Pondering the Future of Education, A New Year’s Imperative

A curated pastiche of what every educator, I think, should know and consider moving forward.

BOOK REVIEW | by Mark Gura

Early morning, January 1, 2020: Coffee in hand, I’m reading “The Future is Now – Looking Back to Move Ahead” by Rachelle Dene Poth, a recognized voice in the ongoing conversation about the improvement and evolution of Education. Reading this book today is an example of the kind of perfect synchronicity that makes me smile; with a new year and fresh decade stretched out before us, this is a perfect time to ruminate on the future of education, something this book provides great grounding for.

The Future of Education

Wrapping one’s mind around the future of education, I think, is best done not through imagining and surrendering to what seems inevitable, but through envisioning a future that one wants, that one sees as beneficial, and that one chooses because what’s necessary for it to manifest is in place waiting for the opportunity to flower. I see a great deal of that in this book.

In putting this book together, Rachelle has reflected deeply, as she’s culled from an educational universe bursting with ideas and practice, collected the professional passion stories of colleagues on the same page, as well as generated fresh ideas of her own. What results is a curated pastiche of what every educator, I think, should know and consider moving forward. Those who insist that their future as educators is something they’d like to invite and craft, rather than passively letting it happen to them will find much in this book to inform, support, and inspire them.

Reading great thinking that colleagues have invested the best of themselves in inspires and makes us ready to jump forward.

Jumping Forward in Miami, to Start

I’m heartened to read what’s between the covers as Rachelle, the author, will be joining EdTech Digest at the upcoming FETC conference as a member of our session’s panel, Welcome to the Probing Edge: Looking at Education’s Future, Today!

This book reads like something of a memoire written by an accomplished classroom teacher who, by dint of years of experience, and an exploration of the body of thought that makes up the landscape of progressive education presents readers with a sparkling distillation of essential education perceptions.

Solidly grounded in mindful caring about students and their teachers, the book offers a recounting of Rachelle’s experiences and crucial ‘ah ha’s gleaned from colleagues that plots the evolution of her professional growth. It offers a rich stew of important ideas, all of which can serve to prepare teachers to teach meaningfully in the context of 21st Century Schooling.

Embracing One Another’s Stories

Here are just a few of the important ones: importantly, prominent is the need for colleagues to grow through collaboration by embracing one another’s stories of professional growth along with the importance of mentoring as a way to deepen the practice of both mentor and mentee. The book is peppered with short passages provided by educator colleagues who share their own experience as illustration of important points covered.

There are also attention grabbing quotes that drive home essential points that the book celebrates, one of my favorites is “Find your voice so that students can find theirs!”, very much in keeping with the shift in instructional paradigms from the 19th Century Knowledge Transfer model to the still unfolding ‘Teacher as Supportive Learning Partner’ model.

All of this brings the reader to a crucial shift in our shared professional reality, a future already unfolding and being felt and that will continue to reshape education.

At the core of this are the possibilities available for us now that teaching in a truly connected world present. To drive this home the book flashes another weighty quote “The most valuable resource that all teachers have is each other. Without collaboration our growth is limited to our own perspectives.” This is framed by the future defining heading “Teaching in Isolation: Why We Need to break Out.”

Expanding Your Circle with Tech

Rachelle (pictured, above) heads up ISTE’s Teacher Education Network, and therefore is well positioned to offer observations about the importance of expanding one’s professional circle of colleagues through the use of technology, the importance and impact of professional learning networks, and the field redefining power of online professional development. Importantly, these points are tempered with down to Earth sharing of Rachelle’s personal experiences, both successes and growing pains.

One last point the book makes that I’ll highlight and echo here: it’s especially important, I think, as I’m reflecting today on the future of education, I was thrilled to read the following section headline “Learn First, Then Lead: Finding That Passion.” Our emerging educational reality features a blurring of traditional roles and erasing of the artificial lines that the conservative model of traditional schooling has drawn between them. With greatly facilitated communication brought about by the advent and now ubiquitous presence of sophisticated technologies, committed educators will be able to, in fact, must embrace sharing experience and expertise quickly and broadly in order to keep pace with the ever accelerating change that more and more defines our world. That’s at the very core of the future of education.

More About Rachelle

Rachelle Dene Poth is a longtime French, Spanish, and STEAM teacher and an EdTech Consultant, and founder of THRIVEinED, LLC. She is also an attorney and has a master’s degree in Instructional Technology. Rachelle serves as president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and communications chair for the Mobile Learning Network. She received the Presidential Gold Award for Volunteer Service to Education in 2018. Silver Award in 2017, and was selected as one of “20 to watch” by the NSBA and the PAECT Outstanding Teacher of the Year in 2017. Rachelle is a Future Ready Instructional Coach. She is an Edugladiator Core Warrior and an affiliate of Pushing Boundaries Consulting, LLC. Rachelle received the gold award in 2018 and 2019, and the ISTE Making IT Happen Award in 2019.

Mark Gura is Editor-at-Large for EdTech Digest and author of The Edtech Advocate’s Guide to Leading Change in Schools (ISTE), and co-author of State of EdTech: The Minds Behind What’s Now and What’s Next. He taught at New York City public schools in East Harlem for two decades. He spent five years as a curriculum developer for the central office and was eventually tapped to be the New York City Department of Education’s director of the Office of Instructional Technology, assisting over 1,700 schools serving 1.1 million students in America’s largest school system.

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