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Chasing Failure

Posted by on in Education Leadership
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downloadI had the honor of hearing Ryan Leak speak at @iamembrace.  His message was spot on and drove me to write this post. We have known for quite some time that we need to start to change our 19th Century Factory-Model Education System. We have seen some schools being innovative in how they can change this model. As I was listening to @Ryanleak, it became evident to me that we ALL must make a change NOW. We must be bold and courageous and make necessary changes for our learners and their future.

Let's talk about why our 19th Century Factory-model Education System needs to change.

Let's talk about why our 19th Century Factory-model Education System needs to change.

Do you know what jobs are going to be created for our students when they graduate? The system we currently have was created to prepare students for assembly lines and for working in factories. With the use of technology, we now need people that can run those automated systems to make them better. We need critical thinkers to solve the next big problem in the technology world. 

A book that I love reading is Invent To Learn by Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager. In it they say:  “The “jobs of the future” do not need scientists who have memorized the periodic table. In fact, business leaders say they are looking for creative, independent problem solvers in every field, not just math and science. Yet in most schools, STEM subjects are taught as a series of memorized procedures and vocabulary words, when they are taught at all.”

We experienced this first hand at our school, just before this past holiday break, when our middle school principal, Darren Ellwein (@dellwein), made a connection with a Wind Turbine Company. Through this connection, we had the honor of learning what this company does. On the day of their visit to our school, our students were out in the commons flying drones. During this visit, we heard about a new job that they have available for 2016. They are in need of drone operators to fly and inspect the wind turbine propellers. In the past, they sent people up to do this, but with technology advancing, they now can use drones to send a beam into the propellers that collects data and sends it back to the company. This job did not exist just a year ago, but now it has been created, and they are in need.

Here is a list from Forbes: top 10 jobs that didn't exist ten years ago.
Forbes Link to the article

1.) App Developer

2.) Market Research Data Miner

3.) Educational or Admissions Consultants

4.) Millennial Generational Expert

5.) Social Media Manager

6.) Chief Listening Officer

7.) Cloud Computing Services

8.) Elder Care

9.) Sustainability Expert

10.) User Experience Design

Let’s take some time to reflect.

In 1983, we saw the start of cutting edge technology coming into schools. Microsoft released MS Word, and Apple introduced the new Apple IIe. Today, 2016 we have a plethora of technology which sits right in the hands of our students, in the form of their own personal devices, but schools continue to have students check them into little cubbies or keep them in their lockers.

Cell Phone Hotel http://www.newsner.com/en/2015/06/school-ban-phones-and-is-praised-by-thousands-of-parents-their-solution-is-spot-on-2/
Cell Phone Hotel written by Newsner Click on image to go to the article.

On the flipside, you then have some schools that are being bold and courageous and empowering their staff and students to embrace these technologies and to use them to enhance their learning experiences. Even with schools adapting to these new technologies there is not much research evidence that shows that these tools are helping to actually strengthen our education system. How can this be when technology has impacted almost every other aspect of our world?

Let us look at our education system to learn more!

We continue to move students through grades every year even if they have not mastered all the standards in that grade. I think back to my schooling and what did it really mean in Algebra 1 that I got a B-? I got great grades on my homework typically, but did not take the test very well. Most of my test grades would be between B's and C's. Instead why are we not supporting our learners and giving them feedback on what in Algebra 1 do they need work on. We are always asking our students to be specific on assignments-- why are we not doing the same in return?

We have a rigid bell schedule that herds our students from class to class every 43 to 50 minutes in Middle School and High School. Stop and think how our business world would operate if we told them they had to switch gears in what they were working on every 43 minutes? Our business industry would come to a screeching halt. If the business world is operating this way why can't our schools embrace this model? Why not empower our students to create their schedules and their day of learning based on what they need as a learner. This is happening right now with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders at Pioneer Ridge Middle School in Chaska MN.

The question I return to is why are we scared to make a change to this system?

I believe it is because we are scared of failure. We are afraid to try something new even though we know deep down that this current system is not preparing our students for the world that they live in. Ryan Leak says, "The bridge between who we are and who we'd love to be in theory... is courage."

When will we have the courage to make this change for our learners?

In our current system, we too often want to save our students from failure.  Again, Sylvia Martinez and Gary Stager, in Invent to Learn say,  “Anytime an adult feels it necessary to intervene in an educational transaction, they should take a deep breath and ask, “Is there some way I can do less and grant more authority, responsibility, or agency to the learner?”

Schools across the country are starting to look at personalized or mass customized learning models for students. This is because they have come to the realization that we must make a change. This is a bold and courageous change to our system, but one that starts to impact all students and their learning. Through this, students are being given the opportunity to take ownership of their learning. They are able to drive their learning and as a result, uncover and discover their passions in life.

Ryan talked about ‘Chasing Failure’ and not letting that scare us from going after something big. He said, "Regardless of how big or crazy your dream is, ‘Chasing Failure’ will help you remove every excuse you've ever had for not pursuing the life you want to have."

We must stop making excuses for why we can't make a change and start ‘Chasing Failure’ and seeing what we can do to impact the future leaders of this great country, the children that we are here to serve.

2016 is going to be a great year! Stay tuned to learn about how I am embracing this idea of "What would you do if you could not fail?", and how I hope to start to change that 19th Century Factory-Model mindset.

It is time to be Bold and Courageous!

“Like all learners, an educator is not a vessel to be filled, but a lamp to be lit.”

 Sylvia Libow Martinez

See the full 14 minute documentary on "Chasing Failure" below
Please visit www.chasingfailure.com to learn more!


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I am a Technology Integrationist who is constantly pushing the newest tools to support creativity and innovation in our classrooms. I am passionate about makerspaces and making in schools.

I earned my B.A. Elementary Education and Master in Leadership at University of Sioux Falls where my research focused on personalized learning models for Elementary and Middle Schools. I believe we must change the factory style learning system and empower our students to take a hold of their learning.

For speaking inquiries please e-mail me at lensintolearning@gmail.com

You can connect with me on Twitter via @Travislape

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Guest Thursday, 18 October 2018