The Three R’s and the Four C’s: Education in a World of Innovation

Years ago my book club read a book entitled, Down the Common: A Year in the Life of a Medieval Woman. Marion, the medieval woman, and her husband, Peter Carpenter, lived in a village that had one but one book, the Bible, and one person who could read it, the priest. Her village had no school for her children nor were parents able to read a book if they had one. The Carpenters lived a life of toil, with little chance to improve their lot in life through learning.

Hello, Siri, hello Google Now, hi Alexa, sitting somewhere, awaiting our quest for the score of a game or the recipe for pumpkin pie or the capital of Zimbabwe or the answer to a complex statistical problem. Today, unlike when Marion lived, information is both ubiquitous and instantaneous. Wisdom, arguably, may be rarer.

In the last month I learned: autonomous vehicles are on a road today. Flying cars already exist. Medical patients share personal health data via upload from sensors carried on or in their bodies. “Office calls” are sometimes a video conference call made from home in comfy clothes with a cup of coffee (OK, that’s my dream). Goodness, even prisons are innovating incarceration with the use of GPS monitors and ankle bracelets.

What should schools teach in this whole new world? Clearly, students deserve the challenge of rigorous content, yet if students can (and I suspect do) find answers from Alexa and Siri, education at the knowledge level is simply not relevant. Please don’t read what I didn’t write. Do students need skills in reading and math, science and social studies? Absolutely. And moreover, at BPS you are aware that employers want employees who have practiced and mastered the four C’s while in school: collaboration with peers, critical thinking in applying content to solve sticky, wicky, and wacky problems; creativity to find answers not yet found; and deep skills in communicating with a variety of audiences (talk about a new demand in the doctor’s bedside manner). Plus, society wants people who can show up on time and self-regulate.

In addition to rigorous content and the four C’s, students and parents want the modern education experience to be less factory-style like we had where we sat in rows doing the same work at the same time. Consumers today demand a more personalized education. Alexa and Siri cannot design and facilitate quality personalized project based lessons. Such is the forte of good teachers. The two (great teachers and good project based lesson design) are innovating education right now, today. Never fear, the academic standards for ND ensure students still experience rigorous content. Thus, innovation in education is not an “either or” (content only or soft skills only). Instead education is “content plus more”, with more being the four C’s and personalization. You have shown me that on my site visits; I admire your innovative work, teachers.

Whether we like the pace of innovation or we don’t like it may not matter; innovation is happening with or without our permission. As we move from the “old” world to the new world, one step at a time, we are able to ensure students are equipped not only with important skills of the past but also equipped to be “choice ready” – ready to choose the post-secondary education needed for careers they choose in a world that is innovating at the speed of the internet.

Marion and Peter Carpenter had a life of toil with no access to learning outside the rare hour at church. Today, our students have access to that hour, to instantaneous content, and what at BPS is beginning to look like the blossoming of a personalized education. Can public education survive the disruption it faces in the modern world? It must. It is. Watch for it.

 

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