PBL-Problem Based Learning. Flipped Instruction. 21st Century Classrooms. Rubrics. Digital Citizenship. These are some of the buzz words that students, teachers and parents of Decatur ISD are going to learn in the upcoming months as DISD kicks off its Future Ready Project.
What does it mean to be Future Ready? As a parent—that’s what I am asking myself. My definition of school in general is to prepare the children for the future, correct? But, as a teacher, I answer the question differently. While of course we are preparing our students for their future, we are also preparing them for a workplace that has not been defined—meaning our ever-changing, fast-paced technology society has not dictated its next step, so our children must be prepared to creatively and collaboratively design the newest professions and workplaces.
When I was in high school, I did not own a cell phone, a personal computer, or an ipod. In fact, I would record songs off the radio onto a cassette tape so that I could make my own “mix.” Teachers pressed us to read news magazines and watch the nightly news to learn about current events because apparently we never knew what was “going on in the world.” Today, my soon-to-be-6th grader has her favorite songs (already on a playlist), up-to-the-minute news information (actually, ANY information!), constant communication (including long distance!), and a camera at her fingertips. She lives in a digital world where, according to her, Google has all the answers she needs.
My job as a teacher is to give her a question Google cannot answer.
Decatur ISD has partnered with Abilene Christian University in a plan to redefine classroom instruction to fit the mold of students in the 21st Century. In this plan, teachers and administrators will complete an intensive three-year training and implementation process to give them the tools to change current instructional models. Some of these tools include buzz worlds like problem-based learning. In problem-based learning, the teacher provides a driving question for students that targets the state objectives the students are responsible to learn. Students then actively research the question to find an accurate answer by using a variety of resources including but definitely not limited to Google. In fact, the key to a perfect driving question is its innate “ungoogleablitity.” (Yes, students might even create new words.) Students work on a team and must collaborate effectively to research and present the answer professionally. Throughout the entire process the teacher facilitates the research, keeps students on target, spot checks with quizzes or classroom discussion on the topic, etc. The classroom climate changes from the teacher being “Google” to the students doing the work behind Google. In the end, students should not just know the “what” but the “why,” “how,” and “why are we learning this,” too. But, problem-based learning is only a piece of this puzzle, and the ultimate mission behind the Future Ready Plan is to create student-centered classrooms where students will learn digitally,
think creatively, and compete globally.
As parents, we need to open our minds to educational change, and understand that classrooms today do not look and feel like the classrooms we had. We had textbooks; our kids have ipads. No longer can we “turn to Chapter three and begin reading,” because sometimes the class doesn’t even have a textbook. Your child’s work will look different. Where you might have completed twenty-four math problems every night for homework, your child might be playing a video game tournament to analyze numerical place value in the game scores. And, that’s ok. Every teacher and administrator wants to reach every student and provide that student with an amazing educational experience. This shift in classroom culture will stretch everyone—students, teachers, and parents. Our kids are ready with a cell phone in one hand and an ipad in the other. It’s our job to push them into the unknown.