Earlier this week, Proctor's teachers had the privilege of engaging with Will Richardson, who challenged the community to embrace the opportunities collaborative technologies afford teachers in the classroom.
As students return to classes after winter break, it's important to digest some of the insights shared by Richardson within the context of this article by Wendi Pillars from EdWeek.org.
In a world where the sum total of human knowledge can be accessed within seconds, on a smartphone, tablet or laptop, helping students understand the relevance of what they are learning is paramount.
Wendi Pillars notes recent scientific research has found human cognitive capacity to be limited to three or four items at a time. How then do we help students navigate seemingly endless information in small, manageable chunks?
Pillars offers three 'takeaways' for educators: 1) Teachers are brain changers - we are the only profession whose job it is to physically alter a child's brain daily. 2) The one whose neural pathways are changing is the one doing the learning - when students own their work, their brains are changed. 3) Critical thinking is more important than ever - we must expect different results from learning.
Melding Will Richardson's insights into the use of collaborative technologies with Pillars' thoughts, much of Proctor's curriculum (student centered learning, experiential teaching, off-campus programs, and varied assessment) reinforces enduring learning.
In a recent conversation with alum Stephen Rushmore ('92) discussing his upcoming visit to guest lecture in my Economics class this spring, he repeatedly commented how memorable, and applicable, the hands-on learning opportunities from his Proctor career have been and wants to provide current students with the same by sharing his post-Proctor experiences with my class.
We are confident our educational programs create lasting learning experiences for students, however, we also recognize we must continue to grow and adapt as the world changes.
Valuing the social learning experiences afforded by technology and connecting the learning that takes place within our programs to a global setting are essential steps. Similarly, exploring how technology can complement experiential learning must remain at the forefront of our thinking as an institution.
Remaining intently focused on encouraging and valuing student learning across all programs will allow us to be, as Richardson implored faculty to be on Tuesday, a bold school.
Educators have the unique responsibility of shaping (or reshaping) adolescent brains.
Relationships between students and faculty serve an important role in facilitating the learning that takes place at Proctor.
Wendi Pillars notes, "Critical thinking is more important than ever, which means we must expect different results."
Shaping classroom, residential life, athletics, and off-campus experiences to value critical thinking and 'real-life' problem solving remain an important task for us.
When students are able to take ownership of their learning, Pillars notes their brains are changed more deeply.
Similarly, programs like Ocean Classroom place tremendous ownership of learning on students while real-life consequences occur if learning does not take place.
As the world in which we educate evolves, we must continue to move forward as an institution by building upon what we do well and continuing to augment learning experiences to incorporate 21st century technologies.
Most of all, however, we, as educators, must model the learning we expect of our students.