When it comes to education, many would agree that the current model is outdated and is not providing all that our next generation needs for the future. Traditional education has remained virtually the same for decades, and perhaps even centuries. For this reason, when I happened upon Mike Howells' TEDx talk on "The Future of Education" (Howells, 2022) a few weeks ago, it struck a chord with me. Mike Howells is the president of the Workforce Skills division of Pearson Publishing, and his talk from a TedxPCL event in May 2022 appeared during a rabbit hole dive that came out of my frustration with the current state of the formal education system in the US. If you're an educator or a parent (or both, like me), you may be frustrated too. I have felt the brokenness of our system for a long time, though I'm not entirely able to put my finger on what change should look like. Howells explains that this may be because, while we foundationally think of learning happening inside an institution outside of the "real life," learning is actually the fundamental skill we use as humans for life and growth. Howells asserts that, therefore, as teachers, it makes sense that our role and responsibility to students ought to be, simply and yet profoundly, to "help you discover what you love and become great at it" (Howells, TedX, 6:30).
This goal, if we were to embrace it as a society, would change everything in education. If the objective of education were about figuring out what students love and then how to get good at that, I believe there would be several significant changes necessary to revamp our system. Personalized learning experiences would need to become much more prevalent. I think of the Montessori methodology as one picture of a more individualized approach to education, and I remember looking at several Montessori-style schools when my children were young, hoping to find an environment that would give them the freedom to discover their passions and strengths. Ultimately, I did not choose that model for them because I felt the resources were outdated, the facilities and staff were limited, and there were better options available with a traditional approach. However, if more funding were allocated toward a truly individualized approach that also pointed toward the world of tomorrow rather than the last century, students could receive the support they need to identify their own interests and strengths and develop them to their fullest potential.
Places of learning, then, would absolutely require the integration of cutting-edge technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, gamification, and adaptive learning. Instead of running away from these technologies because we can see the potential dangers, we would need to see them as tools that are already shaping the future of education, offering unparalleled opportunities for enhancing student engagement and personalizing the learning experience. With such technologies in place, the emphasis on the curriculum would shift towards creativity and exploration, with students given ample opportunities to explore different subjects and areas of interest while interacting with the kinds of tools that are changing the world, the kinds of tools they'll need to be able to use when they are the future leaders of all kinds of industries and organizations. Learning could take the form of project-based, self-directed, and hands-on experiences, all of which would enable students to discover their passions and strengths in a more meaningful way and which become much more feasible and accessible with the use of new technologies.
The kinds of knowledge that students need to acquire are already very different from what they used to be, and these skills could become the central focus of learning in whichever field they were to choose. Critical thinking and the ability to evaluate, for example, are paramount to being able to navigate through a future with AI. Students no longer tend to be the sole creators of content, but rather evaluators of which content truly reflects the message in their mind, as well as to parse and understand the content they are consuming more deeply. In addition to the skills of thinking, students need to increase their abilities to connect with ever more diverse types of people and perspectives. The ability to interact and collaborate, facilitate and participate in deep meaningful conversations, and work on a team utilizing each person’s strengths will be skills that lead to success. These metacognitive and cognitive thinking strategies as well as these soft skills all need to be more explicitly taught and practiced, in both online and in-person settings.
All of this would also necessitate a huge shift in the role of the teacher and the school building. The teacher would no longer be seen as the source of all knowledge, but rather as the “re-source”. The role of teachers in the future of education would shift towards the facilitation of learning. Teachers will have to be proficient in using these latest technologies, be able to differentiate instruction and provide personalized learning experiences to meet the developmental needs of diverse learners. With the technologies we now have at hand, teachers would be able to guide students toward collaborative learning with peers and experts in their target field. I imagine a teacher being able to network and reach out to places and spaces in the community or across the globe, and facilitate rich connections for their students’ growth. Via online platforms, experts in every field could be accessed, and field experiences for students developed. The in-person setting and the meeting in groups would continue to play an important role in providing practice with the soft skills spoken about above. Teachers would still have objectives and create plans to meet them, but the goals and objectives, the styles of teaching and learning, and the means of assessment would evolve.
