During the early 1900s America went through tremendous growth in manufacturing and the jobs that were available. Companies such as Ford Automotive demanded assembly line workers who could follow simple directions, memorize patterns, and retain a lot of facts about different parts of a working machine. The development of factories was so significant in our cultural identity that it actually shaped the way the American education system developed its pedagogy.
Schools became assembly lines for children. Teachers specialized in a single subject; students were ushered from classroom to classroom being fit with each part as they went down the line. Students could be seen sitting in desks placed in rows, taking notes, raising their hands to answer questions, and then working independently on an assignment. On rare occasions you may have witnessed student working in groups.
The times are changing: education is not.
Fast forward to 2018. Jobs that are in high demand now are not factory jobs; those have all been shipped overseas. According to Business Insider the jobs of the future are in engineering, customer service/HR, data science, architecture, technology management, financial analysis, and medicine. None of these fields require assembly line skills, but rather critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, and excellent communication skills.
We have seen a huge shift in the way our society functions and the needs required in the workplace, and yet I fear that education has not made the same adjustments needed to keep up with the ever changing world. As much as industry revolutionized the world a century ago, the digital age is having an even greater impact on our world today. Leaders in education must embrace new and better ways of educating children that prepare them life after graduation.
Embracing this change is not simply buying the new technology and placing into the hands of the teachers and students. It is a complete revision of how schools should operate. Schools no longer have to be contained in a building and with pen and paper. Educational leaders need to provide appropriate professional development in technology and pedagogy for their teachers and create a culture of taking risks.
We are all the leaders in education today; students, teachers, instructional facilitators, interventionists, principals, and superintendents. We are moving into uncharted waters as new resources are being introduced daily. Educators and leaders need to be problem finders instead of problem solvers. It is not enough to wait until there is a deficit in skills like we are seeing today. The industrial age has come and gone, it is time for the education system that was structured around the assembly line to move on as well.
Adjusting to the digital age
In the book Digital Leadership by Eric Sheninger, the author outlines several different research based tools that can be used in the classroom which have shown positive results when used. I have experience with some of these tools. Most of the schools I have visited have been privileged with interactive white boards, tablets, document cameras, Chromebooks, and mobile technology.
Apple TV is a technology that I am familiar with in my own home, but had not thought about using it in the school. One major draw to using Apple TV in the classroom is its ability to mirror images from any Apple device onto a television or screen. If you are in a school that is able to provide iPads or other Apple devices, then all you need is an Apple TV and a device to project onto a screen such as a interactive white board or HDMI projector. Students would be able to share their work on their computer directly with the entire class.
Everyone in the education world is very aware of FERPA; if they are not, then they will most likely not have a job for long. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ensures that no student information is shared with outside parties who do not need or require access to the information. With the shift of Cloud storage schools are able to spend less money on physical servers, and instead switch to virtual servers to house all documents. There is nothing in FERPA that restricts the use of virtual servers as long as there is documentation saying that the party housing the digital data will not share information without the parent or student’s permission.
Companies such as Google, Voicethread, Prezi, Padlet and many others are releasing free tools that promote collaboration, communication, and creativity. These are all skills needed to be successful in any workplace. The worn out cliché “there is an app for that” applies with Web 2.0 Applications.There are thousands of free applications to teach virtually any skill that is needed in today’s work place. Educators should look into the different applications to help create individualized lessons for the needs of all students.
As stated before, the need to have a school building is quickly fading. Video conferencing allows students to participate in a virtual classroom from a remote location. Videos of lectures can be uploaded to a classroom website or Google classroom for student access after school hours.
These are just a few tools that can be used to move classrooms away from industrial education and into the digital age. If you have any more tools to promote a 21st century classroom environment please leave a comment below!