Marinne, Karelle and Aubryn. In a nutshell that is why. They are my daughters ages 9, 7 and 3 respectively. Their education and the education of all our children is too important to not get involved and we just can't wait for the "system" to get it right. I simply do not believe the current trend of creating "knowers" and not "learners" ,with content delivery and standardized testing being the norm, will prepare our youth for higher education or the globally competitive and fast changing world of the 21st century.
Forced with continual budget cuts, federal and state mandates on NCLB and Test Scores, primary and secondary education is becoming more and more focused on test preparation rather than learning. But what will the students do when there are no more tests? How will they be effective in college if they don't develop key skills in critical thinking, creativity, innovation and the management of information. How will they be employed if they lack the back skills of 21st century technology.
One thing the recent unrest in Egypt, Tunesia, Yemen, Syria and other nations has taught me is that there are two ways to try and change the system. Egyptians for 30 years were faced with an undesirable system. Treated as subjects, rather than citizens, they had no voice in developing their own culture. The whims, policies and ideas of the government or dictator controlled their lives. Yet within three weeks, the subjects were organized and orchestrated the removal of an entire government. If they can do that, can't we learn from them and impact our educational system?
The first way to change a system is to take a top down approach and focus on impacting federal, state, superintendent, principals and then teachers in trying to enhance the system. This takes a "teaching centric approach". I have great respect for teachers. They work hard, without much pay, in virtual isolation within their classrooms with a multitude of federal and state mandated requirements (teaching to the test) imposed upon them. They face constant pressure to improve test scores and logically will then teach to the test. Many have tried and are trying to change the system within but with little demonstrable improvements.
The second way to change the system is use the Egypt Lesson. Rather than working within, make the change outside the system. Wael Ghonin, used 21st century tools and organized, galvanized and orchestrated a citizen led uprising that within weeks entirely changed the system of government in Egypt. I believe we can do that in education. Rather than focusing on the teachers and administration, let's focus on the students in a learner centric approach. Let's find a way to provide them the critical skills needed to excel not only in school but to excel in their careers and compete globally.
MindQuest 21 was created to accomplish just that. It is not about teaching. It is about learning. It is about developing students that can think critically, navigate the Internet efficiently and thoroughly, that can compare sources to triangulate the truth, that know how to manage information once discovered and then know how to share that knowledge. These are the skills that will lead them to their futures.
MindQuest21 is intended as a supplement to formal education and to develop skills that will allow students to optimize their learning opportunities both in school and out. The "Quests" of MindQuest21 are designed to expose the students to 21st century tools and encourage them to not just find the what and when of something but also the why and how and be able to connect and apply that to their world. Students who complete the quests will become better writers, explorers, creators and presenters, all skills that can translate to school, college, work and life.