Beyond the school walls, education would need to involve more collaboration and engagement with the local community as well, in order to help students identify their passions and strengths, and exercise them in real contexts. This might involve partnerships with local businesses, mentorship programs, and community service projects. “Schooling” wouldn’t necessarily need to take place inside the brick-and-mortar buildings as it does now. Schools, as organizations instead of locations, would need to become much more agile and responsive to the changing needs of learners by offering flexible learning pathways, personalized learning experiences, and some sort of stackable credentials. They will also have to be willing to collaborate with industry partners and the community, allowing that education not always only happens inside the four walls of the school.
Of course, as alluded to above, testing would need to change as well. Standardized testing, which has been criticized for promoting rote memorization over creativity and critical thinking, would all but disappear. Instead, assessments would be authentic and allow students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in meaningful ways rather than punishing them for their deficits. To support this new approach, each student might need an individualized education plan (IEP) that begins with self-awareness and self-discovery and then outlines the knowledge and skills needed to advance in their specific area of interest. Data analytics and changing technologies would play a critical role in providing insights into student learning, identifying areas for improvement, and enabling personalized instruction. This data could help institutions make data-driven decisions about their approach to helping students discover their passions and guide them toward continued growth and improvement.
Our new system would hope to prepare students for the rapidly changing job market of the 21st century as well. To do that, we would need to acknowledge that there are significant gaps between the current educational system and the skills and knowledge that are required, and which are also constantly evolving, making it challenging for schools to keep up. One solution could be to establish partnerships with public and private industry and seek funding from sources outside of government. This would enable schools to collaborate with industry experts and ensure that their curriculum is aligned with the specific needs of the job market. Through these partnerships, schools could also gain insights into the latest trends and technologies, allowing them to better prepare their students for the future. By facilitating these connections and promoting open communication, we could work towards closing the gap and ensuring that students are well-equipped to succeed in the workforce.
While this futuristic picture of an educational utopia may seem far-fetched, even impossible, for someone without influence in political realms to demand the changes, it is important to think about how we can make progress towards it as individual educators. Changing a large system like the US Department of Education is admittedly no easy task, but it is possible to take small steps towards that future on an individual classroom level. Even within the boundaries and regulations of the current system, we can employ strategies and network with other organizations and technologies, bringing the future into our classrooms toward the goal of helping students figure out what they love, and then help them get good at it.
Though there are significant constraints of our somewhat standardized curriculum, we can still personalize learning experiences for our students as much as possible. We can get to know each student and their interests, and try to incorporate those interests into lessons whenever possible. We can offer choices in assignments or activities to allow students to pursue their passions. They can choose their own media to consume (books, podcasts, articles), topics to research, people to interview, etc. as we help them evaluate and consume critically. When we see a curiosity in our students, we can resource them with whatever we find to fan that flame. There are also ways that we can foster creativity and exploration as well, as we provide opportunities for hands-on experiences and project-based learning. Allowing students to take risks and try new things might be a part of an authentic assessment. While of course we may be required to give standardized tests, we can also offer authentic assessments that allow students to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in meaningful ways including presentations, portfolios, or other projects that allow students to showcase what they’ve learned in a way that reflects their strengths and interests. Students could choose the kinds of assessments they think best showcase their learning.
Additionally, we can find opportunities to involve the broader community in our classroom. This might include bringing in guest speakers or taking field trips to local businesses or organizations. It could also mean looking for ways to connect our curriculum to real-world problems or events in our own communities. Likewise, we can utilize companies like “Lenguas Club” for example, a growing venture that allows students to access knowledge and neighborhoods they’d not otherwise be able to visit. Lenguas Club is a company that is miles ahead of the mainstream, already using current technology to individualize and authenticize education and is currently being invited into some schools to collaborate. Lenguas Club’s motto is “We use technology to bring the world into your classroom”. Students using the Lenguas club model in their high school classrooms are finding a unique way to have authentic language experiences and interactions that are changing their perspectives on the world. I would encourage other language teachers to explore how Lenguas Club’s strategies can have a significant impact on their students’ learning. This is one example among many that allow us to make small shifts in the classroom while having a significant impact on students, as we fight for the larger fundamental changes that need to be made “above and beyond” our reach.
