5 Big Ideas For Education In 2016

More of a rallying cry than prediction, this list is where innovative teaching is already headed.

5. Journalism is the new English.

Writing is one of the most important skills anyone can have. From persuasive arguments, to expository essays, everyone needs to convey facts and ideas to an audience in effective and creative ways. The emphasis on student-driven topics, critically examining facts and competing claims, and writing for an audience are skills that are the cornerstones of journalism. Whether you love or hate it, journalism is a perfect match for Common Core because it is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and authentic (see number 3).

4. Video is the new writing.

If a photograph is worth a thousand words, then video is a thousand words 30 times a second. Video is an art and craft that has it’s own vocabulary and grammar, and is becoming the chosen method for communication. Let’s not lament the end of writing with words. This article is proof of that, and scripts for video still need to be written. What’s new is that original video projects (not recordings of older styles of communication like performances or speeches) are powerful, sophisticated means to share not just facts, but emotion. It’s time to stop dismissing video as a cute hobby and make it one of the central skills we teach our students so that they can be effective communicators and savvy consumers of content.

Students collaborate on a journalism project. This interdisciplinary project emphasizes critical thinking and how to communicate their ideas effectively to an audience.

3. Authentic projects are the new assessments.

When was the last time you remembered a test you took in school? Or the material on that test? What do we mean by the terms “education” and “learning?” Standardized tests were created by the Education Industrial Complex as an easy, yet inaccurate way to judge students, teachers and schools, and has become the tail that wags the dog of education. A better way to assess — or test — knowledge is through projects that students create on topics of their choice, and one which will be shared with a wide audience beyond the classroom. Passion drives learning, and it’s even more powerful when there is a point to the work being done. With authentic projects, learning is the assessment, not the other way around.

2. No firewalls is the new firewall.

Internet policies at most school districts look stunningly similar to those of North Korea and Iran: lockdown access to the world so that our children won’t be harmed by ideas we didn’t create or approve of. I hate to break it to you, but students already do have access to the world using cellular data on their smart phones at school and at home. A better approach is a proactive one, where schools embrace reality and teach good digital citizenship by engaging the world, not by pretending it doesn’t exist. If our goal is to prepare students for life after they leave school, this should also include how to make good choices online.

  1. YouTube is the new classroom.

One of my freshman declared recently, “I learn more from YouTube than my parents or teachers.” Rather than be offended, I realized that the point was not that we are bad teachers or parents, but that none of us can know everything, and we should stop pretending that we do. From how-to videos to free courses to MOOCS, the answer to your question is often as close as the smartphone in your pocket. The ramifications of this are profound because it changes the role of the teacher as the center of the classroom who dispenses knowledge, to something else: a facilitator of learning. Encourage the unblocking of YouTube on your school’s server, teach digital citizenship, and maybe even make your own YouTube videos. What a great authentic project for your students and yourself.