So what is important for students to learn?

(My dis­claimer is that I do not have an answer to this question!)

This ques­tion is some­thing that I have dis­cussed repeat­edly in my edu­ca­tional career, and it may be one of the most impor­tant ques­tions that schools need to ana­lyze if they truly want to change.  One to one learn­ing is one way to enhance what stu­dents learn and the ways that they learn.  It can turn teacher cen­tered class­rooms into stu­dent cen­tered class­rooms.  More impor­tantly, it can move stu­dents from the bot­tom of Bloom’s Tax­on­omy to the top level where stu­dents create.

Bloom_taxonomy
 Unfor­tu­nately, one to one could also serve as a tool to pro­mote the ways things have always been done.  Com­put­ers can serve as an amaz­ing set of ency­clo­pe­dias, and they are obvi­ously a great orga­ni­za­tion tool for most indi­vid­u­als.  I cringe when I hear about stu­dents that are using tech­nol­ogy in this way, but it is happening. 

So how can schools use tech­nol­ogy to trans­form education?

One rec­om­men­da­tion is to truly iden­tify what stu­dents should learn and make those things the focus of every­thing the school does.  On my post from last week, I wrote about the core val­ues from the Sci­ence Lead­er­ship Acad­emy.  Those val­ues pic­tured below were present through­out the school, and I don’t mean that they were present solely as posters on the wall. You could see those val­ues demon­strated in every­thing that staff and stu­dents did.

Picture 2

Schools need to gen­uinely eval­u­ate the things stu­dents are learn­ing in school.  How much time should you spend on some­thing that stu­dents can find on the Inter­net in a few sec­onds?  How impor­tant is a con­cept if most adults don’t know the information?

An idea to get this con­ver­sa­tion started at your schools would be for teach­ers to bring one of their tests to a staff meet­ing and pass those tests out to oth­ers to see how your staff does with tests from other sub­jects.  More than likely, teach­ers will do very poorly on the assess­ments from out­side of their con­tent area.  This idea can gen­er­ate some good ques­tions that may get staff think­ing about what stu­dents are learn­ing in their classes.  If a group of suc­cess­ful adults can’t answer the ques­tions, is it really that impor­tant that stu­dents can?

5 comments

  1. Marshall says:

    Much like your dis­claimer of no answers, my per­spec­tive offers no solu­tions or answers. Ideas and ques­tions, how­ever, I offer freely. This is sim­i­lar to a post of mine on Beat­ing the Dead Horse as well. The post here is essen­tially talk­ing about how tech­nol­ogy can make trans­for­ma­tional changes in the way we do edu­ca­tional busi­ness, and I agree. It is more applic­a­ble, how­ever, to the paper, pen­cil, inter­per­sonal, and print world than is given credit here. Yes, tech­nol­ogy has had a lot to do with that by mak­ing things read­ily avail­able and mak­ing it much eas­ier to find nec­es­sary data. That strand con­tin­ues at BTDH.
    Basi­cally, my con­cern is that we assess (and there­fore teach and empha­size) a lot of mate­r­ial that is really resources for think­ing. With the avail­abil­ity of infor­ma­tion through tech­nol­ogy and a myr­iad of other out­lets, know­ing facts and fig­ures holds less power. Although it has its place and can be ben­e­fi­cial in a lot of ways, bas­ing our learn­ing on this level pri­mar­ily only reduces the time we have for other, deeper topics.

  2. Thanks for this. This really struck a chord because I’ve been think­ing about this for some time. How many teach­ers out­side the math depart­ment could do even the sim­plest things that our pupils are asked to do in math class? How many adults out­side the his­tory depart­ment could cough up the infor­ma­tion that stu­dents are required to?
    I have a sneak­ing feel­ing that we are wast­ing a lot of everyone’s time. Why don’t more peo­ple ask your ques­tion “How impor­tant is a con­cept if most adults don’t know the infor­ma­tion”? There is, of course the point that adult igno­rance could be a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for teach­ing a par­tic­u­lar topic: school as an agent for social change. Oth­er­wise, your ques­tion seri­ously calls into ques­tion much of what we do in schools.
    There is another ques­tion you ask here, though, that I’m going to have to take issue with. “How much time should you spend on some­thing that stu­dents can find on the Inter­net in a few sec­onds?“
    I’m a teacher, mostly of lan­guage, and I spend all my work­ing time doing just that. Most of what I teach can be looked up in sec­onds, but that’s irrel­e­vant. Find­ing out how to kick a soc­cer penalty is a fairly minor step on the road to being able do well at penalty kicks. You get the pic­ture?
    I’m in the busi­ness of help­ing peo­ple learn, and that means help­ing them to be able to do things that they couldn’t do yes­ter­day. School was never sup­posed to be about infor­ma­tion — that’s what we had libraries for. School was sup­posed to be about learn­ing.
    Those “deeper top­ics” are impor­tant goals for edu­ca­tion, but you can’t get there before pupils have a lot of bal­last on board. Lots of basic infor­ma­tion needs to be autom­a­tized before you can mean­ing­ful debate or crit­i­cal think­ing, or any of the things we’re really after.

  3. Nick Sauers says:

    Simon-Thanks for your com­ment.  You make some very good points.  I would actu­ally not dis­agree with your com­ment about stu­dents need­ing to learn some basic things so that they can mas­ter much deeper top­ics and higher level skills.  With that being said, I think we spend way too much time teach­ing those basic facts and stu­dents rarely get to deep under­stand­ing.  Most stu­dents spend nearly 80% of their day doing things at the very low­est level of Bloom’s Tax­on­omy.  That doesn’t seem like a very effec­tive way to pre­pare stu­dents for today’s world.  The ques­tion, “How much time should you spend on some­thing that stu­dents can find on the Inter­net in a few sec­onds?” can hope­fully be used as a con­ver­sa­tion starter.  Edu­ca­tors need to become much more con­scious about what is taught in schools.  When I reflect back on my time as a Social Stud­ies teacher, I real­ize I spent too much time on those basic facts.  The drive to “get through” the cur­ricu­lum can eas­ily result in a total lack of depth in any con­tent area.  I’m not call­ing for the elim­i­na­tion of all fac­tual knowl­edge, but we need to closely exam­ine all of the things that are taught in schools.  The most impor­tant part of this entire con­ver­sa­tion may sim­ply be that edu­ca­tors need to have this conversation!

  4. Thanks for this. This really struck a chord because I’ve been think­ing about this for some time. How many teach­ers out­side the math depart­ment could do even the sim­plest things that our pupils are asked to do in math class? How many adults out­side the his­tory depart­ment could cough up the infor­ma­tion that stu­dents are required to? I have a sneak­ing feel­ing that we are wast­ing a lot of everyone’s time. Why don’t more peo­ple ask your ques­tion “How impor­tant is a con­cept if most adults don’t know the infor­ma­tion”? There is, of course the point that adult igno­rance could be a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for teach­ing a par­tic­u­lar topic: school as an agent for social change. Oth­er­wise, your ques­tion seri­ously calls into ques­tion much of what we do in schools.

  5. Maria says:

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