Finally, we can learn the latest technology ourselves and see what we can do to bring them to the classroom to explore. How can AI, or specifically ChatGPT, be useful rather than a hindrance? As an example, in my college classroom, I have begun to use ChatGPT with certain assignments so that students have the opportunity to interact with the technology and see what responses or content is offered. Then, we talk and work through the results to see what is helpful and what is not, critically think and evaluate the responses, the interactions, and appropriate uses, and hypothesize other potential applications. Additional questions we should be asking are how can we utilize technology for gamification or for a more real and authentic experience? In what ways can we start to close the gap that exists for graduating students entering the workplace with regard to soft skills and technology? We can continue to have these conversations with our colleagues and also invite our students to be a part of them. We may not be ready yet to unveil my picture of an educational revolution inspired by Mike Howell’s “Future of Education” Tedx, however, we can move in that direction a little each day.
While there may be significant constraints within our current educational system, there are still ways we can help our students figure out what they love and how to be good at it. By personalizing learning experiences, fostering creativity and exploration, providing more authentic assessments, intentionally engaging with our communities both locally and beyond, and utilizing the amazing technologies that are available to us in this current world, we can create a classroom environment that encourages students to discover their passions and strengths and to chase after them.
A message to fellow educators: we don’t have time NOT to learn AI toolsRead Now
As technology evolves and AI websites like ChatGPT emerge, is it really fair to ask our students not to incorporate them into their learning?
The use of AI-generated material is increasing, and it is projected to account for 60- 90% of content by 2025. As educators, it is our responsibility to provide high-quality education and prepare our students for their future lives and careers, which will undoubtedly put them in contact with AI-generation in terms of the tools they’re using themselves or at least the content they’re interacting with.
In order to achieve this, I believe we must incorporate innovative AI writing and creation tools into our curriculum and classrooms, and we can learn how to do that without adding hours to our own workday.
As an avid user of ChatGPT and other writing AIs, I have sometimes shared my experiences about interacting with AI with colleagues and friends in the education field. While some express curiosity or share their own experiences, others are quick to reply that they simply don’t have time to learn yet another platform. While I do understand those with this sentiment and have empathy for the educator who is feeling stretched in endless directions, I would encourage these busy teachers to give it a second thought. I would argue that we can get to know these tools ourselves without dedicating too much extra time, and beyond that, we don’t have time to NOT do so in order to continue fulfilling our responsibility for preparing our students for the future.
Developing a basic familiarity with AI writing tools is actually very easy and requires minimal effort. I started by keeping ChatGPT or Bing chat open in one tab while I work, and organically asking questions to the platform as they arose, whether directly related to work or not - similar to the way one might “google the answer”. For instance, when my daughter asked me what would be for dinner, I asked ChatGPT to suggest something I could cook that would satisfy my vegetarian daughter, her meat-loving brother, and also take into account my elderly parent. Within 30 seconds, ChatGPT suggested a build-your-own taco night or a vegetarian lasagna with soft baked chicken on the side, and 3 more ideas that I thought could work as well.
Another way I incorporate AI into my everyday teaching routine is with lesson planning. In this way, it saves me time and increases the quality and variety of my plans. For instance, in my speaking class, I sometimes assign an article to read and annotate, and then hold academic discussions in the following class. I have been experimenting with providing ChatGPT with the article and then asking for prompts and discussion questions that can help students understand and interact with the article’s key concepts. Within less than 30 seconds, 8 or 10 questions are generated and I typically find one or two that impress me and I’m able to quickly tweak for my own needs. This process does not take additional time and often results in interesting perspectives and angles in our discussions.
Inviting students to use AI tools is also beneficial for their learning and has helped me to gain familiarity with the abilities of the technology, without costing extra time in my life. For instance, in a classroom activity where I typically ask students to brainstorm something with a partner before sharing it with the class, they can do this task with ChatGPT. They can interact with the AI, form, and reform questions, gain new insight, and ask follow-up questions as well. They have at times found helpful responses to difficult concepts or have been able to ask questions that they may not feel comfortable asking in front of the class.
