What’s the Big Idea?By Ed. Magazine
In today’s increasingly interconnected world, we have to change the way we think about education and approach it as a cooperative, global effort instead of a local, competitive one. For too long, education has been defined as a domestic or local issue. When political leaders do talk about education globally, it’s often in a zero-sum way — if China is up, then the United States is down. But at a time when economies are linked and gross inequality anywhere is a threat to security and prosperity everywhere, we all have a stake in ensuring that marginalized children across the world receive a high-quality education. Consider the far-reaching consequences when India is projected to comprise a quarter of the world’s workforce by 2030 yet is failing to equip 90 percent of today’s students with a secondary school education. The good news is, momentum for change is growing. We can fuel it by building a global community among advocates and organizations fighting to expand educational opportunity in their countries. We should also lobby our leaders to embrace global benchmarks and work collaboratively with their foreign counterparts to move forward faster. There are more tools and resources than ever before to help us learn from top-performing teachers, schools, and school systems around the world. We should use them. We are all better off in a world of rising education levels and decreasing disparities.
Wendy Kopp is the founder and CEO of Teach For America.
Make Coding Mandatory
Coding is the new literacy. All individuals must be literate in computer systems to engage in building a better society. Everything we do is tied to using computer systems — from reading the news and purchasing groceries, to communicating with family, to teaching and learning and activating community. How are America’s schools preparing youth for digital citizenship? Unfortunately, it remains mostly focused on the 3Rs (reading, writing, arithmetic) while the ability to read, write, and manipulate code is quickly becoming more relevant.
Why? Coding breaks barriers of geography, enabling collaboration, creative storytelling, and innovation, as well as leveraging the diverse expertise of people in multiple places to solve the world’s most pressing problems independent of linguistic or cultural differences. This is why every student in every school should be required to learn to read and write code.
Some schools teach coding through supplemental programs or advanced computing classes, but this skill should not be a perk for some students in affluent zip codes; it must be available to everyone, starting young, despite geography or socioeconomic status. The only way to do this is through a national shift in K–12 curriculum. As with reading and mathematics, exposure to coding from an early age will yield deeper fluency — whether we become programmers or not. We all learn how to write as a pathway to prosperity, but we do not all become novelists. These days it is the same with coding. If we do not commit nationally to creating a pipeline of creative coders who can read, write, and think with this language, we compromise the future of our youth and our nation.
Idit Harel Caperton, Ed.M.’84, C.A.S.’85, is president and CEO of World Wide Workshop and Globaloria. She has advocated for teaching every child computer programming since the 1980s.
Encourage Slow Learning
Schools should be in the business of teaching complex knowledge, and complex knowledge develops slowly. Slow learning involves radically expanding the typical timeframe devoted to learning about complex things. It might mean spending a few hours looking at a painting rather than a few minutes, or spending an entire afternoon examining the pattern of weeds growing at the edge of the playground. It might mean creating long lists of questions about a topic and then slowly sifting through them to discern multiple paths of inquiry. It might mean taking weeks or even months to explore a historical event from a wide variety of perspectives. It might mean spending an entire year exploring a problem in the community and designing and testing a solution.
Young people — indeed most of us — spend huge amounts of time speeding along the super highways of information and communication. Schools shouldn’t be part of the traffic, they should be a respite, a rest stop, a place where learning can unfold slowly and where there is always ample time to poke and probe and tinker with complex things and ideas. The path to complex knowledge doesn’t run straight, and it shouldn’t be traveled quickly.
Shari Tishman, Ed.D.’91, is director of Project Zero and a lecturer at the Ed School.