Mountains of Enrichment

When I was in the fifth grade, I was pulled out of my classes and put into a series of classes called “Enrichment”. It was for “gifted” students, and I remember not really understanding what made me different.

On my first day in Enrichment, I recognized the difference between my old classes and Enrichment classes immediately. My new classroom didn’t have rows of desks. It didn’t have desks at all. It had one big round table and six chairs. There were colored pillows all over the floor and a giant, blank flipchart. There were art supplies and boxes of what I can only describe as “stuff” lined up against the wall. There were seven other people in the room, six other students and the teacher.

It wasn’t just the room that was different, it was the way the teacher talked to us. It wasn’t just the material we were learning. It was the way in which we learned. It was the fact that I no longer had to ask to go to the bathroom, I could just go. Everything was different.

In Enrichment, we did interest and project based learning. We were given parameters and then free reign. We were given guidance but allowed to be creative. We were given materials but not told how to use them. When I had a question or query, when I wanted advice or help, I had one-on-one time with my teacher.

Fast forward. Today.

I’ve been looking around at all this fantastic work from fantastic organizations. I’ve been reading the articles and reports from people that are pushing the boundaries of what is expected in education. I’ve been reviewing new (and old) frameworks and methodologies. I even created a mashup of frameworks and methodologies to inform my own work. I’ve been seeing how educators out there are working to bring technology into their classrooms and institutions. I’ve been watching the trial and error occur, cheering on the successes, learning from the failures. I’ve been following with great interest and actively participating in the work happening in that space between education and technology.

And I’ve been sitting here trying to understand why it seems like Fix Education Mountain is always looming in front of us, no matter how much we climb. We’ve made such amazing strides in the past few years. We’ve helped people access their own creativity. I know we’ve opened the door to lifelong learning for some people. We’ve only ever failed gracefully. And our successes are massive.

It seems like we are still trying to convince people, and I’m really not sure why. By their own admission, educators are ready for the revolution. History shows us that learning by making is nothing new. There are scores of data that show that blended learning = yay happy better retention. Are we really still punks in this space? Is there really someone out there still arguing for the forward facing learning that I was spared in the fifth grade? Does anyone deny the value of digital and web literacies as part of the standard curriculum? Why are our schools still failing? Why am I still hearing from teachers “I’d love to, but I can’t, administration would have a shit fit,”? Why are students still complaining about the stuff they “have” to learn?

Why, oh why, is the mountain still looming? Am I just being pessimistic because it’s Monday?

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Mountains of Enrichment

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