Additionally, by interacting with the students during the activity, I can see what kinds of responses they are getting from the tool. In this way, the process helps me improve my own proficiency with the tool and better understand how students are interacting with AI-generated texts, which can then inform what needs to be taught in terms of evaluation and critical thinking (more on that in a future blog post).
As we are tasked in education with the responsibility of developing future thinkers who can be successful and useful in tomorrow’s world, I don’t think we have time to NOT Incorporate AI technology like ChatGPT into our processes and our classroom. The pace of AI technology’s development is so rapid that even what it may be capable of next week, let alone next year, surpasses its current capabilities. Therefore, we cannot afford to ignore it and risk falling too far behind. As educators, we need not set aside days or weeks exclusively for learning AI tools. Instead, we can begin to incorporate it into our daily routine outside and inside the classroom, and step by step observe how it can eventually save us and our students valuable time, while potentially improving education as a whole.
Thanks to a VillageRead Now
"It takes a village to raise a child," goes the old African proverb. But in the world of business, I've come to realize that it takes a community to raise a successful enterprise.
As a language professor, I have always been passionate about helping people communicate in different languages. I understand the possibilities that become available through language learning. Three years ago, I took the leap and founded my own language learning company, Lenguas Club, with a mission to expand multilingualism through human interactions. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a challenging yet fulfilling journey as an entrepreneur.
Of course, being an entrepreneur requires a diverse skill set; since starting Lenguas Club, I have expanded my knowledge to include everything from business management to marketing to customer psychology. But I haven't been alone in this journey. Thanks to organizations like the Koffman Incubator and the Small Business Association, as well as the support of colleagues and mentors, I have been able to navigate the ever-changing waters of entrepreneurship.
While the world adjusted to virtual meetings at the beginning of this decade, I saw an opportunity to connect people across the world through virtual language and cultural immersion sessions. Today, Lenguas Club is in a good position to supply highly qualified Spanish teachers to add power world to language departments. We work with schools to supplement their teaching capabilities through virtual immersion sessions with teachers in Colombia,
As the company develops, we continue to find new areas in which we can serve our professional community. Lenguas Club also provides professional development on topics related to supporting multilingual learners. Our team of experienced TESOL teachers and researchers from across the country works together to develop interactive workshops that are enhanced by the possibilities of virtual interaction.
To keep up with the growth of my company, I continue to learn and surround myself with top talents in their respective fields. I am currently participating in a Master Mind program at Clarkson University, which is providing me with valuable insights and strategies for different aspects of my organization. I am also a faithful consumer of personal and professional development podcasts; amongst my current favorite are How Leaders Lead with David Novak, Cult of Pedagogy, Hidden Brain and Online Marketing Made Easy.
Looking back on my journey, I am amazed at how much I have changed and grown as a leader. Through the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, I have developed greater confidence in my abilities and learned to team up with others to augment them. I have also developed a greater appreciation for hard work and perseverance, as well as the importance of teaming up to infuse your organization with the best talent to remain relevant in an ever-changing world.
As Lenguas Club becomes a leader in the world of language learning, I feel confident in our ability to deliver educational experiences that enhance learning and with schools curriculums and learning circumstances. As a leader myself, I feel well surrounded by the best team and supported by a network of exceptional people and organizations that will help me develop into the best leader I can be.
So, to all aspiring entrepreneurs out there, remember: it takes a town to raise a business. Build your network, surround yourself with great minds, and never stop learning."
Supporting English Language learners in the general education classroomRead Now
The term ‘multilingual learners’ is used to describe all students who come in contact with and/or interact in languages in addition to English on a regular basis. In academic settings, many of these students face unique challenges with language acquisition and academic success, and while educators cannot control all the variables of their learning, by using different strategies, they can advance their students' language journeys and make their subject content more accessible to their learners. It is important to note that any of these strategies will benefit other learners in the classroom.
This blog post intends to share practical strategies for supporting multilingual learners' English language acquisition and academic achievement.
Language acquisition is a complex process that involves not only the memorization of vocabulary and syntax but also the development of cultural knowledge and academic literacy. The learner of a second or new language must negotiate at least two different languages and cultures in order to develop the new language. Because of how closely language and cultural practices and beliefs are connected, students' own cultures can sometimes clash with those of the target language, making it harder for them to learn.
