Rapidly Changing the Education Mindset

Overcoming generations of tradition to prepare students for an unknown future

by Dr. Rod Berger

“In education, we have an industry that is filled with passionate people who don't see their situations as jobs,” Ryan Schaaf says. “They see it as the passion of their lives; they see it as their life’s work. They see themselves as really being the architects of civilization.” And yet in the discussion about the difficulty of changing education to meet the needs of the future, teachers seem to get the lion's share of the blame. Many people fail to understand that the system might need to change, but educators remain our best and most valuable resource and most effective agents of change.

Due to chronic digital bombardment and the emergence of the new digital landscape, today’s youth play differently, process information differently, communicate differently and, most importantly, learn differently from previous generations. Effective, passion-driven educators must constantly adapt their instructional tools and approaches to meet the needs of today’s learners.

Ryan says that the best way to change the system is to work from within, through the educators and administrators, because they are already in place and committed to their students. Educators need to see that their passion for their students and craft is still absolutely relevant and critical for success, but change is necessary inside the system of learning. Education is constantly evolving and needs to go in a different direction to meet the objective of preparing future generations of creative thinkers and problem solvers. “Sometimes, the critical role of educators in changing the system gets lost in the rhetoric and the narrative,” Ryan says.

Ryan will be presenting three different sessions on that subject at the 2019 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida from January 27-30. He will be discussing teachers and edtech, and the challenges they will face in the future.

After all, the students in classrooms now have never known a world without digital devices or the Internet of Things delivering information and content instantaneously to their fingertips. Today’s learners have grown up in a world seamlessly connected by technologies that give them instant access to everyone and everything. However, many schools have remained the same since 1893. Ryan says changing a well-established system like education takes baby steps, starting very small and letting that energy build when it comes to systemic change.

Ryan is not only an assistant professor of education technology; he is also a prolific author of five books and numerous articles on the subject. When it comes to education themes to write about, he looks for not only topical subject matter but issues that are going to have legs for a very long time. Even though the education field changes slowly and methodically compared to other industries, all the strategies, apps, tools, and resources change almost daily because of the type of innovation and iteration. “It just makes things obsolete rather fast,” Ryan says.

“Change under any circumstance is very difficult,” Ryan says. “It's almost easier to change the direction of the wind sometimes because the existing system is ingrained from many generations of tradition. It's a very powerful mindset to overcome.”

About Ryan Schaaf

As Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at Notre Dame of Maryland University and Graduate Faculty at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, Ryan Schaaf wants to help educators reach the learners of the digital generations. Before higher education, he was a school teacher, instructional leader, and mentor teacher. In 2007, he was nominated for Maryland Teacher of the Year. Ryan’s passion is helping teachers, students, and thought leaders see the potential of using digital tools for instruction and how to leverage their incredible potential for meaningful, real-world, and relevant learning experiences. His mission is to energize audiences into taking the necessary steps to prepare students for their futures and not our past. Follow Ryan on Twitter.

FETC January 27 - 30, 2019

Ryan Schaaf will be presenting three sessions at the 2019 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) from January 27th-30th in Orlando, Florida. The conference will bring together thousands of educators and technology leaders for an intensive, highly collaborative exploration of new technologies, best practices, and pressing issues. Registration is now open.

Ryan will be presenting at the following sessions:

C227 | A Brief History of the Future of Education

C019 | Game On: Using Digital Games to Transform Learning and Assessment

C106 | Reinventing Learning for the Always-On Generation: Strategies That Work

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