Thursday at NAIS ended with a stimulating panel discussion focused on students in the digital age and how they learn. Four “thought leaders” gathered to present their perspective on how children learn: Megan Smith V.P. at Google, Milton Chen of the George Lucas Foundation, Wanda Martinez president of the New Tech Network, and Shelley Goldman, professor of ed. at Stanford University. The panel was ably moderated by Wanda Holland Greene, head of the Hamlin School.
The panelists opened with statements about their view of the future of learning. Comments included:
· The future is networking and interconnection
· We have to adapt to our students - we have to stop telling our students to adapt to us.
· Technology that enables/culture that empowers/teaching that engages are required.
· Back to John Dewey - His ideas were about putting students in touch with their own learning. An example is project-based learning
· School life should be more like real life.
· Education is not preparation for life, education is life itself - John Dewey
All of this led to a discussion that was not so much about what learning will be like in the future, but was a message to the 4,000 assembled educators about the future of teaching. Add to the list above the following challenges to teachers at all levels:
· Teach teachers that it's okay for the classroom to look like organized chaos. Group dynamics is the big thing. Teachers are facilitators.
· Return us to an age when students were taught in a more intimate way, when they were in touch with families.
· Teachers as facilitators -- no longer “the sage on the stage”
· Start with the teachers: Re-light the lightbulb in the head. Remember what it feels like to be a hungry learner.
· Rather than "covering curriculum" we can help our students uncover meaning.
· We can help guide them in school about appropriate use and time spent online so they are more thoughtful about the time they spend at home. That means engaging in online work at school to start the dialogue.
· We need to reach our kids - include them as smart participants and honor their interests.
And finally, we ended with the thought that really challenges all of our teachers, possibly beyond their comfort zone:
“We are so comfortable with what we have today, we look for confirmation of our existing hypothesis. We look in the rearview mirror. The future either looks like the present or a lot like the past in most of our imaginations.”
How can we extend our imaginations to meet and comprehend the present, then to look forward to our student’s real world future (not our imagined one)?