Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

21 November 2008

Does Education Need to Change?

Clark @ 5:22 PM

George Siemens asks in his blog:

1. Does education need to change?
2. Why or why not?
3. If it should change, what should it become? How should education (k-12, higher, or corporate) look like in the future?

I can’t resist not answering.  1. ABSOLUTELY!  Let me count the ways…

K12 Education is broken in so many ways. We’re not engaging our students in why this is important, we’re not giving them problems to solve that resemble the ones that they’ll face outside, we’re focusing on the wrong skills, we don’t value teachers, we’ve crumbling infrastructure, we’ve beggared the budgets, the list goes on.

We need new curricula and new pedagogy at least. We should be focusing on 21st century skills (not knowledge): systems thinking, design, problem-solving, research, learning to learn, multimedia literacy, teamwork and leadership, ethics, etc; my wisdom curriculum.  We need pedagogies that engage, spiral the learning around meaningful tasks, that develop multiple skills.

We need this at K12, at higher education, and in the workplace.  We need technology skills infused into the curriculum as tools, not as ends in themselves.  We need teachers capable of managing these learning experiences, parents engaged in the process and outcomes, and administrations educational and political that ‘get’ this.  We need learners who can successfully segue into taking control of their learning and destiny.

Yes, a tall order.  But if we don’t, we basically are hobbling our best chances for a better world.  Look, the only way to have functioning societies is to have an educated populace, because you just can’t trust governments to do well in lieu of scrutiny. So, let’s get it started!


  1. Kia ora Clarke

    Your story is beginning to sound a bit like the bath, the bath-water AND the baby.

    I agree with you that education needs to change. It always does, so that it is relevant to the times – that almost goes without saying – that’s why we have constant curriculum updates etc, etc. We need new approaches too – but this is also what goes almost without saying, and for the same reasons.

    But new pedagogy? I hope you are not losing the plot here. It’s like Boeing deciding to build aircraft using new aerodynamics by chucking what’s known out and starting from scratch to create new aerodynamic principles.

    If we chuck out all we know about pedagogy in favour of finding a new pedagogy, you may encounter results similar to what can be achieved by attempting to fly a Boeing with one wing, or perhaps no elevators. The ensuing results are likely to have a certain commonality.

    It is too much a postmodern point of view that what we have learnt is history, and needs thrown out because of this. We need to re-think our methods – true. We need to make several paradigm shifts in our approaches – also true. But we need to keep a focus on what education is about.

    There is no sense crystal-ball gazing 20 or even just 10 years into the future. Our predictions are most likely to be way of the mark. Kids need to be taught how to learn AND how to think. If they get these two things, the rest will follow.

    Just reflect for a moment. Did your school teach you how to use a laptop computer? Did it give you the skills needed to create a blog and write a blog post? Did it show you how to embed a YouTube video? Do you think that if a wizz new Web2.0 technology came on the net tomorrow, you would not be able to use it because your teachers in secondary school didn’t have the vision to prepare you for that?

    I’d say that you are probably well equipped to cope with the 21st century, though your education was certainly 20th century based.

    Ka kite
    from Middle-earth

    Comment by Ken Allan — 23 November 2008 @ 8:21 PM

  2. Ken, thanks for the feedback. Let me be clear, we do know the right pedagogy, it’s just not showing up in schools. I would argue that schools, by and large, do not teach how to learn and how to think. If only. My child’s schools struggle to, against the weight of No Child Left Untested, and drastic funding cuts.

    Technology has served as a mirror, allowing us to examine our faults. As Arthur C. Clarke said “any truly advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”. I believe we’ve now the ability to do almost anything we can imagine. When we then go back and say “what is good learning”, we find it bears little resemblance to what happens in the classroom. It varies, and my lady chose a good school, but even there it’s far from optimum, and many schools are little more than day care or prisons. Certainly kids are graduating who really can’t read or do the appropriate math, let alone do critical thinking, continue learning, etc.

    I like to joke that we are the ones that have survived despite our education. I’m one of those who could learn in such an environment, but we’re missing lots of kids we can’t afford to lose. I think we agree more than we disagree, but I do think that our schools need an infusion of new thinking. Thanks for the feedback!

    Comment by Clark — 24 November 2008 @ 10:28 AM

  3. I could not agree more. As a student in an teacher certification program, technology is infused into all of our classes. It is encouraged that as a future teacher, I will utilize these technology skills as tools in my lessons to enhance the content.
    Also, it is expected that I teach students to think for themselves and take charge of their own learning!
    Thanks for your thoughts, Ken!

    Comment by Kelli — 24 November 2008 @ 3:13 PM

  4. Kelli, I’m thrilled to hear about your program, laud your concern, and cheer you on in your career. But this isn’t new; they’ve been using technology to teach teachers for a long time, and change is slow.

    I remember over 10 years ago now, talking to one of my educational technology colleagues who taught in a School of Education. He admitted that the changes weren’t penetrating into the classroom, despite the use in teacher training. I asked him why, and his story was that the student teachers, full of theory and enthusiasm, went into real classrooms with teachers who said “forget all that stuff you learned in school, we have behavior problems”.

    At our very good school, there’s a teacher who is essentially computer-phobic. Her kids will essentially have a year off of using computers as tools. It’ll be much harder for those kids to get up to speed with computers as tools. Another teacher was teaching how to use powerpoint; the menus and things, not about using presentation software to communicate. Mind-boggling! And I know that they struggle to create lesson plans that incorporate technology while meeting the daunting (and mind-numbing) standards.

    I share your enthusiasm and optimism, it’s just that my reality has been one that there’s still much room for improvement. So, again, I encourage your passion, but hope for some more direct pressures to have an influence before generational changes finally take hold.

    Comment by Clark — 24 November 2008 @ 3:51 PM

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