My 7 year old son loves Minecraft, and by “loves” I mean obsessed. He talks of diamond swords, iron body armor, creative mode, mods, and ender dragons as if these are everyday items we can pick up at Wal-Mart or Target (which for many of these items you actually can). Many times I am frustrated with the amount of time he is playing, however, I am also impressed with his ability to create these worlds from nothing. When I asked him how he knew how to build all of these great worlds, his response is typically, “YouTube.”
Today’s students live in a technological world where they have never known life without YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Smart Phones, etc. As educators, we still remember the days of learning how to email, dial up modems, cell phone bans at schools, and Motorola bag phones. So what happens as these two worlds collide in our school buildings? Do we adapt to change or fight it tooth and nail because “that’s the way it’s always been?”
In the book “Open, How We’ll Work, Live and Learn In The Future” David Price outlines the need for philosophical educational change in our schools to be able to adapt to the changing culture of our students and society. We live in a world where students have access to nearly every living author, musician, artist, electrical engineer, game designer, professional athlete, social media star, and the list goes on and on. If my sons wants to learn about creating a time portal in Minecraft he doesn’t need to attend a class at the community college, he YouTube’s it and within a microsecond he has thousands of “experts” to show him how. But it doesn’t stop there. He isn’t just the one consuming the information. With a computer and $20 headset he can create his own Minecraft tutorials and share his expertise with the world. At seven years old, he is now part of a community, or Tribe as Seth Godin would say, that freely shares information with other Minecraft fanatics across the globe.
As an active Twitter user myself, I also experience this sharing of information freely on a daily basis. And it isn’t just with other principals in Nebraska. Twitter allows me to gather ideas from the best of the best our field has to offer. But these interactions aren’t just a one way street. Not only are these resources there for the taking but we can have one on one interactions from these experts. On more than one occasion, I have tweeted at experts and had a deeper conversation about their book or project.
Have you ever had a question about leadership? Tweet at @ToddWhitaker and I can almost guarantee he will respond with the answer. The guy has over 75k followers and 40k tweets yet he is willing to share his expertise with me one on one. I have also been privileged to interact with multiple authors, the folks at Soul Pancake (Kid President), and the National Digital Principal of the Year, which lead to a visit to his school in Burlington, Massachusetts. With social media and online resources the possibilities for our students and our own learning is endless.
Providing a well rounded education to our students no longer means schools have to have a staff member with the expertise in a certain field or hobby. Students today are already used to searching the internet to glean information on every type of question or interest they may have. Whether it is photography, psychology, drafting, interior design, 3-D printing, robotics, etc the list of resources and experts available to students is merely one tweet, Google search, Pin, or blogpost away.
Our jobs as educators is encourage students to pursue their passions while opening doors for them in areas they may have never thought about. The value of an education can never be underestimated regardless if that knowledge comes from a classroom setting, a book, a TEDtalk, YouTube tutorials, a formal online class from a local college, or a weekly podcast. Through the formal education process, we need to continue to open up these avenues of learning and provide our students with the skills and resources they will truly need to become productive and viable citizens in the 21st century. The biggest question is are we willing to change?
Milford Jr/Sr High Principal