National Public Radio’s “Mind Shift” featured an interesting excerpt from Will Richardson’s TED book, Why School: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere. It looked at the chapter, “Real Work for Real Audiences,” and asked if there was an alternative to allow students to create work that is relevant and useful for the age we live in today. He argues that students from kindergarten and onward should have a chance to work of lasting value and meaning. This is opposed to what most of us are used to, –that travel folder full of work folder, where select papers may be saved or put on the refrigerator, or it is quickly hung up on the bulletin board at school, before it reaches its end in the recycle box.
Mr Richardson envisions this real work as something students create on their own or with others, something personally significant, yet of a wide scope nature. For example, he talks about how students who are learning about the Vietnam War could go beyond the traditional format of book learning and lecture and interview veterans. From there, they could create podcasts of these interviews for people all over the world to hear what it was like for a Vietnam Veteran to serve in this war. He gives another example of science students going beyond studying tad poles, from the pond behind their school, and engaging in a project where science students in high schools from many places in the world are engaged in the same project. Instead of simply having local data and observations, they perform more of a global analysis of the different factors that affect tad poles, like differences in climate and geography, while learning about the subject. Their findings could be posted on-line. Additionally, he mentions studying “Romeo and Juliet.” Instead of just studying the play, young people could have an assignment of performing their own modern interpretation of the play, and streaming it on line to family and friends, or posting a video on “You Tube,” so their work is available for perpetuity.
So Richardson envisions students completing heartfelt, long lasting work, that makes good use of technology. He also sees increased: creativity; initiative; ability to collaborate on a local and global scale; and an ability to reflect and self assess growing out of such a way of learning. —Not just a pile of papers in the travel folder