“We can’t ask our teachers to do new things if we as school leaders sit there and do the same old, same old,” David French, principal of Glenwood Elementary School, said last week in a Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) session on meeting the needs of today’s learners. “If you know your ‘why,’ your ‘what’ has more purpose and power.”
In a few short years, he noted, every K-12 student will be from the 21st century but none of their teachers will be. The student body and teachers will be from different centuries. Drawing from Dave Burgess’ “Teach Like A Pirate,” he told attendees that providing today’s students with an uncommon learning experience will require uncommon effort and attitude.
“You can’t teach them with yesterday’s lessons and expect them to be ready for tomorrow,” he said, adding that the traditional classroom, with its worksheets and physical textbooks, isn’t what’s going to prepare students to go to Mars or cure cancer in the long run.
For French, this switch flipped when he learned more about why students like to play games. Games, he said, provide an environment where we get to try without penalty because failure is part of the journey. Everyone can be a hero, and games are goal-oriented and provide, in some ways, a representation of the world students want to be a part of. They’re social and provide positive stress.
School leaders, he said, must tap into students’ need to be challenged in that way. Learning must be made relevant, with a connection to real-world applications and interests. Educators must look at learning through students’ eyes and see that school shouldn’t be a place students go “to watch old people work.”
“Would kids show up to your classroom if they didn’t have to?” he asked.