Sunday, September 18, 2016

What is the Purpose of Education? #IMMOOC

If I had been asked the question, "What is the purpose of education?" a decade ago, I'm sure my answer would have focused on things like learning material, understanding the mechanics of writing, and other curriculum-based skills. In answering this question today, I still see an absolute need for kids to learn some core skills -- reading, writing, 'rithmetic -- I think the purpose of education has finally gone beyond learning those skills.

In his book The Innovator's Mindset, George Couros says on pg. 3  in the introduction, "Consider this: students have access to better resources online than what teachers could possibly offer." Facing this fact can be a real ego blow for some teachers who fancy themselves "experts". I certainly don't discount the knowledge that teachers have about their areas of expertise; teachers definitely have important information that is worth sharing with students! But teachers are no longer the main conduit for getting that information to students. Teachers need to embrace the myriad of excellent resources available to help them educate their students; other people have done all sorts of legwork for us -- we teachers would be silly not to use what's out there!

So to me, the purpose of education now is to make sure students learn the important information in all sorts of subject areas, but then they also must find ways to put what they learn to use. They also need to learn all sorts of other skills that we used to consider part of the "hidden curriculum" -- things like cooperation, communication, organization, collaboration, research, speaking, presenting, analyzing, evaluation, application. Without opportunities to put these skills into practice, all the content learned will be useless, just sitting there in their minds (if we're lucky, it stays in there -- it's more likely it just fades away).

Innovation plays a critical role in education today because the nature of information is constantly changing. There is always new information -- both factual and false information -- and new ways that information is shared and accessed. In order for education to remain relevant for students, schools need to constantly reassess how their students are learning and change with the times. Without innovation, schools just update themselves but then become stagnant -- and we end up back in the situation so many schools are in now: facing the need for change but fighting the system to make it happen.

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