July 12, 2022
Let’s all take a moment to pause in the middle of the whirlwind that is education.
One year ends and we immediately start looking toward next year. Our brains are always racing to find ways for better engagement, high levels of learning, and efficiency. We never get to pause, take a deep breath, and let our minds sit on the purpose of this ever-accelerating cycle of education.
Together, let’s ponder: What is the purpose of education in 2022?
The Foundation of Education
Our current education system was designed after the last industrial revolution. The general public was largely uneducated, unable to read and knowledge was in short supply. If you wanted to learn about the world, your history, math skills, and the scientific method someone needed to take that information and present it to you.
With knowledge stuffed into books, which were not readily available to most, these lessons needed to be memorized to hold on to forever. Looking that information up was not easy and most did not have the time. Knowledge needed to be memorized to later be applied. The time in school was short and therefore the pacing of the curriculum needed to be controlled. The teacher’s job was to control the flow of information and the students were passively learning, expected to absorb as much as possible because tomorrow they might have to work.
Fast Forward to Today
The needs of students today are far different from those of past generations. Through leaps in technology, we have access to all of human history at our fingertips. We can look up random facts, dates, and unrelated pieces of trivia. High-performing AI can do the rote jobs that bore us and is quickly building to take over more complex tasks. What was considered “educated” in the past, memorization and rote execution of tasks, is not what our students need now to navigate an increasingly ambiguous and complex future (according to employers).
The evolution that has taken place in every other aspect of society has largely left education alone. Generally speaking, schools still function as they did in the past. In any state, you can walk into a classroom where students are at desks passively taking notes as a teacher talks. Students are still taking recall-based standardized tests as a measurement of “education”. Not much has changed in this sphere even though so much has changed in the world.
Changing our Mindset of Education
Several shifts have occurred in the past few decades. We are experiencing a technological revolution moving at hyperspeed in the last few years. The majority of the world is online, with people working in diverse teams and in different time zones. The shift is not just in the way we work, but the work that needs to get done has changed as well. With AI growing ever more intelligent, the jobs that can be done by following directions or with rote memorization can be automated. Dell estimates that 85% of the jobs that our students will do have not even been created yet.
With a world that is changing that rapidly what does it mean to educators whose purpose is to prepare students for the future?
Building Human-Based Skills
To truly prepare students for the future we need to focus on keeping up with a landscape that is constantly evolving. This means preparing students with skills that are transferable, flexible, and adaptive. If students are going to spend 12 years in school it is our responsibility to provide them with the tools necessary to be successful in the world that awaits them.
This is not to demean content or make the argument that it is not important. Gaining knowledge about the world is absolutely necessary, but we need to see it in terms of the student’s view and not ours. Our students know they can Google this content, and they are paying attention to the news. They see that the world is shifting, the adults are uneasy, and the jobs that their parents have may not survive another generation.
Our students are growing up in a creator economy. People of their generation are finding solutions, or missed opportunities, and are already building wealth. Many students, even starting in elementary school, will verbalize that they want to work in a different way than their parents do. They see in their everyday interactions and the media that the world has shifted, and often question what the purpose of their education is.
We must be ready to answer these questions to keep our students engaged. Therefore, we MUST shift our focus. Content is important, but it is not the MOST important element of learning. Education needs a shift to student focused learning where the children interact with content, find ways to apply and practice the human-based 21st century skills.
Agility in Education
An Agile classroom is built on the foundation of people instead of process, collaboration, and problem-solving. Through integrating the values and principles of agile into the classroom, students run their own learning teams. They break down large projects into smaller tasks. They prioritize work, communicate to determine their own pace, and set mutually agreed upon schedules to determine when work is done. In short, they learn the skills that adults use in the professional and business worlds.
Agile classrooms do more than just prepare students for employment. As a member of a team, students must collaborate to solve problems, applying new content knowledge to real life issues including sustainability, threats to the human body, shifting demographics, and social justice.
This allows students to build connections to new knowledge from their existing schema. They are able to reach outside of the content area to combine lessons from several classes, building more flexible cognitive models and growing their creative approach to work.
With agility, students are able to organically learn the way they did as toddlers. They pull in information, find opportunities for application, and in the process, their learning becomes personalized and meaningful. Students are taught as whole people, learning how to communicate, develop socially and navigate complex problems. With small changes, education can be transformed into having purpose and meaning to the students and bringing value back into the classroom.
Benefits for the Teachers
Agile benefits students. There is no doubt. It rethinks education and defines its purpose. It addresses the whole child using the content that is already being taught.
To be clear, the change does not fall onto the already full plates of teachers. Small changes in units and projects that already exist can begin to build agile classroom culture.
Agile makes teaching EASIER and BETTER.
Teachers still plan and scaffold, but instead of controlling the flow of information as in a traditional classroom, they become a facilitator of learning. The planning is done before, as always, but the difference is teachers are not in the front of the room transmitting the daily plan while managing behaviors and trying to differentiate.
In an agile classroom teachers prepare their unit. All work, rubrics, videos, and resources are provided to students at the start. Students break down the work. Students control the flow. Students take assessments when ready. Teachers are able to move around the room, pushing into the small groups, having authentic conversations, and supporting students one-on-one. They are able to bring their passion to the classroom because they can truly teach. The repetitive test prep and lecture that drained them before is no longer part of their day. Instead, it is replaced by genuine interactions, real learning, and relationship building. Agile classrooms are student-driven, therefore the teacher supports, facilitates, and probes for deeper understanding. Teachers can enjoy their jobs while their students benefit and real learning is occurring.
The world has evolved. The future is being created. We must bring the growth mindset and adaptive ways of learning into our K-12 educational model. While this sounds like a dream, it is being done in individual classrooms all around the world. The time to take action is now. Our students and teachers deserve it.
If you’d like to learn more about agile in education please visit our website: www.The-Agile-Mind.com or attend one of our weekly Teacher’s Lounge virtual meetings where educators from all over the world have created a community to support students and teachers. Register here.
You may also be interested in reading more articles written by Jessica Cavallaro for Intrepid Ed News.