In the 80s, as a music teacher for kids with labels and diagnoses, it was my joy to have had the forethought to have school systems buy mixing equipment and teach students how to use it. Was this outside-the-box education, or did I view the current trend and make it part of the classroom experience? Obviously, the latter. I hooked onto the present culture to make school relevant and valuable to students whose lives were, typically, out of control, and whose lives some would have said were barren due to lack of parents in their lives.
Today, the normal media used in school has changed, so there are more choices, easier accessibility and more flexible lessons using this new media. This fact is a small part of what defines Education 2.0. Using exceptional field trips, presentations, creativity and lessons as normal make it so.
Here are five immediate steps available to all schools now that, when employed, would transition us from getting stuck in uninspired rote education to the ever-changing current trends bringing value to our students. These methods include making the student more autonomous so that, when it is time for the student to become the teacher, the student is ready, willing and able.
1. Every teacher should be required to create a lesson every week that relates to current trends. Examples of these might be exploring methods of buying music online (to which a lesson on copyright would be appropriate), reporting on the newest piece of art in a museum (to which a lesson in appraisal and auction would be valuable), reporting on the changing trends in online education (to which a lesson in the pros and cons of schooling online or homeschooling would make sense for the sake of debate and staying current). The idea is to connect with the society and the world in which the student lives so that s/he receives value from the information and is in a better position to make informed choices, especially about education. Part of the assignment would require including one piece of startling statistical data, such as the amount of art that exists and the percentage of it that actually gets into a museum or comparing the percentage of college graduates who have come from online learning vs. brick-and-mortar education.
2.a. The school calendar should make time for a creativity fair: individual projects and a project as a class, nurturing individual prowess and exploration as well as developing cooperative interpersonal skills. In grades higher than eight, a philosophy and debate fair could be added. This focus would encourage students to develop discussions around their beliefs.
2.b. Every school should sponsor a Special Olympics event and assign one non-Special Olympian student to a Special Olympian in the school or in the direct community to assist with personal campaigning and banners and to provide all the flash and bang of the football game.
2.c. The school calendar should make time for a very special arts festival based on the original model where students without disabilities assist those with disabilities either in their school or in their direct community for the purpose of feeling the pride of arts presentation.
These events don’t negate the science fair, book fair or any other established events that enrich the cultural and academic lives of the children. They add the focus of community service for all students and celebrate the creative abilities of each student.
3. Every student should be required to tutor one person for one period a week. Most of the students with below grade point averages would be available at the current school. Others could be tutored through video call in neighboring schools. This teaches citizenship as well as particular internet video conferencing skills. It also makes every student responsible for every other student. Administration could provide below grade point students to students who are excelling. Administration would assist below grade point students in finding candidates for them to tutor.
This assigned task would satisfy the following maxims: teach what you want to learn, give unto others, get the incredible lesson of learning what your student has to teach, be giving because you are human and humane.
4. Two times a year, each class/grade/school should be prepared to be part of an artist’s gallery.(N.B.: the difference between 2.a. and 4. is in the focus. One focuses on being creative. The other focuses on the creating the gallery including the art itself. They are certainly interrelated.) All students would be involved in the production. Those whose photos, paintings, animations, movement arts, music arts, debates are worthy would be the exhibitors. Others would be the marketers, set designers, videographers, researchers for the debaters.
Local museum curators, choreographers, movie producers should be sent an invitation or a video of the gallery. The video of the gallery would be a living record for each student, and the event could be listed on personal resumes. This gallery would gently demonstrate to old-school teachers that integrated production builds cooperation, creativity, skill enhancement, but, most of all, connection and value to the educational process.
5. Within the school system, two times a year starting in the third grade, the school should provide a one-hour job fair. Local business experts would be called in to talk about their field, and all students would sign up for one of ten general categories of work: medical field, ranging from doctor to dental assistant; legal field, ranging from attorneys to police officers; construction, ranging from architects to crane operators to painters to maintenance crews; language, ranging from librarians to authors to copywriters to translators; marketers-online and off, including advertising, sales, marketing; public service, ranging from politicians to emergency managers to city managers to clergy; business and finance; ranging from mult-national CEOs to stock brokers to solo entrepreneurs; creative field, ranging from musicians to graphic artists to teachers (usually not appropriately places in this category); technology, ranging from software creators to systems administrators; science; alternative energy.
Everyone would get to listen to the subject matter and make a small connection with an expert in the field. Each student would fill out a job application. Student tutors of below grade point kids would have previously gone over the process of filling out job applications in preparation and would be available on site for help. Some students could also create the job applications for themselves and others.
In conclusion, we must build value into our lessons. It must be relevant to the lives of our students, and we must efficiently, kindly, quickly and internally assist those below grade point students in our school as if they are family. I agree with The Ron Clark Academy, where they offer global trips, sliding scale tuition, service to all levels of local Atlanta kids starting in the fifth grade with continued assistance in the lives of their students through college application.
It is thought by many that if a teacher doesn’t attract a student to learning by the fifth grade, s/he is probably lost to education. Therefore, it is our duty as educators to develop Education 2.0 in every school and school setting. As our education system becomes this, we can attract our students by building enough pathways so that they will trust us enough to study. The benefit to the teacher is in seeing the student succeed and in being able to use the creative process to create the most exhilarating lessons through nurturing and creativity. The benefit to the student is in utilizing the learning process to put down roots, in developing the ability to choose a path and in using these skills to succeed at what is ahead.
Diane Gold is a facilitator and mentor. Her subjects are tai chi, kung fu, music and stress management. She has established music mixing programs in schools with emotionally disturbed and developmentally disabled students under 21 in NY State school systems. The joy the students felt in being able to be creative and to use current music and social mores and trends as education increased their capacity for learning and their interest in school, in general.