The PUSH and PULL of Culture, Education and Economy
In 1998, when Don Tapscott published “Growing Up Digital” the definition of the classroom of the future was not fully clear. No one definitively predicted the full spectrum of changes in curriculum, culture and technology we are experiencing today.
In multiple school districts across the country of all sizes, shapes and settings, a cultural transformation is occurring as a result of the pull of an ever changing workforce economy and a push from students who want to be engaged, who want to create their own pathways for advancement. I see three unique benefits to this student-centric approach to education:
- Learning how to work with others collaboratively as an invaluable skill in any workplace;
- Sharing research and knowledge to increase the return with collective contributions;
- Hands-on activities through simulation labs and work study experiences that make learning more relevant.
The transformation of teaching and learning to a balanced curriculum of both theoretical and applied learning is fostering everything from the maker movement to Career and Technical Education (CTE) to STEM to STEAM. CTE specifically is growing both in popularity and in its ability to engage and connect students to the real world.
CTE curriculum is also redefining our design approach, shifting the focus to how space can enable these increasingly diverse and constantly changing programs rather than the other way around. This shift requires a robust co-design process that empowers teachers, students, school leaders, designers and others to co-create transformational learning spaces. These are flexible, adaptive, personalized, learner-centered spaces. The aim is to collectively provide the places, spaces and pathways for students to engage in relevant learning activities.
I regularly ask ‘what if’ questions to get clients, students, educators and administrators to understand the possibilities of their future learning environments and programs. What if CTE is more than just a bridge between high school and college and career prep? What if it could be the catalyst that shifts student engagement and outcomes to a different level? What if we can embed learning spaces in high schools and innovation centers that give every student professional career and mentorship opportunities? This could foster enriched business partnerships that benefit districts, students and the local economy by effectively preparing a local workforce. What if CTE is no longer “Your Mama’s Shop Class” but rather the stimulus that acknowledges place matters, place enables, and which puts people, pedagogy and place together?
My hope is when I look back 20 years from now these ‘what if’ questions will have led to a forward-thinking, engaging educational model that forever changed the way students learn.