in the system. More info on Tony’s book and his survival skills is available at www.schoolchange.org.

Tony is much better at explaining himself.  Check out the video below:

The beautiful thing for those of us in IT leadership?... most of the development of these skills is enabled by effective application of technology - which is my craft.

Reforming education is like building a cathedral. It takes many people, many years.  The ones who start may not live to see it completed. But everyone is working to a goal deemed most worthy.

If you are a progressive IT leader, let me encourage you to consider the educational sector for your career.  In my opinion, it is the most exciting IT job in the world right now.


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