The Urgent Need to Shift to Engaged, Personalized and Student-Centered Learning

March 9, 2013

I stopped blogging for a while so I could step back and think about education newly. I wanted to re-orient myself and insure I was focusing on what was important. So I stepped back and read and thought and traveled and met and spoke, and thought some more. As things were starting to make sense, I had a plan about things I wanted to blog about.

But today I was jolted into blogging by an article in eSchool News that everyone should read .  I was shocked (and I’m not easily shocked) by the report of the Consortium for School Networking’s (CoSN) 2013 annual conference in San Diego last week. The theme was that “[t]ransforming schools from places that deliver traditional, factory-era models of instruction to institutions that support engaging, personalized, and student-centered learning requires bold, audacious leadership.”

That means that we don’t have engaged, personalized, and student-centered learning. That means we want engaged, personalized, and student-centered learning. It means it will take a lot of work to get there! This is serious!  And we don’t have audacious leadership!

From the article:

“We need disruptive, innovative leaders to move 21st-century education forward,” said Jean Tower, CoSN board chair, in kicking off the conference March 12. Tower is also director of technology for the Northborough and Southborough Public Schools in Massachusetts.”

OK, we’ve heard of this before.  Anyone who’s followed Clay Christensen’s work on disruption, including his 2008 book Disrupting Class, Expanded Edition: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns will be familiar with this concept.

But how serious is the problem? One of the speakers, “Lord David Puttnam—who worked for Great Britain’s Ministry of Education for several years and is now chancellor of the online Open University—said education in the Western world isn’t at a “Sputnik” moment today, referring to the mobilization around science and math instruction that occurred in the 1950s when the Soviets launched a satellite into space.

“Instead, ‘we are at a Pearl Harbor moment,’ he said—suggesting the urgency to act is even greater now than in the 1950s….”  

I think this is very strong language. Is this a wake-up call we’ve not heard before?  After discussing the investment in education by other countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, Puttnam said those countries love to see “the dysfunction in the U.S. political system that’s holding education back.” Again, in very strong language, he noted  “Napoleon once said, ‘Never interrupt your enemy when he’s making a mistake.’ That’s how southeast Asia sees us.”  

Wow! I don’t consider education systems at war, but if the US education system fails, there goes the US economy, and the US! We can’t afford to fail. If Puttman is right, that means we need audacious leadership to move us to engaged, personalized, and student-centered learning. Hmmmmm…I think I may have mentioned this once or twice…

Want to read more shocking data!  Read the full article!

Posted by Mr. Mark Siegel on Tuesday March 19, 2013 at 10:52AM

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