Is Knowledge Power?

As I was leaving school this week after Bedtime Story Night with primary students, I caught my marquee’s new message.

Is this true anymore? I thought. It’s not that I am against knowing things. We all need to have a strong and deep base of experiences and information to make good decisions. But how we arrive at this knowledge may be the difference in today’s world compared to the past.

Coincidentally, I had just finished reading Why School? by Will Richardson. It is a short and engaging book about how schools need to change the way we as educators help students learn. No longer are we the deliverers of knowledge. Why do this, Richardson asks, when they have the sum of all human knowledge in their pockets, in the form of a smart phone? Instead, the author suggests we model for students how to ask the right questions and show them where reliable information may be found. Teachers should be surveyors instead of purveyors of knowledge.

And it is not just Will Richardson that is proposing this method of teaching. He is supported in his cause by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). This organization published a policy listing 21st-century literacies of today’s world, for teachers as well as for students:

  • develop proficiency with the tools of technology
  • build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross culturally
  • manage, analyze and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information
  • create, critique, analyze and evaluate multimedia texts
  • attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments

Nowhere in NCTE’s position is it stated that students must be able to regurgitate information that can easily be found through a simple Google search.

My school has started moving toward this approach for instruction. My job as a principal is to recognize that we are successful at what we do now, while continuing to learn as we teach to ensure best practices are being used in our classrooms. Activities in our approach include incorporating mobile technology in classrooms, becoming more connected educators through social media and working in professional learning communities.

Please share what you are doing in your school to meet the demands of today’s learners.

Author: Matt Renwick

Matt Renwick is a 17-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher. After seven years of teaching, he served as a dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary principal in Wisconsin Rapids. Matt is now an elementary principal for the Mineral Point Unified School District (http://mineralpointschools.org/). Matt tweets @ReadByExample and writes for ASCD (www.ascd.org) and Lead Literacy (www.leadliteracy.com).

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