Online Blogucation

Season of Change

I had to turn the heater on in my car this morning. The Colorado mornings are getting chilly: in the 40s and 50s. It’s almost like Fall had been hiding behind the Labor Day corner, just waiting to pounce. Despite the cold (and my cold), I love fall and all that comes with it. Change is definitely upon us. Football is back, the leaves are turning, and everyone’s back in school.

With the coming of school, homework is now running rampant in my house. This is the first year that all three of my kids are in school of some sort. It’s fun and it’s challenging trying to keep up with all the basics that I’ve almost forgotten and that they are learning anew. The other night I sat down with my 9 year old daughter who’s in fourth grade to try and help her with her sudoku math homework problem. Wait. What? Sudoku math homework? I can see the connection, practicing logic and problem solving, but I don’t remember doing this in fourth grade. Do you? I remember Ms. Daniel, her glasses and her reading of Where the Red Fern Grows to our class.  I remember multiplication tables, homonyms, workbooks and chase at recess. I remember Ms. Daniel weeping the day of the Challenger space shuttle tragedy and the first time I failed an assignment. But Sudoku for homework? I don’t remember that being a part of my fourth grade.

As I watched my daughter solve the puzzle, I realized that Sudoku for homework wasn’t odd for her. It’s simply part of her reality; part of the life she knows and the memories she’s making. Just like tablet computers and texting and video on demand and charter schools and doing homework on interactive websites. These things are new and fun and show how far we’ve come in the last 20 years for me, but they’re how it’s always been for her and every child after her.

As I mulled this thought over and considered the environment surrounding my daughter’s education compared to the world that surrounded my childhood education, this thought came to me: learning is always contextual. We cannot help but learn within the environment that we are inside. We start by learning the language(s) that are spoken around us, repeating the gestures and customs that we see modeled. We come to expect to see and have the inventions and conveniences that have always been around us. But the cultural context in which we learn doesn’t stand still for us. Just as the seasons, it’s ever changing. What Heraclitus said is indeed true: Change is the only constant. And as our world changes around us, so too does what we learn and how we learn; many times whether we like it or not, whether we notice it or not. (You may not like the device, but how many conversations have you had in the last year containing the new word ‘iPad’?)

However, while learning is innately contextual, education must choose to be contextual. Education, at its core, might be described as intentional learning; which means that it includes choice. The choice of what to learn and how and why and when and to what degree. We can choose to make education contextual, or not. We can choose to be relevant to the industries of today or only to those of yesterday. We can choose to be aware (and think critically about) changes in culture around us, or not. We can choose to intentionally keep education changing for good, or we can opt out.

The reality of our educational culture is that it has always been in a state of change. Accreditation regulations change, federal aid changes, industries come and go, discoveries and advancements are made in nearly all subjects. Technologies and government programs and even people come and go.

This time of year always reminds me that, as educators, we have the intentional choice ever before us to fight change, accept it begrudgingly, or to come along side it and leverage it for learning.

What is your view of change? Is it something that is feared or tolerated? Do you leverage it toward your learning goals? Is it addressed in your course, in your class, on your team or at your institution?

Luke Cable | Academic Trainer & Consultant

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