Becky Fisher works as an independent education consultant for various organizations including Edutopia, EdSurge, and Drawp. She loves building things that promote creativity and believes that education technology should be cultivating a generation of passionate learners. Becky has a master’s degree in education from Harvard University and currently resides in San Francisco.
Can you describe the mission of Edutopia?
“The mission of Edutopia is to improve the overall K-12 learning process for all stakeholders. We want to be a place where teachers, administrators, parents, and community members can come together and both learn and talk about education. Edutopia has a rich community, which makes it very unique. Anyone can ask questions and receive advice, bloggers receive multiple responses to their posts, and teachers have a wide array of resources at their fingertips. It’s a great blend of learning, sharing, and community building.”
What role does entertaining kids have in the world of education? Have kids grown up being entertained so much that they have a hard time learning without that component?
“Learning should always be entertaining. This is a huge problem in education because traditional learning and school have always had a reputation for being “boring”. But growing up, and I bet many people can relate, my most effective teachers made material come to life in an engaging and entertaining way. As a teacher I tried my best to uphold this methodology.
These days there is more emphasis placed on making learning fun, entertaining, and interactive. Somehow, these adjectives have become synonymous with technology and gamification, but we often forget that the path of the learning entertainment industry, sometimes referred to as ‘edutainment’, was originally forged by the groundbreaking show in Sesame Street. Back when TV was the only method of entertainment and edutainment, and Sesame Street was one of the only sources of learning in the media, there was little worry about the effect it had on children in the classroom.”
Now that students can access learning and games on multiple devices, that worry has increased significantly. Will students have a hard time learning in the classroom without the presences of “edutainment”? Do students need an iPad to be able to focus? Has this type of entertainment increased the presence of ADD? Without the proper research, these questions are hard to answer.
I argue that the increase in available learning technologies is a good thing. Maybe the way we entertain children has changed, but children have always craved this type of learning. Learning should be playful, fun, and exciting, no matter its form. Ultimately, it’s a teacher’s job to deliver the material in an interesting and relevant way. There’s no denying that students can learn without iPads, videos, or gamifying lesson plans. However, these things are not necessary to ignite wonder within a child. At it’s core, learning should always strive to be entertaining, no matter what form it takes.”
“Storytelling is arguably the most important skill that one will acquire in their lifetime. And multimedia storytelling is especially significant because it allows for stories to be relayed in whatever form the teller is most comfortable with. In our modern age, everyone needs to be able to tell a story. From resumes, to TED talks, to concerts, to coding, storytelling is a ubiquitous part of our lives, and the ability to tell a complete, relatable, and coherent story is an important life skill.
Kids are currently consuming media at a higher rate than any previous generation, and the content creation that is occurring is by far the most exciting. Kids as young as 4 or 5 can create videos, cartoons, code, and more, and there is a growing emphasis on this culture of creation. With proper education kids can not only create content, but generate effective and educational material that is consumed by others. In the future, I predict that personal YouTube channels are going to tell as much about a person as their Facebook Page, with content collected over years of making.
Multimedia storytelling teaches kids that they can be who they are and express themselves in a medium that they are most comfortable with. It empowers youth to share their voice, whether through dance, music, abstract art, photography, writing, doodling, poetry, cooking, or any other medium through which a story can be told (and there are many). If a student wants to compose an etude or an R&B song to share their story, shouldn’t that be as relevant as a story that can be read from a book? In this way, multimedia storytelling can open up a world of creation to students who identify with any means of expression.”
Since kids are growing up immersed in technology, often by themselves playing a game or a hand-held device, is the future of learning headed toward a solo school experience?
“Education and learning throughout your lifetime is a holistic experience. It does not happen at one time, in one place, or with one person. Nor, will it ever. Therefore, I do not believe that the future of learning will ever be a solo school experience. However, I do believe that the way students learn in schools is changing and the classroom of the future looks very different from the classroom of today, though there are glimpses of it in the present.
A ‘one size fits all’ education is no longer relevant. Students learn at different paces, in different ways, and it is our job as educators and education influencers to be sure all students’ needs are being met. I believe that a blended learning model is the future of classroom learning. This model assesses each child in all subjects and allows teachers to meet each student where they are. Blended learning allows students to learn at their own pace through a variety of methods include online and offline, in-class instruction and tablet learning. Peer-to-peer learning can also be a strength in this type of classroom. The flexibility in this methodology is intended to reach every student and give him or her the greatest chance for success.
There are many different classroom techniques that are currently seeing lots of success, including project-based learning, game-based learning, flipped classrooms, and even the old-fashioned chalk-and-talk (in some circumstances). Though I believe the future of classroom learning will be vary from school to school, the blended learning model can be applied to a variety of schools from public to private, large to small, and urban to rural. No matter where you are from, there will always be students with differing needs and abilities. Though I can’t picture the future of learning headed towards a solo school experience, our current path indicates that learning will be much more individualized.
How can music play a role in a child’s’ education?
“Music, along with the rest of the arts, is crucial to a well-rounded education. Just as multimedia storytelling is arguably the most important skill to learn, the arts are arguably the most important way for students to find and channel their voice. Although kids should always learn that it’s okay to fail, the arts provide a safe space in which to do so.
When I taught music I used a Hungarian methodology called The Kodály Method. Essentially, it uses games and folk songs to teach students how to read, sing, and play music. My goal was to teach music as a language and have all students fluent by grade 5. Ultimately, I wanted to teach music as a hard skill that could be used in the future when they sign up for their college choir or play in a band. But in practice, the take-away is much deeper than that. Students took ownership of their work and pride in their creative failures and successes. I learned many things from my students, but the most important lesson was how the arts help develop soft skills like empathy, creativity, teamwork, confidence, and responsibility. These skills build character and provide the tools for students to transform into who they want to be.”
- Edutopia Weekly Giveaway Featuring Routledge Eye On Education! (psypress.com)
- 5 Powerful Questions Teachers Can Ask Students | Edutopia (labarreb.wordpress.com)
- Edutopia Teaching Models (mrswesteren.wordpress.com)
- At the Intersection of Art and Technology (edtechdigest.wordpress.com)
- Edutopia’s Big List of Digital Citizenship Resources (indianajen.com)