Through culturally responsive teaching, an approach that emphasizes the importance of understanding and valuing students' cultures and backgrounds, teachers can create inclusive and engaging learning environments for multilingual learners. The benefits of culturally responsive teaching increased engagement, improved academic achievement, and higher levels of self-efficacy.
There are several effective teaching strategies that can be used to support multilingual learners in academic settings. Here, they are categorized as language-based, content-based, and assessment and feedback strategies.
Language-based strategies: These strategies focus on developing students' English language proficiency. Some examples include:
Teaching multilingual learners may appear to be a challenging task, but with a few adjustments to the lesson plan, an educator can propel multilingual learners' English language acquisition and academic achievement. By valuing students' cultural backgrounds and creating inclusive learning environments, we can promote academic success for all learners.
Many educators worry about the ease with which students cheat by using different technologies, but...
Is education cheating students of crucial learning?
Meanwhile, students spend hours interacting with technology and learning skills, often without any adult to assist them or to help them understand what they are doing.
Innovative educators have long recognized the potential of technology to revolutionize education. However, many instructors remain apprehensive about incorporating technology into their teaching practices, fearing that it will enable cheating or dumb down the learning experience.
The challenges of the beginning of this decade brought to our attention the potential of virtual tools in education. Due to the pandemic, schools and homes had to adapt quickly, and while not everything was successful, we did learn that it was possible to teach using different tools and in very untraditional ways. During this time, every industry had to change; from supermarkets offering grocery delivery services to doctors providing virtual consultations, the world has been forced to adapt to technological advancements.
A few years into the technological revolution, we see the way that many industries took advantage of those learnings and developed new ways to work, while others were unable to adapt and disappeared. As an industry, is education going in the right direction?
It seems to me that we are too afraid of the dangers of technology to see its potential. While we struggle to find ways to ensure students are not using Chat GPT or other AI to write their papers or translators in the language classroom, we are missing how these tools could bring students' learning to a whole new level.
Online translators, for example, have become increasingly accurate, which means that learners will sometimes use them to translate their assignments. It also means that students can use them to connect their two languages. Imagine telling your students to use their translator to describe their home and then asking them to notice the way adjectives work as a starting place to understand gender and number.
Integrating new and disruptive technologies into the curriculum is challenging, but if we approach them with curiosity and let our students join us on the learning journey, we will also teach them the power of a learning community, which will help them become better learners.
Of course, there are many other considerations in this pursuit, and I will address them in upcoming posts.
For now, I want to close by emphasizing that while it's natural to be concerned about the potential risks of technology in the classroom, it's important to remember that these tools also have enormous potential to enhance learning and engage students in new and innovative ways. By embracing technology and using it to create more personalized and engaging learning experiences, we can better prepare our students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.
Learning with Lenguas ClubRead Now
Are you tired of feeling self-conscious when speaking a foreign language? Do you struggle to find opportunities to practice and improve your skills? As a language learner myself, I understand the challenges you face. But fear not, because Lenguas Club is here to revolutionize the way you learn!
At Lenguas Club, we know that the key to mastering a language is authentic communication. Because of this, we've made a program that gives you lots of chances to speak with native speakers in a safe and supportive setting. Our team of trained language educators will help you build your confidence and develop the skills you need to succeed.
What sets Lenguas Club apart from other language programs? For one, we believe that language learning should be fun! That's why we've integrated gaming components into our pedagogy, making your learning experience more engaging and motivating. Our point system and incentives will keep you focused on your goals and eager to improve.
Another unique aspect of our program is our emphasis on cultural competence. We believe that understanding the culture(s) in which a language is spoken is just as important as mastering the language itself. Our curriculum includes cultural activities and discussions to help you develop a deeper appreciation for the language and its cultural context.
Finally, Lenguas Club is more than just a language program; it's a community. By joining our program, you'll become part of a supportive group of language learners and native speakers who share your passion for language and culture. You'll have access to a network of resources and support to help you achieve your goals and become a confident and proficient speaker.
So what are you waiting for? Join Lenguas Club today and take the first step towards mastering a new language and transforming your life!
I am Marisol Marcin, a professor of languages, education and global studies. I am passionate about language education.