Time for a Paradigm Shift
Mark Phillips’ recent post “Education Reform Paralysis – and How to Fix It” asks some provocative questions about how we can get out of the current education reform scenario that might be summarized as “If you keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.” Tinkering with the schools we have won’t get us the schools we need. One problem (and Phillips admits this freely) is that most educators are too busy with immediate problems to figure out what a new vision for schools would look like.
Phillips calls on reformers and policymakers, who have the luxury of time, to consider a shift in the schooling paradigm. He envisions a learning environment for kids that is more connected to nature and not organized around artificially separated “subjects” like “English.” NCTAF has long pushed for hands-on, interdisciplinary learning. The possibilities are endless because information is there for the taking on the internet, which is ever-more accessible. Phillips imagines classrooms as “command center[s] for a learning process that involved local media, worldwide web communication, and the creation of integrated imagery and words shared with the community.”
The first step in creating this paradigm shift is to redesign the role of teachers who team up to lead these command centers. As Phillips notes, teachers need more time to think, plan, and collaborate. But we need to go further and reinvent the job of teaching and how it’s organized.
Likening us in our current impasse to the square in Edward Albott’s Flatland, Phillips illustrates how closed and static the current system is. A new paradigm for schools must take advantage of the multi-faceted world of the internet, global communications, and social media. But, with the advent of the internet—the explosion of information accessible anywhere/anytime— the world has flattened in an altogether different sort of way. Information is everywhere for the taking; teachers must be empowered to reinvent themselves into teams of facilitators, guides, and curators. Students need teachers to help them consume and produce media appropriately, namely to think critically to find what’s accurate and prioritize what’s important. Only then, can we redesign schools to operate effectively in the many dimensions of information teeming in our flat, globalized world.