I recently read Will Richardson’s book- which reads very much like a manifesto- “Why School?” and I feel entirely motivated and challenged to do my part to make “schools...places of more relevant, connected, creative learning” (Richardson, 2012 p. 294).
Richardson presents his short book to the world because he- like so many others- is unsatisfied with the current state of education in the United States. The near constant progress in technology has revolutionized the ways information is available to people, even our students. It is increasingly easy for people to learn anything they want to know the answer to, thanks to the vast tool that is the internet. Our students, brilliant as they are, are among these people who can find the answer to anything, anytime, as long as they have internet connection. Why, then, should schools exist? Answering this question is the meat of Richardson’s book. He states on page 208 (of my digital copy) that schools have value as “places [where] kids go to learn with others… There is still much worth in having a shared experience, a common narrative for learning”. However, even with the acknowledgement that schools are valuable, there is dissent on what those schools should look like in the information age.
The wealth of technology tools available for education has created two possible futures for “the school”. Richardson lays out two types of reform of school that both are founded on the use of technology in the classroom but I am going to focus on only one- the one I would very much prefer to see develop. (If you’ve got a burning desire to find out the other, Richardson’s book is available for purchase on Amazon.) The second, and more hope-inspiring option for reform is “another way” (267) to use the technology we have available to us to change the narrative from one where we “deliver content” to our students to one where we “prepare students to be learners” and foster discovery, a la John Dewey. In this iteration of education in the 21st century, the goal is learning mastery, no longer content mastery.
Will Richardson’s “Why School?” also presents six concepts to teachers who are interested in rethinking their methods, styles etc. to fall in line with the education reform that values student inquiry and discovery. The six ideas Richardson presents for educators are Share Everything, Discover, Don’t Deliver the Curriculum, Talk to Strangers, Be a Master Learner, Do Real Work for Real Audiences, and Transfer the Power. I believe that for my own future in education, I can present a real commitment to the first and second ideas Richardson presents. All are fantastic ideas to save in a teaching toolbox but some may come easier to some educators as opposed to other concepts. Sharing my resources and lesson plans is something that makes basic sense to me; when we as educators share the resources we have, the students are the actually the ones who benefit in the end. And aren’t our students and their understanding a key (if not THE) reason we became teachers? For myself, there is a concept or two that Richardson presents that will be more of a challenge. I believe that will be letting my students talk to strangers on the internet in the context of my class.
Will Richardson’s “Why School” is a fast read but it’s full from cover to cover of revolutionary (from my perspective) thoughts on technology in education. Richardson is revolutionary not because he advocates for any use of tech at all in the classroom but because of the human element and how that tech use is implemented, day to day.
Richardson. W. (2012). Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Education Are Everywhere . Kindle Edition.
I'm a Teaching Credential Candidate at CSUSM working towards a credential in English and Social Studies/History. Here's where I'll share my thoughts on various articles and videos related to teaching as well as my experiences in the education world.