ISTE keynote: Dr. Yong Zhao

I’m attending the Keynote address by Dr. Yong Zhao at the ISTE 2012 conference. This morning he is discussing education, goals, assessments, and technology. The following post chronicles his speech today.

He starts by saying that, if you choose the wrong goal to achieve, you won’t succeed. Where your priorities lie greatly influences your level of success and could ultimately determine your level of failure. With this in mind, where are we going in education today…”no child left behind”, “common core”, etc….

Dr. Zhao suggests that test scores have become the “new god in education”. Technology is used to enslave students and teachers to produce better scores. As a result, he says test scores don’t lead to real education. Test scores are not a stick by which everyone should be measured.

He refers to Marc Tucker’s “Surpassing Shanghai”. In discussing goals to surpass Asian countries in test scores, the idea is that literacy is the key to achievement. We have focused on this goal for years as the baseline. But is reading the real goal we should have? Somehow, China has become, to many, the line of measure by which we must rise, or the standard of comparison for education. In other words, why can’t our education system be as good as China’s. They’re kicking our butts in math and science! But in truth, China has the best and worst education system, combined. Many Chinese feel their education system has stifled them.

“Why aren’t the model minority happy?”

Asians as a group do very well based on test scores. Asians seem to be the model minority, educationally. But in the world of work, their stake in leadership positions is much lower statistically.

If American education is so poor, and has been for so long, why is the US still here? looking back in time, many news stories and studies have compared us to other countries, only to show that our educational system is far behind.
However, economically, the US is doing well in comparison. So why does the paradox exist? If we have a country of horrible test takers, why do we still seem to succeed as a world power?

A great deal of student success can be tied to their level of confidence. In the push to get high scores, we may be damaging their confidence. “To get high test scores we need to make our kids slightly more miserable.”

“Confidence underpins creativity and entrepreneurship”

The traditional model of education is to create a curriculum. We make a bet that if we form curriculum, kids will be successful as a result of that effort. With any curriculum, you are not only educating, but you are selecting. So what matters – diversity of talents, creativity, entrepreneurship, and passion. We tend to kill these things in our current system.

So what matters? We need creativity, innovation, etc…. You need unique people with special skills, not a large population of people with the same skills. Choosing to excel in one area is not a bad thing. We need to view everyone as an entrepreneur. Those that are on happy with a situation and create their own situation or solution. These are the creative people who don’t wait on a position to open up for them, they create their own path.

Education should enhance strengths and follow the students. Education has to become product oriented. Kids shouldn’t be making projects for the teacher, they should be producing solutions to problems; not just become idle consumers. Test scores do not reflect teaching ability, student future, or school quality. A good education is one that helps every student maximize potential.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

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