The following guest blog post was written by PJ Caposey, author of Building a Culture of Support: Strategies for School Leaders. PJ is the principal of Oregon High School and can be found on Twitter @principalpc.
A few weeks ago I requested help with answering the question, ‘What is school for if it is no longer the place to go to acquire knowledge?’ I received considerable feedback from a variety of sources that answered the question in a wide variety of ways. In this post I will highlight a number of those submissions and ask that everyone reading this consider working collaboratively with their colleagues from across the country to submit a blog and propose an answer to this provocative question.
To best display the high quality and critical thought displayed throughout the variety of responses to this question, I will be posting excerpts from submissions, rather than the entirety of the original entry.
Tim Farquer currently works for the Illinois State Board of Education and will become the superintendent/principal of Williamsfield CUSD #210 next school year. Tim should be followed on Twitter @timfarquer. Tim’s blog looks to the past before he looks toward the future.
Early in our nation’s history John Adams declared, “The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it.” Adams, Jefferson, and many of our founding fathers recognized that for democracy to survive people must be able to cast knowledgeable votes. In addition, citizens elected to serve would need to be skilled in making educated decisions. To do so required an ability to locate a variety of “facts and information” and the ability to skillfully synthesize what was found. Acquiring knowledge has never been the primary purpose of school. The primary purpose of school is to help students become skillful at locating and synthesizing information.
Unfortunately, schools have traditionally been forced to spend most of their time and resources helping students locate information. After all, to synthesize information, students must first be able to access it. Up until recently, access meant facts and information were either drilled into your brain or you had to know where in the book (or library) to find them. Access to information has always been a barrier schools and educators have worked diligently to overcome.
Enter 2013. Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Cloud Computing, Tablets, Smartphones, Siri. Much less time has to be spent helping students locate information. That initial barrier has been removed. Information is literally at their fingertips. So what do we do now?
Cheryl Bunton is a Nationally Board Certified Teacher of Art in Oregon, IL who should be followed on Twitter @MrsCBunton. Mrs. Bunton looks at the change from the perspective of a classroom teacher.
When students first consume or tap into someone else’s knowledge, it isn’t “knowledge” to the student. It is only information. The teacher’s role has traditionally been to provide information that is to be transformed into knowledge. What has changed, before easy and immediate access to the world’s knowledge, is that the teacher provided all the relevant information. The teacher controlled or filtered which sources were to be used. Now, students have control over their own resources and those resources are expanding daily. A teacher’s role is changing to one that provides students with the knowledge to:
- access the bodies of information available
- determine the best way to find relative information
- evaluate the validity of the information
- help the student turn that information into their own useable knowledge.
Our students still need to be taught how to learn. We need to teach our students to become proficient learners, which is to say, someone who can learn independently—someone who can find the sources to teach themselves something of interest while being cognizant of gaps are in their knowledge and having the ability to find and use available resources to fill in those gaps.
Scott Rocco is a Superintendent in New Jersey, adjunct professor at The College of New Jersey, and also the co-founder and co-moderator of #satchat, a weekly positive and progressive educational conversation among current and future educators on Twitter. You can (and should) follow Scott on Twitter @ScottRRocco.
Scott answers this question by discussing the implied question it provides: Does this question mean schools are obsolete? I would argue no. They are evolving by finding new ways to meet the changing educational needs of our students and educators. Schools of this generation should be centers for global engagement that develop collaboration among students and educators, knowledge sharing inside and outside of the school, and critical thinking skills so our students have the ability to solve increasingly complex academic and social problems on a global level.
Although our schools physically look the same, they are no longer limited by the space they provide for instruction. The knowledge, resources, and connections necessary to be effective learners and educators span beyond the school walls and encircle the globe. This is evident through the increased classroom use of technology linking students and educators across time zones and continents. It’s our responsibility, as educators, to assure the evolution of our schools meets these changing educational needs so our schools become hubs of collaboration, knowledge sharing, and critical thinking.
Dr. Aaron Ross is Assistant Principal in the Middle School at Yavneh Academy in Paramus, NJ. He can be found on Twitter at @rabbiross. Dr. Ross takes a more critical look at the validity of the question when approaching his blog.
An excellent question, but one that is only half right. School is still the place to acquire knowledge, but it is no longer the place for students to have knowledge poured into them. Rather, schools should be seen as places where students learn how to acquire knowledge, and then can put those skills into practice with a wealth of resources—from the human resources of their teachers to the physical resources of the school library or media center. And they can do all of this with someone guiding their every step, teaching them how to find material, how to sort through material, and how to know what material to look for next.
In tandem with that goal, school is also where students learn how to process and analyze the knowledge that they have found. Teachers should see themselves not simply as having a greater store of knowledge than their young charges, but more importantly as the students' mentors in teaching them how to handle the deluge of information that they will encounter every day of their lives. Ultimately, those skills, if learned well, will help us produce not only more knowledgeable students, but wiser ones as well.
On behalf of Eye On Education I would like to thank all of those that participated in attempting to answer this question and encourage others to continue to consider this question in their professional practice. Please submit any new blogs answering this question or responses to this blog to me at email@example.com