I may watch the film, Independence Day today (Will Smith saves the world from aliens) and watch fireworks tonight (Costco parking lot with lawn chairs and thermos of hot chocolate). It seems fitting today also to wonder about our right to educational freedoms. Not so much what the band Pink Floyd famously decried in their album, The Wall. I am more thinking about the growing concern about one size fits all, across the board teaching and learning standards that make assessment simpler for schools, but leave out students with different learning styles.
Any significant freedom does come at a cost and the path to encouraging 21st century learning styles and skills will require a change in investment from all parties. Schools will need a different and diverse assessment strategy and set of tools. Teachers will need more academic technology support and students will need to invest in their own learning in different ways. This will not be easy but as our society and workplace evolve, a new learning ecology is no longer a distant dream, but is a current and coming reality.
In the recent book, “21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn (Bellanca//Brandt, 2010) the collection of authors talk about the challenges facing educators and students in breaking free from traditional teaching and learning models. When the colonists ventured out to the new world, there were still some comfort in some of the protections offered by England. But the new world required a new way of thinking and living that pushed back against the safer, traditional ways. At the cost of all they had, even their lives, the patriots that formed our union and published the Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776 forged a new identity for our new nation.
Today as I celebrate with my family and friends I am mindful of the sacrifices that undergird the freedoms we all now celebrate. For education, we are also at a crossroads - caught between what was and what will be. Sometimes I want the spaceship from Independence Day and Will Smith to come in and blast our way to the future but … it is maybe a cliche though so true … that it is the challenges that forge our character. Today on Independence Day, I believe more than ever that our cause is just - to encourage the dreamer in 21st century students so … put another hot dog on the BBQ, watch those cool firework displays and appreciate the cost of freedom. Happy Independence Day!