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“The Modern Educator Is Not a Teacher”: Updating Learning for the 21st Century

Classrooms operate almost the same way they did 100 years ago. A group of of middle schoolers from the Dallas-Fort Worth area want to change that.


Why do classrooms and schools operate almost the same way they did 100 years ago? A group of middle schoolers from the Dallas-Fort Worth area began asking themselves this question during a class discussion of Orson Scott Card's science fiction novel Ender's Game. More importantly, they began to wonder, "Could children, using the internet, have a dramatic impact on the world around them? Could they influence public opinion, and make a mark on their world?" Thus began "Education Evolution," a class video project that brings a student perspective to what's going wrong in the modern classroom, and offers up ideas of how it can be fixed.

The students began working on the project back in January, generating ideas, storyboarding scenes, and dividing the work into groups. When you watch the product of their months of work, the video above, it's easy to think they simply want more technology—more learning via laptops, tablet technology, and software—in classrooms. But it's also clear that they're clamoring for an end to a factory-based model of education. No more sitting in rows facing forward while a teacher lectures at a whiteboard, no more rote memorization and multiple choice testing. Instead, they want collaboration, learning driven by student interests, and project-based tasks.

But why listen to what a bunch of seventh and eighth graders think about schools? Their teacher, J. Fletcher, recently wrote on the project blog that his beliefs about teaching and learning have changed because of his students.

These students really are right. Educational needs aren’t the same as when I was in middle school twenty years ago. The modern educator is a facilitator, an organizer, and a guide—the modern educator is NOT a teacher. We are no longer (or should no longer be) in the business of giving information. The information is out there, easily grasped. It’s our job to present it to the students in a way that makes them want to learn themselves. That’s basically what this video—and this whole project—is about. We’re still using exactly the same methodologies—with, in some cases, niftier tools—that we used twenty (one hundred!) years ago. Lecture and listen. Drill and kill. Review and test, always test, again and again. Repeat with next unit. That was onerous and tired twenty years ago when I was a student. Why are we still using it now?


Fletcher and the students hope their video goes viral and that it sparks conversation and real change in the way teachers and schools operate.

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