My educational pedagogy has always been based on the constant attempt to look at every educational experience through a student’s perspective. It could stem from my early background as journalism/media professional or from my lifetime interest in advocacy.
Naturally, I think far too often educators have not looked at things in terms of student impact or perspective when implementing lessons, activities, programs or even pedagogy.
And now, at a time when the world of work and education are changing so dramatically, I am forced once again to ask what are we doing in our educational system designs that are considering student perspective, student interest, student voice, student choice, student impact and more?
Essentially, are things as crucial as educational technology, web access, use of social media, real college and career opportunities, mentoring, job shadowing, individual students interests things that can be considered optional or left to the whims of particular school boards, administrators, teachers or other educational entities?
I will respond with a profound “NO.” I think that all students should have access to real world tools and resources, web access for their education, choice and voice in their academic program, opportunities to provide constructive feedback to their educational leaders and mentors, etc. In other words, these are now non-negotiable. And if they are truly non-negotiable, I think they have become inalienable student rights.
That is right. These are now student rights issues. If we believe that all students have the right to a free K-12 public education, what does that mean and look like? Again, school boards, administrators, leaders, teachers and others should not be able to opt out of things that can easily be identified as educational rights.
No one would argue that all students should have access to things like transportation, seats, co-curricular programs and more. Then, why is at acceptable for a student at one school to be using 21st century tools while another student down the road (literally in most cases) is using outdated resources from a 20th century model? It’s not acceptable. It’s an equity and equal rights issue and therefore non-negotiable.
Naturally, part of the challenge is having all stakeholders agree what is essential, what are inherent educational rights, what is pedagogy vs. what is mandatory, etc.
But could we not look at the world of work and agree that certain tools, resources and technologies are not optional there? Do we see companies and/or government agencies option out of technology, social media, the Internet and more?
One would be hard pressed to find that somewhere. So, we can look outside schools and see what are the essentials necessary to be a working, functional and literate member of our society.
If we look at the Internet, technology and social media as literacy foundations – which I think we can easily demonstrate that they are – do they again not become essential and rights for all?
I was very fortunate to help create a 21st century high school that opened up with, among other things, a Student Bill of Rights. And in addition to one-to-one student laptops and more, we added foundational elements such as student surveys from teachers quarterly about how to improve their educational experiences.
It seems that if we truly want to transform education for all students that we will have to approach the challenge from a student educational rights platform.
I would love to think that all school boards, administrators, teachers, educators, politicians and community leaders would get on the same bus and do what’s right for kids. But sadly, that probably won’t work.
We’re going to have to mandate what’s right and be able to guarantee that every student in America has access to a 21st century education.
(images courtesy of Minarets High School and Foter)