Terms like collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, community-minded and compassionate were recurring themes during the Vision 25 presentation given by Franklin County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Church last week.
Church and Franklin County High School Principal Jon Crutchfield hosted a live video chat with “What School Could Be” author Ted Dintersmith. Church explained that Dintersmith visited successful schools and examined what they were doing differently to make them innovative.
Church said in today’s learning environment students must work together.
“Gone are the days where you could work individually, you have to work in teams and you have to get along,” Church said. “Our students are doing well, but we need to make sure we are changing our education to fit their needs.”
Crutchfield added that math, reading, writing and social studies would still be taught but the focus is evolving to be on critical thinking and critical skills.
“A lot of people think of innovation as technology and that is true … but innovation occurs every day in our classrooms in the way teachers present the work and just in the ways our students work collaboratively to do certain jobs,” Crutchfield said.
An example he gave was teaching masonry. Students learn to build a throne, a pool table and a Putt-Putt golf course, but skills such as laying block, mixing mortar, leveling and measuring while working as a team.
“Who would have thought a masonry teacher would teach building a Putt-Putt course in a classroom on our West campus? To me that’s innovative,” he said. “Those are the kinds of things we are doing and trying to do more of.”
Crutchfield explained critical thinking skills are important in today’s education because they are teaching for jobs that have not yet been created, which is the premise of Dintersmith’s educational ideas.
Dintersmith said a common theme he found in successful school systems that he visited included teachers being supported from above such as the superintendent and principals to permit them to be innovative.
He said learning by doing was better than memorization.
“One of the reasons I am such a fan of career and technical education is that you develop a craft and you do it again and again until you master it,” Dintersmith said. “What is the evidence when a kid studies something and takes a test that they have learned? Actually there is very little evidence, particularly if it is a really intense push for short term memorization.”
He said when he asks kids what they studied the month before they don’t retain the material.
A common mistake in today’s education, according to Dintersmith, is the misuse of technology. Technology should be used to show students they can access resources from anywhere in the world using online resources appropriately. He added the internet can be used to inspire and instill an entrepreneurial spirit in students.
“I feel like that is one of our real opportunities in school is to equip kids with skills and proficiency but also a bit of an entrepreneurial mindset to realize they can support themselves and forge a great career entrepreneurially, which is not the same as starting a company but just being entrepreneurial in how they go about things,” Dintersmith said
Dintersmith said he felt from his research that high schools were too focused on college education.
“I find too often our K-12, particularly high schools, are so completely college-obsessed that kids fail to develop a skill that really matters,” Dintersmith said. “For Franklin County, I think you could equip your 12th grade with great career prospects and to look outside of college.”
Dintersmith’s advice to Franklin County educators circled back to Crutchfield’s discussion on innovative education moving forward. He advised parents to be supportive in the school division’s efforts to be innovative and to step back and look at what they want their kids to be good at in the future, because education has to evolve with the workforce.
His parting words were to “be bold” and “think outside the box.”