Are We There Yet?
Submarines are majestic vessels made to go deep. It’s what they do. Education can empower kids do the same if we reframe how we’re currently navigating things, but we’re not there yet.
I’ve been thinking a lot about pedagogy and the nature of learning lately. My thoughts have vacillated between two schools of thought. First, we need to ensure students master the vast number of state standards they are responsible for learning. In some ways, these standards are like mile markers, or buoys. The standards help us understand where students need to go.
I’m also in favor of reducing the number of standards so that we can facilitate deeper learning and discovery, and that brings me to my second point. We need to empower our students to innovate throughout their classroom careers. Students should have a voice in their learning, and we need to trust them to actually create some of the mile markers along the way.
This is a matter that is deeply personal to me. I want my own three children to have the tools and space to invent a future that none of us is fully capable of grasping. When they are navigating their educations alongside their grade-level classmates, I ultimately want them to be able to envision new markers in their journey. I desperately hope there is a space for that.
I believe kids can learn at a high level while being empowered to pursue their passions and curiosity. We cannot sacrifice curiosity for achievement; kids deserve both. (There really is no dichotomy.) I wonder if one of the greatest gifts we can give our kids is not taking away their curiosity.
Are we there yet? How will we know when we get there? What are the critical drivers that will propel us in the right direction? How do you think we can create the conditions where high levels of learning, innovation, and curiosity reside?
True Learner Empowerment
We recently had a couple remote controls from our educational drones drop to the ground resulting in broken joysticks. Accidents happen and we completely understand this, but thanks to our amazing staff and students this is not the end of the story.
An elementary student was empowered to help engineer a new joystick using our school’s 3D printer. She worked with Mr. Hinnenkamp to create a tiny joystick sleeve that fit over the broken drone remote controls using a design program called Tinkercad. Everything works as good as new now, and our students had the opportunity to experience authentic innovation and learner empowerment.
This is precisely why we feel it is critical to put students in the center of their learning (even if it means things get messy or broken every once in a while). Kids have the capacity to innovate, engineer, think critically, and solve a myriad of real problems; they don’t require worksheets to do so! All students deserve the opportunity to work with cutting-edge technology in a safe and supportive learning environment. If the first time students have the opportunity to innovate and invent using real-world tools is high school or college, then we will have failed them.
This is more than a story about drones or a 3D printer. I took the opportunity to speak with the student that helped repair her drone remote control. The pride she exuded when she explained to me how she had fixed something that was accidentally broken was unmistakable. There was a humble confidence that I had not seen before. As we finished chatting I asked her how this experience made her feel and her response literally choked me up…I nearly cried. Suffice it to say, the opportunity she was given to fix her drone remote meant the world to her. And THAT means the world to me.
Thank you, teachers. Thank you for truly empowering our students. I honestly LOVE how our entire team empowers students and supports our kids in learning skills they will need to thrive today and excel tomorrow.