Learning should be fun, engaging, challenging, and at times spontaneous, yet grounded in a clear and rigorous set of academic goals that are mapped out for current and future academic successes. Learning should embrace best practices, with layers of traditional methods, cutting-edge innovation, progressive philosophy, and most importantly, should be balanced so as to provide the skills and preparation a student needs to flourish both academically and socially. Learning, essentially, must equip one for the next steps, tasks, and life opportunities, thus, teaching involves, in a sense, a momentum of learning forward.
Learning forward involves staying abreast of the collective conscience of educational thought-leaders. As educators we must balance a myriad of objectives to prepare our students for elements of what could be considered a very predictable future and for one with many unknowns. We are charged with the task of thinking about the successful present; Will they have the skills to do well on the next math exam, to read a specific book, or to complete a project in collaboration with classmates? Yet, we are also working in the present, with a near and far future in our mind, wondering, How can we set up the learning environment to insure a successful transition to the next grade level, into middle school, high school, and even career? What set of skills will young adults need to flourish in ten, twenty, or thirty years? What will our global community expect from them?
Luckily, for educators, there are many thought-leaders who help guide us to think and act creatively, to contemplate our practice, and reflect on what matters most for our students, and to do so in a manner that draws upon the collective strengths of us all. This is why you will hear, quite often, about our belief in student engagement, flexible thinking, and collaborative problem-solving. Learning from and with others is what we believe makes us stronger students, educators, and leaders.
In recent months we have been inspired to think about the importance of mindfulness (Abby Wills writing for Edutopia), the concept of open learning systems (David Price writing for Mind/Shift), the shift from acquiring knowledge to applying it (ISTE Connects in International Society for Technology in Education), among a variety of other topics that are followed in educational blogs. In speaking of succeeding in today’s world, the Innovative Age, ISTE writes, “In order to thrive in a more complicated world, students will need to understand how to work collaboratively with collective intelligence. Collaboration necessitates communication. Solutions require tenacity, creativity, and critical thinking.”
We want our students to thrive and succeed in their classroom today, to be prepared for important educational milestones, and empowered to think and act responsibly in our local and global community. This is why learning forward, thinking of the future, and doing so in collaboration, is a core for educators. As we say in our mission statement at Mandell, “In order for a community to flourish, there must be a common set of values shared among all members of the community. The values of respect, collaboration and diversity are the “givens” that guide how we set our priorities and how we make every decision, small and large, affecting our students, their families and our community as a whole.”
ISTE: How You Teach Innovative Thinking in the Classroom
Edutopia: Applying Mindfulness to Mundane Classroom Tasks
Mind/Shift: What Will Education Look Like in the Future