This is the latest in a series of blog posts by a partnering cohort member.
By: Gail Adams
There’s an old saying that goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” That might work well in some situations, but it is no longer working for education. Education is broken. Educating our children according to the Industrial Age model is educating them for jobs that no longer exist. In his Huffington Post article “Industrial Age Education Is a Disservice to Students” (May 28, 2013), John Baker, founder of Desire to Learn, says education must change from the industrial model of equipping students with the ability to read and write and also recall memorized facts for a multiple choice test--a one-size-fits-all model--to an education suitable for the knowledge economy--an education that equips students to be lifelong learners. The knowledge economy is when value is created using human intelligence. In the knowledge economy, a large number of jobs have shifted to professions that require extensive knowledge and the ability to create new knowledge (Spacey, 2018).
Skills needed to for the knowledge economy, according to Spacey (2018), include the ability to create, analyze, design, discover, develop, and improve. These skills do not come from learning random facts that will be on a multiple-choice test. These are skills that are nurtured over the educational continuum, beginning with our youngest learners and continuing throughout their lives. Baker (2013) says he needs “employees who can take solution A and solution B and figure out how to come up with a new solution, C. People like that are rare. They have to understand the problems, analyze the bigger picture, predict the ramifications of what they are proposing, synthesize new knowledge, be creative as they problem solve and collaborate.”
That’s where the mission of the Fluency Project enters. The paradigm shift in education from Industrial Age to knowledge economy is probably the most salient issue facing education today. It surprises no one that employers like Baker are having difficulties finding employees with the skills they need--how to create, how to invent, how to solve a problem, how to continually learn. But in addition to these skills, employers want employees who can work as a team, collaborate, communicate, who are flexible and adaptable, just to name a few. These are known as soft skills. Our work with the Fluency Project is so important because it provides us with the opportunity to expand our capacity as educators in the knowledge economy world.The ability to understand the equal footing of narrative data with numerical data and the ability to engender this skill set in our students is just one of the ways we will be agents of change to prepare our students for their next steps. Fluency’s focus on presenting technology in a way that is descriptive rather than prescriptive, meaning the technology is available as a tool for students to incorporate into their learning, but students are not told how it must be used. Our work with Fluency is empowering us to empower our students to acquire knowledge in meaningful, collaborative, creative, reflective ways.
The Fluency Project (and other initiatives, like Project Zero out of Harvard University) is leading the revolution in educational reform. Unfortunately, change in education involves changing the mindsets of the people in the ivory towers who think standardized tests are a true indicator of students’ capabilities. Change is a slow process. However, as Fluency educators, we can be the boots on the ground to be the agents of change. We know that we are not the “sage on the stage” as teachers were once called to be. We are coaches, facilitators, nurturers who are tasked with developing the full potential of our students in ways that will make them wealthy in the skills of the knowledge economy.
Education might be broken, but through our work with the Fluency Project, we are acquiring the tools needed to fix it.
Baker, J. (2013, May 28). Industrial Age Education Is a Disservice to Students. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-baker/industrial-age-education-_b_2974297.html
Spacey, J. (2018, January 21). 11 Examples of the Knowledge Economy. Retrieved January 21, 2019, from https://simplicable.com/new/knowledge-economy