|The American Office as represented in the 1960 Jack Lemmon-Shirley MacLain film, The Apartment|
|Haworth Office Systems headquarters, Holland,|
Michigan. Transparent Collaboration
But today, far more classrooms, far more school schedules, far more assessment systems, and far, far more assignments, mimic the office in the picture above. It is 1960 and everyone is reduced to doing duplicative tasks because individual work cells and career competition prevent any reasonable sharing or building of community cognition.
The world of work has moved on, but the educational structure, despite the efforts of many individual teachers and administrators, crawls along, hoping the big Nixon-Kennedy TV debate will help them decide on who should be the next president.
|Google's London Offices - the striped "beach shacks" |
in the rear are small conference rooms.
Somehow though, a vast assortment of educators, from that crusty old mathematics teacher proud that she has been "teaching the same way for thirty years," to Bill Gates favorite boy Salman Khan, believe that kids sitting alone, working by themselves, with canned, inflexible data in front of them, is the best preparation for life in the present and future.
Somehow, these educators think the information of the world still moves via paper and pencil, that there are "correct answers" to everything, and that there is a structured cultural norm of learning behavior, best exemplified by the silent child bent over a wooden desk with a thick physical book, which must be duplicated if a student is to succeed in their learning spaces.
|Sagasaki Monitor Group of Mitsubishi|
So here is what your classroom, and your school, needs to offer kids:
1. A learning environment in which students make most decisions. Where will I work? What devices will I use? How will I use my time? How will I get help? How will I work with others? How will I be comfortable? This doesn't mean a situation without guidance or mentoring, but it does mean that if your students are not continually moving your students toward self-determination and control, the school and the teachers are failing. (Key: No higher grade classroom should ever look more structured than the kindergarten rooms in your school, district, division, LEA...)
2. A time environment in which students learn and work along a schedule which makes sense to them. Every time a bell rings, or classes "change" according to your pre-set ideas, you are stopping students from learning, pursuing, accomplishing. "Sure you are interested in this bit of history, but its time to memorize equations now..." - could you possibly do more harm to the learning process? You have to create schools based in Project-Based Learning where students can work toward their goals in a "natural" human learning environment. (Key: Your school should look more like a studio than a factory...)
|The American Office in this Century:|
Workers find their own comfort, their own
collaborative environments, and learn to build
their own privacy and schedules.
4. A social environment where adults do not rank students according to their oppressive standards. Honor Rolls, adult-determined awards, published class ranks, treating one sport as more important than another, these acts all stratify the social environment, create bullying, and prevent students from recognizing talents among their peers - which is an essential skill. You and your fellow educators and your community must back off and let kids build their own social networks without your inherited prejudices. Every time you post an honor roll or 5,000 people attend a Friday night "American Football" game while 50 show up for a Wednesday night "Soccer" game, you are sending destructive messages. (Key: If students are not all known for what they are good at, there is a problem.)
So, take a look around at the learning environment your students enter. Is there any reason for them to be there?
- Ira Socol