Karabi Acharya, Contributor
The other day, my 14 year old asked what a phone book was for. How could she know, given that she’ll only meet it in real life, if it’s re-purposed as a pencil holder? Like phone books, we used to have immutable facts all compiled in Encyclopedia Britannica: 9 planets in our solar system, the Soviet Union, and avoid alcohol. But now we have only 8 planets, no Soviet Union and thankfully red wine is good for you!
What do we do in a Wikipedia world where a fact lasts until someone edits it? Companies are recognizing that those companies thatlearn fastest, win and are struggling to build “learning organizations” as arecent article in Forbes outlined.
The bottom line is that facts are not enough – each person must be an engaged and active learner. When Dana Mortenson visits schools, she asks a deceivingly simple question: What kind of learner are you growing?Dana and her team at World Savvy are growing young people who can thrive as global citizens. Today’s world requires people who have global perspectives, have mastered the skill of empathy to see issues from multiple perspectives, and who can creatively problem-solve a myriad of issues.
Role of the teacher…Traditionally, schools were designed to teach students facts and teachers were the sources of this knowledge. But now students canGoogle facts (and opinions and differing perspectives) faster than many teachers. What is the role of teachers when they are no longer the sources of basic knowledge about the world? Google cannot help students construct a logical argument or analysis. Google cannot connect learning about the 1920s immigration wave to today’s debates over immigration and to the lived experience of the students. More than ever, teachers are facilitators of learning, who must provide opportunities for students to develop and apply critical thinking, problem-solving and analytic skills in the context of a rapidly changing world.
Photo credit: World Savy
Role of Metrics… While there is much debate over the pros and cons of the metrics established by No Child Left Behind, there is no doubt that “we do what we measure” as Dana says. “You need to set benchmarks for success but you also need to respond to a rapidly shifting environment—educating diverse populations for life in a rapidly changing world is a dynamic, complex endeavor, and we should constantly seek ways to capture that dynamism in how we evaluate the outcomes of learning.” For example, Dana works with schools that have experienced a 10 fold increase in their cultural and ethnic diversity and where there is too little effort to discuss the connection between that and school scores. If implemented effectively, the new Common Core standards will provide an opportunity to focus on higher order skills such as problem-solving, creativity, and analytic thinking as a critical outcome of K-12 education.
Reason for optimism…Dana tells the story of a school in California that was competing in the World Savvy Challenge, a signature youth engagement program. This school served very poor and marginalized kids who were mostly Latino and African-American. They were competing against students from much better resourced public schools and elite private schools. The issue for this particular World Challenge was human migration. While kids from the more elite schools rattled off every fact and figure, the poorer kids developed a creative presentation integrating facts with their lived experience as immigrants, ultimately winning the prize for Most Creative presentation —a first for their school.