Voices in Education

As the World Transforms, So Should Education

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September 13, 2016

This article is the second in a series of four blog posts featuring programs from PBS’ Spotlight Education week of educational programming. In this installment, former PBS Digital Innovator Patricia Brown shares her thoughts and reactions following an advance screening of "TED Talks: Education Revolution”. "TED Talks: Education Revolution airs tonight on PBS stations nationwide. Check your local listings. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter using #SpotlightEduPBS and #TeachBoldly.

As an educator and lifelong learner, I am always looking for inspiration and new or different perspective; that's why I sat down to watch "TED Talks: Education Revolution." As I listened to the stories from the diverse group of speakers, I am hopeful and inspired.  At various parts of the video, I wanted to stand up and cheer because I was excited to hear the examples of transformation in classrooms, as it mirrors my views and aspirations for all students.

I believe students in a modern day classroom should use technology to become deeper thinkers and problem solvers, and to transform learning inside and outside of the classroom by connecting with the real world through social media and global collaboration. Transformation is engaging students, making connections, and redefining learning.  As the world is changing, education should also change.  Since we have moved from an industrial revolution to a digital revolution, our classrooms must transform too – not just within the physical layout but by what students experience in their classrooms every day.

Many students are being left behind because we are not preparing them to compete in our global society. The digital age workplace requires a different set of skills and training. We have moved beyond rote memorization, lectures, and skills checklists. Instead, we as educators should gravitate towards alternatives to lectures. The options and opportunities are limitless for creative learning: student-led discussions, student-focused projects, project-based learning, design thinking, and group collaboration that supports deeper learning.

Sadly, there are still students in this country who have never had these experiences due to lack of resources, exposure, but mostly just because of the zip code in which they live. Many school districts across the country are facing challenges on how to address digital equity – or inequity – which is a major issue in many communities.  How can we connect students to the real-world when we face such digital shortfalls and barriers? Many students don’t succeed when they don’t see the value in education; it is our job as educators to expose them to the possibilities.

Dr. Victor Rios, an award-winning college professor, author and speaker, spoke about students from marginalized areas being “pushed out of classrooms,” criminalized, and viewed from a deficit perspective. A large proportion of these students are children of color who come from impoverished communities. He spoke of one particularly influential teacher, Mrs. Russ, who “tapped into his soul,” and whom he credits for changing his life by allowing him the opportunity to share his voice. Mrs. Russ welcomed into her classroom Victor’s personal stories of character and culture embodied by his family. She taught him to use those skills to empower himself in the academic world, and to eventually come back and empower his community.  

I know students like Victor, and many teachers like Mrs. Russ, who are in the trenches everyday empowering students to change their situations and their communities, but we need more. We need an educational system that is designed to connect with students, and is not focused just on test scores. Students need opportunities to be creators, inventors, collaborators, and critical thinkers. Victor Rios described three strategies for helping students to succeed who started out just like him:

  • Get rid of a deficit perspective of our students;
  • Value the powerful stories that young people bring to the classroom that embody grit, character, resilience by helping them refine those stories;
  • Provide adequate resources for all students.

I agree wholeheartedly, and would also add a growth mindset, mentorship, and personal learning opportunities for entire families to improve their quality of life. With a focus on experiences, rather than test scores, we are empowering a generation to access a unique learning experience based upon their individual needs, rather than receiving instruction through a standard, paced curriculum. The needs of students are put first and students are able to direct how, what, when, and where they learn. The intent is to meet each child/family where he is and help him meet his potential and to educate the whole family. Parental involvement and meaningful student-teacher-parent relationships, along with technology, can be utilized to help enhance learning opportunities. This creates a shift from teacher and curriculum-centered learning to student-centered learning. Every child deserves a fully connected classroom experience.

Patricia J. Brown, known as “MsEdtechie,” is a Technology Integration coach for Ladue School District. She has over 15 years of experience in K12 and higher education. As a technology integration specialist, she breaks down traditional classroom walls by creating a culture that fosters collaboration, creativity, communication, and authentic learning. She is an award-winning educator, blogger, and presenter, and was recently selected as a National School Board Association 20 to Watch, a 2016 Google Certified Innovator, and a 2015 PBS Lead Learning Media Digital Innovator. She is a Google Certified Trainer, Common Sense & Graphite Certified, Discovery Education DEN Star, Edmodo Ambassador, and a columnist for EdSurge. In 2006, she was honored as Teacher of The Year. She is passionate about being a connected educator, and empowering teachers and students. She believes that preparing teachers will ultimately prepare students to compete in our global society through digital age teaching and learning. Follow Patricia on Twitter at @msEdtechie.


Patricia Brown

Patricia Brown Technology Integration Coach & 2015 PBS Digital Innovator Twitter: @msEdtechie

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