What Game Are We Playing?

In the game of education, who is winning?

Is it possible the answer is no one?

When you think about the real function and purpose of education, what thought pops into your mind? Ideally we want our educational system in the United States to produce competent, well-rounded, insightful, and successful individuals. Now how do we measure that? In the system of today, student success is a numbers game. We look at graduation rates, college acceptance rates, and test scores? What game are we playing? What things are those numbers really telling us?

We are standing at a pivotal moment where the direction of the future of education is resting in the hands of policy makers of today. Technology advances and increasing knowledge of how the brain works has empowered innovators to flip the classroom, initiate standards based learning, embrace technology in the classroom with BYOD, and ask teachers to be empowered to relearn to teach. Meanwhile, in other places in the country cell phones and personal devices are still banned on campuses, student success is still measured on scantrons, and teachers are still droning on in the front of the classroom.  Is this the way to the future? What game are we playing at?

Think about the innovations. Flipping the classroom has asked students to take charge of their own learning and in doing so, find intrinsic value in their own education. They discover their own desire to inquire. Brain science says that intrinsic motivation leads to deeper and lifelong learning, and isn’t that the ultimate measure of success? Standards based learning is taking boring classes and connecting them to the real world with projects that come to life and make learning worthwhile to students. This further solidifies the individual desire to learn which, again, truly is the purpose of education.  Finally, technology and the BYOD movement including the use of apps, tablets & smartphones, gaming, social networks, and the good old internet offer learners an opportunity to not only take charge of their education, but also access it in a way they connect to. This makes the chore of the tough stuff more engaging. In this game, success of a student is inevitable… if it is done correctly.

And what about the teachers still standing in the front of the room droning on and on? Are they ready to relearn how to do what they do? Can they step aside and put the students center stage? Students need to learn from the team… the whole team, not from a single knowledge-holder whose calendar dictates what information gets leaked when. Establishing an environment of cooperative learning where students are learning from the people around them, from experts in the field, from other students in other classrooms all over the world, and from their teacher has the potential to give students the best of the best. And is it time to pay teachers who orchestrate this masterpiece successfully at a rate that retains their service and makes it a game they want to stay in?

So where are the policymakers? It is impossible to build the educational format of the future on the broken infrastructure to today. It is ridiculous to roll out these ideas in bits and pieces over a long period because it is a disservice to the students of today. How can policymakers reward embracing the innovation and playing the right game- a game that centers around real student success and not the bubbles on an answer document? If I had the answers to these questions, I would rule the world. Instead I ask you to think about your school, teachers, and students and ask this: What game are we playing and who is winning?


dartboards,darts,games,leisure,Photographs,targetsImage courtesy of: Microsoft.com

Interested in learning more? Justin Marquis also questions the game of education and provides some answers in his blog post Technology is the Answer to Educational Reform.

Want a new perspective on the game of education? Sir Ken Robinson has some epic ideas about the fundamentals of education. This video from RSA Animate is the best I’ve seen.


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