Richardson mentions that a "recent IBM survey of CEO's asked them to name the most crucial factor for future success. They cited creativity and managing the growing complexity of the world." This should be a wake up call to all of us. We need to keep in mind one of the most vital purposes of school--to prepare students for the work force. In mathematics, for example, it's important that students know the formal definition of the derivative. But how will that formal definition help them when they're writing code for computer software, designing robotics, or managing the finances of a multinational conglomerate? Students need to develop a deeper understanding of the concepts we teach and how to use them.
Richardson presents six ideas for unlearning or relearning. One such topic that has me concerned is the idea of "share everything." Richardson asks, "How can you make sure that every student who walks on graduation day is well Googled by his or her full name?" In response I ask myself, "What can we do to first teach our youths how to protect themselves online?" With teenagers driven to suicide by online trolls, and predators stalking their victims through the Internet, the web has unwittingly provided access to a host of new methods for people to emotionally and physically harm others. As educators, we should help our students to cultivate their technological literacy, but it's imperative that we teach our students how to stay safe. Thus I'm really not open to the idea of "share everything."
However, when Richardson says "talk to strangers," he does not mean that we should send our children out into the digital world to get in contact with just anybody. Richardson tells us, "scientists, journalists, politicians, athletes, authors, historians, other students--they are all out there for the learning." There are many people out there who are valuable assets to the learning experiences of our students, and our schools generally don't provide access to those assets. This is an idea with which I can be on board. Richardson says, "Classroom connections to people online who can enhance your students' learning will thin the walls, so to speak, and open up all sorts of possibilities for exploration and collaboration. And, more important, it's a chance to teach kids how to do this for themselves."
Another idea Richardson presents is to "discover, don't deliver, the curriculum." I am all for this idea, and it is particularly important in mathematics. For example, when solving application problems, we may write an expression such as 7x. Simply telling students where in the word problem the notion of 7x comes from is not enough, and neither is explaining my own reasoning why I write 7x. Students need to construct the 7x themselves in order to understand it. The point is that 7x should have meaning for each student instead of being some unfathomable, abstract concept. As Richardson states, "Teachers need to be great at asking questions and astute at managing the different paths to learning that each child creates. They must guide students to pursue projects of value and help them connect their interests to the required standards. And they have to be participants and models in the learning process."
Richardson has a few other ideas, and he suggests that a teacher should "be a master learner." Doesn't it make sense that someone who is teaching children to enjoy learning and how to learn should themselves continue learning and be willing to learn? I could definitely commit to being a master learner in order to improve my expertise with the content I plan to teach, but also because I realize that I need to model my learning process for my students. Richardson also professes that students should "do real work for real audiences." I think this is an interesting idea, and executed properly it could enable students to gain valuable experiences with indelible memories. "Transfer the power" is Richardson's sixth idea, and like being a "master learner," it makes sense. He's telling us to create ways that enable our students to choose which paths to take. This can help our students to own what they're learning and to take pleasure in it.
There are whole worlds of knowledge out there for our students, and us, to explore. As Richardson states, "Teachers and classrooms are no longer found only in brick-and-mortar schools." The Internet is inundated with educational opportunities of which we do not take enough advantage in our schools (I myself am a fan of Crash Course World History with John Green on YouTube). Does this mean we should scrap school altogether? I think not, but I also believe we should take greater advantage of the vast libraries of digital learning tools, educational videos, and other online resources for the benefit of our students.
Richardson, W. (2012) Why School? How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere. [Kindle version]. Retrieved from Amazon.com.