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May 21, 2006

I’ve been reading Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind and loving every minute of it.  He talks about Design as being a skill needed in the 21st century.  He makes a very compelling case.  As I was reading this, my thoughts instantly shifted to thinking about how his ideas relate to education.  With Design, Pink notes that anymore people look not only at functionality when buying something but also how aesthetically pleasing it appears.  For example, it is not enough that the pick up truck you just bought can tow the boat and trailer that you own; it must look nice, be roomy, ride smoothly and have many amenities.  In the business world, this translates into making products usable and appealing to individual tastes and feelings.  The winning company is the one that can combine the best of both worlds.

So, what does this have to do with education?  Well, as I was reading this about competition and how companies depend on design to win; it got me thinking about how education right now is in a “competition” with TV or video games.  Maybe educators need to look at the design of their classes.  We all know education is functional, but how is it designed?  For some, it has remained the same for many years.  The kids of today are being taught in a similar fashion to the way their parents, or even grandparents, were taught.  In a world in which consumers are able to decide based on whether or not something appeals to them, our kids are looking for the same thing from education.  Just saying that they’ll need it doesn’t get it anymore.  We need to design our classes so that it appeals to them.  This shouldn’t be translated as entertains them.  We don’t need to stand on our heads and juggle; that’s not what our students are asking for, but rather make education appeal to their generation, their needs, and their way of doing things, the world they live in.  One way this can be done is to incorporate technology more.  Our student use it on a daily basis, why aren’t more teachers?  Give students a way to express themselves, not just in the same standard way that has always happened.  Let them be able to customize projects and show a little of themselves.  Moreover, these students need to know that as educators we are not associating them with their parents’ generation so why are we teaching them as if they were.

These thoughts are rather jumbled, but I think you get the point.  The reason we are losing so many kids is because instruction needs to be redesigned.  We all know that the kids aren’t the same as even 15 years ago, so why are we still trying to teach them the same way?

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