Apr 19, 2013

Teaching in the 21st Century

I recently came across an article by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times (online edition) that caught my eye. The title: "Need a Job? Invent It". The content: mainly about education (schools) and intrinsic motivation. So naturally I was curious.

For the most part, Friedman quotes Harvard education specialist Tony Wagner, who has written a book entitled Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World. This is what Friedman writes about his main argument: "...the goal of education today, argues Wagner, should not be to make every child 'college ready' but 'innovation ready' -- ready to add value to whatever they do."

What does he mean by that? Friedman wondered the same and asked. I particularly find the parts I highlighted in bold interesting. These are Wagner's words:
"Today," he said via e-mail, "because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know. The capacity to innovate -- the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life -- and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge. As one executive told me, 'We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can't teach them how to think -- to ask the right questions -- and to take initiative.'" (emphasis mine)
I think he's absolutely right in his assessment. And guess who should be teaching all these young people how to think critically, how to communicate, collaborate and so forth? Teachers, of course. But unfortunately there are still too many of them that are busy doing other things:
"We teach and test things most students have no interest in and will never need, and facts that they can Google and will forget as soon as the test is over," said Wagner. "Because of this, the longer kids are in school, the less motivated they become. Gallup's recent survey showed student engagement going from 80 percent in fifth grade to 40 percent in high school. More than a century ago, we 'reinvented' the one-room schoolhouse and created factory schools for the industrial economy. Reimagining schools for the 21st century must be our highest priority. We need to focus more on teaching the skill and will to learn and to make a difference and bring the three most powerful ingredients of intrinsic motivation into the classroom: play, passion and purpose." (emphasis mine)
I believe that this is the greatest challenge teachers face today: finding ways to intrinsically motivate their students. A lot harder said than done, if you ask me. Any suggestions on how to accomplish this?

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