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Things I’ve Learned from Golfing with a Grade 5 Teacher!

I spend a lot of time in conversation with CEO’s, leading researchers, scientists and others as I prepare for my keynotes and leadership meetings. I undertake a lot of detailed research, often reading sets of hundreds of articles on a very specific subject as I prepare for a talk. My mind is a sponge, absorbing and ingestion insight and information at a furious pace.

But I’ve also learned that you can often learn from the most unexpected sources. Such as a grade 5 teacher, that by virtue of serendipity, becomes a member of your home golf course, and ends up becoming a regular buddy on the links.

grade5education

“Instead of individual subjects, students will study events and phenomena in an interdisciplinary format. For example, the Second World War will be examined from the perspective of history, geography, and math”

I don’t know how many times he has started a conversation with the phrase, “Let me tell you about Finland...” but that caught my attention today as the article above floated into my Facebook feed this morning.

It’s one of the trends that has been telling me about by virtue of his experience in the classroom. You can learn a lot about an industry — say, the future of education, where I do a lot of keynotes — but listening to folks in the trenches. Such as a grade 5 teacher. Here are some of his observations:

  • kids learn differently today than they did even just 5 years ago, and it will be even more different just 5 years from now. He caught my attention with that observation – what is happening in the classroom in terms of the ingestion of knowledge is happening faster than we think. It’s all based on interactivity, video, and tablets. Todays’s 10 year old has grown up in the technology tsunami, and simply acquires knowledge differently. Tomorrow’s grade 5 will be fundamentally different from the grade 5 kid of today. Change is relentless.
  • the ingestion of knowledge is all about video. Youtube and other sources are more relevant today than any sort of textbook. This echoes my own experience with my sons, now 21 and 23. I spoke about this during a keynote for the Institute for Credentialing Excellence in Phoenix a few years ago. Check the video in my post The Future of Education: Rethinking Opportunity in the Era of Knowledge Velocity. The son referred to in that video has a golf handicap of 1. He’s scratch. He changed his golf grip, not by working with a golf pro, but by watching YouTube videos.
  • it’s about short, sharp shocks of knowledge. The education system today talks about curriculum and pedagogy and phrases and methodology that were cool in the 1960’s. The methodology is barely relevant today, at all. Everyone knows that. No one really knows how to fix it, so those in the classroom figure out how to fix it on their own. Disruption is occurring, one grade 5 teacher at a time.
  • structure is irrelevant to them. Their minds are so busy, flitting from one concept to another, and the education system in North America hasn’t changed to deal with that reality. Finland has. Change needs to come, and it needs to come fast!
  • they are more world aware than we think. We might often think that the mind of a 10 year old isn’t very connected. This generation is global, aware, in a way that no other generation in the history of mankind has ever been. He indicated that one of his most painful days as a teacher was yesterday as some of the kids asked and talked about the rise of Donald Trump — with all of his moral failings on public display. How do you deal with that? We’re in uncharted territory here…
  • even their parents are different and expect so much more. The parents of todays 10 year old is the world’s first post MSDOS generation. When they began using computers, Mac’s and Windows were already the interface of choice. The Internet was a part of their lives for as long as they’ve had busy, inquiring minds. They are technology-immersed too, and carry none of the technology hangups of their baby-boomer predecessors too. They too expect change, technology, and interactivity to drive the education system. They are not getting it at an official level.

But wait, there’s more! Lots to learn! Lots more golf yet to come!

We all know that the education system is massively stuck in an innovation rut, unable to deal with the reality of change that swirls around it. And so many questions are raised by the reality on the ground. Such as: what the heck is the world of human resources going to do as today’s 10 year old becomes a part of the workforce in just 10 years?

What can you learn from this? Certainly this: seek to learn from unconventional sources. Just as today’s grade 5 student learns in different ways that are not part of the education system.

I certainly intend to, and as golfing season draws to a close, think I need to commit to going into his classroom and doing another presentation for his class, as I did last year. Not to present my views — but really, to try to listen to theirs!

Here’s a video I filmed with his kids in his class last year. Invigorating stuff! Here’s a promo clip I filmed for my opening keynote for EdNet 2016 in Dallas a few months ago. When we think about the future of education, we need to think about the careers that the kids of today will be working in. Many of those careers don’t exist. Here’s what the kids think about that!

The kids understand the future! Does the education industry?

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