Modern learners need modern leaders

The Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) Conference held on Nov. 20 featured a keynote speaker, Will Richardson, who is the author of the highly ranked and read edublog, Weblogg-ed. He is also an author of the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. He challenged school board members and superintendents across the state of Iowa to step up as modern leaders for the modern learners currently in our schools.

As a lifelong Cubs fan, his analogy hit home when he said having the Cubs win the World Series is just as impossible a task as changing our schools. That was a big ouch! For those that don’t know baseball, the Cubs have not won the World Series in over 100 years. For us in schools, to be compared to the Cubs who have not won a World Series in over a century means that we really do need to consider what is required to help our modern students.

Richardson explained that students today don’t need the information that teachers have because they have infinite information at their fingertips with Internet access. They are just a click away to obtain more knowledge available than at the best library in the country. He challenged us to say, “How have we changed the way we provide schooling since information is infinite?”

He also asked us, “Do we have productive learning that kids want to learn more about, and are we providing the conditions for learning that students are engaged in and excited about their work?”

He said only 37 percent of students are engaged in class. Yet, he contradicted  that with these same students who play video games, like Minecraft, for hours trying to build worlds upon worlds. They have the ability to become engaged if they find their passion!

He also said students need adults in their lives. They need them as mentors and guides. Educators in schools are no longer students' only teachers. With the Internet, there are thousands of people who can be their teacher. He pointed out that, unfortunately, many teachers are afraid of technology and are behind the curve with their personal knowledge.

Many students actually know more than most teachers! Here are a few examples of students who took their passion outside the four walls of school and are known worldwide for their work:     
    - Sylvia’s Super-Awesome Maker Show;
    - Jacob Arnott, 14-year-old that reported at the London Olympics;
    - Jack Andraka, 15-year-old who found cure to pancreatic cancer

These kids are all internationally known, but their passion is getting them no credit in their respective schools. We need to make sure "Passion-Purpose-Participation" are components that are present in our classrooms. We have to remember that students spend a little over 1,000 hours per year in school, but 4,000 hours per year using technology. We must work on that clash of context as we build the modern classroom for our modern schools.

If teachers are learners first and educators second, we will become more student-oriented and classrooms across the country will be more engaging!

On another note, be sure to check out our blogs, which we hope will inform, inspire and guide your daily work:

For a complete listing of all blogs, please go to the Northwest AEA website. You can also sign up for an RSS feed to automatically receive blog updates (instructions provided on the Northwest AEA website).

Educationally yours,

Dr. Tim Grieves
Chief Administrator