The Biggest "Game-Changer" in Education


cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Kate Ter Haar

Recently, Jon Samuelson and I were having a conversation and he asked me, “What do you see as the big 'game changer' in education?”

I hate this question (as I think Jon does as well).  You hear things like MOOC's, tablets, the Flipped Classroom, coding, gaming, social media, blah blah blah, and how they are going to change everything that we do.  If you are going to pick a single “thing” that is a game-changer in education, it is the Internet.  This is not just for education, but for everything.  Honestly though, this is years ago and I think that many of understand the opportunities the “World Wide Web” has provided to us in so many facets of our life. That being said, that “game changer” has already happened.

The real game changer isn't something external; it is internal.  It is the way we think and grow.  It is moving from that “fixed” mindset about teaching and learning, and moving to the “growth” mindset.  It is thinking differently about education and understanding that all of us as people need different things to succeed.  To some students, the “Flipped” model is hugely beneficial, while to some others, gaming is going to push their learning to a new level.  Some learn better in isolation, while others excel in collaboration.  There is no single “thing” that is a game changer. If there was, we would have figured it out and adopted it by now.  We have to stop looking for standardized solutions to try and personalize learning.  Our mindset towards teaching and learning has to be open to many approaches, not any single one.

If I was standing in front of you and speaking, I would say the following:

The biggest game changer in education is not out there (as I point all around me).  It is in here (as I point to my head, but symbolizing all of our brains, not just mine) and has ALWAYS been in here (pointing to my chest, around the heart area).  

I am not trying to be hokie, but I am sharing what I believe.  Change is the one constant that we will always have in our world and if we do not grow and learn to embrace it, then we will become irrelevant.  This mindset towards learning is only one part of the solution; making the connections with our learners is also equally (if not more) significant.

Do we need to look at all of these new “trends” in learning? Absolutely.  This is not an anti-technology rant. In fact, it is the opposite.  Innovative teaching starts with innovative thinking.  We have to look at all of these things around us, ask questions, learn, be open to the opportunities that many different technologies give to us and our students, and help them work for our kids.

The “game changer” is, and always will be, being open to new learning opportunities, doing something with them, and making that human connection to our learners.

The best teachers have always done this, and will continue to do so.

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18 comments for “The Biggest "Game-Changer" in Education

  1. September 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Amen! Teaching growth mindsets and other skills to a charter school faculty starting tomorrow. Two days focused on the within. Not just for faculty but for parents also.

  2. Anita Gildea
    September 6, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Thanks for the daily inspiration. You have yet to let me down, and today’s post was no different. Bless you -

  3. September 6, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    I would say that the biggest ‘game changer’ in education is the shift from educator control to student empowerment. When we enable greater student agency and put our children and youth in environments where they have much greater autonomy, ownership, and self-direction, completely different paradigms of learning, teaching, and schooling begin to emerge. Digital technologies and the Internet can be vital facilitators of these kinds of learning experiences but, as you note, George, they are but a means to a larger end. As long as we view schools as places where adults do things to kids, the game of school will never change. As Gary Stager says, “Less us, more them.”

    • September 6, 2013 at 3:46 pm

      Hey Scott,

      I agree with you that student empowerment is essential and something that I focus on daily, but I think for that to happen, educators have to think differently. It is the “end in mind” but I think teachers that have a growth mindset are the way that we get there. That simple change in thinking can make a huge difference.

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Paul Obah
        September 14, 2013 at 11:18 am

        Hi George,

        Very nice comments: having a growth mindset covers every thing really. It is that state of preparedness that enables one to view, accept and apply good ideas as they happen – from learning styles to school cultures, differentiation, tech integration, question methods, grouping methods, learner’s ownership of the learning process etc.

    • Lisa Beade
      September 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      I agree completely. When a cohort of learners comes together to solve a “problem” real learning takes place. (See Place Based Education). All subjects can be understood if the projects are broad enough. Not only academic subjects get learned, but the skills called social capital: cooperation, responsibility to oneself and others, tolerance, cultural norms, assertiveness…all those skills that are so vitally needed in a working environment and in a civil society.
      As well, I believe, a common vocabulary is learned, leading to higher reading comprehension scores as well! It is a win/win and should be started in kindergarten.
      But it takes teacher training to get out off the stage and become just one of the many “workstations” a child/group can use. This is done in schools that charge $27K/year. But it costs nothing more than “traditional” teaching, maybe even less! And it doesn’t require, but can utilize computer technology.
      Where better to use it than in inner city schools where children need adult mentors, not authoritarian figures and need so desperately to learn the skills of social interaction and a sense of self worth that real accomplishment brings.
      Thomas Dewey knew this, Alvin Toffler predicted it. Why are we going backwards with Zero tolerance and academic only machine classrooms?

    • September 11, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      I would argue that this isn’t a new game-changer, either. For millennia, that’s been the game-changer that has always gotten teachers in trouble. Technology has only accelerated this. And yet, what are schools often promoting? Online worksheets via the Khan Academy or Success Maker or Jamestown Intervention.

  4. September 7, 2013 at 2:06 am

    I am with you on the Mindset emphasis George. To me, the game changer is the authenticity and relevancy that the Internet provides. Unfortunately, this is also going to reveal what some educators, and some organizations are already acknowledging, which is that schools are houses of artificial learning. Maybe it’s more about schools getting into the game rather than changing the game. As you said, that has already been done.

  5. September 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    I agree, great points George – the biggest game changer is not technology. The change from directed learning and directed resources to inquiry learning and developing passion and engagement in one’s own learning is what is having the biggest impact. For many educators technology is a catalyst to that change; for others, the focus on personalization, experiential learning, and proper assessment does not always need to include technology.

    Either way – teachers benefit from a renewed excitement and rejuvenation for their profession that had slowly been taken over by bureaucrats dictating specific learning activities and timelines, and for students, they benefit from a move towards more creativity, and innovative problem solving involving collaboration and less static memorization.

    Here’s to a bright future in education!

    @TDOttawa

  6. September 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

    Great post. In my opinion, the game changer is the ability to use technology to address the assessment of developing the whole child. Currently, everything done at school is based on “Did test scores improve?” As it becomes easier to collect reliable and valid data on thinking processes, emotional and social development, physical fitness, etc., educators will be able to make the case that learning activities are valid based on a much wider range of assessment data. Educators are very frustrated because they know that focusing on test scores does not prepare children and youth for successful adulthood in the digital, global age, yet they are forced to do so because that is the only accepted measure of school success. Having a wider range of desired outcomes on every student’s dashboard (like a car rating system with separate assessments for cost, gas mileage, comfort, reliability, etc.) will allow educators and parents to greater freedom in making decisions about preparing young people for successful adulthood and citizenship. This will completely alter how schools function in the very near future.

  7. September 17, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Yes!! Thanks George for reminding us what really matters in education!

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