Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein by mansionwb, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  mansionwb 
In the real world, where I get paid to work, I have found myself in seemingly constant discussions of late, centered around how we do school. I find the discussions a bit redundant – as many of the people in these discussions are completely comfortable doing what has always been done in school. I can almost here the inevitable voice, “that’s not the way we do things,” or “we never did it that way when I was a student.”
These two quotations may be my undoing as a vice-principal – after all I have been doing the job for a whole month and half.
(note the gent on the left – I imagine this would be how my principal might react if I lost it…this is all in jest and in no way do I condone violence as a problem solving mechanism)
While I do joke, it is important for educators to examine how it is we do school. What do our students need so that they can be successful in the world they will live in and lead? If we do things the same way – how can we expect a different result?
The tools we have today in our pockets make much of what we have done in the past century, well, things of the past.  If our students can do our assignments and pass our tests with out so much as doing any more than  ”Googling” the answers, we are not preparing them for the world in which they live.  We need to embrace the social tools of today, give up the stage, and embrace the new role that teachers must fill today.  Every revolution in history eventually favored those who embraced change.  It is time to move on, throw away our need to hold on to what we know, and work toward creating the next generation of education.
as part of a post on the “Connected Principal” (this may be a pingback, but I don’t really know how to do that – unless this works and then of course I knew exactly what I was doing).
I think that we would all agree that the situation Meister discusses continues to occur in schools – less and less, but it still happens and it begs the question – what do we think students are going to get out of the exercise? Are we really teaching students, directly or indirectly, the concept of sensemaking and wayfinding? George Siemens, in his lecture this week discussed this concept and I found myself thinking that students are far more adept at this concept than most adults as it is a necessity in the world they live in and have grown up in.
Will Richardson, on the site, in a post entitled “Lifelong UNlearning” describes the need for all of us to be “unlearners.”
“Unlearning is required when the world or your circumstances in that world have changed so completely that your old habits now hold you back. You can’t just resolve to change. You need to break a pattern, to free yourself from old ways before you can adopt the new.” In case you haven’t noticed, the circumstances in our world of education have changed radically. The information that our students once came to us to learn now resides in millions of places online.
I cannot help but think – that because our technological world is changing as quickly as it is – that perhaps the greatest thing we can teach young people is the skill of being an unlearner. Essentially, teaching them how to learn and relearn.
Even more importantly, the students in our classrooms need to be adept and agile unlearners, as well. At a moment when knowledge is expanding at an ever more rapid rate, much of what they “learn” from us will be obsolete or irrelevant in short order. They’ll need to be constantly able to unlearn and relearn using the technologies of the moment as part of an ongoing interaction with knowledge.
I think that this speaks loudly, to the need for students to see teachers – as learners too – expanding our worlds and learning new things.Imagine…even learning with our students.
How are you doing school differently? What are you teaching students so that they can be successful tomorrow? Is your class about “googling” the answers? Are you an unlearner?

About mickpanko

New HS vice-principal...trying to figure it all out. I would like to wax poetic but it is more like leg waxing - I think.
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5 Responses to Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results…Albert Einstein

  1. tmemann says:

    You are reading my mind! I just wrote a journal entry for my Master’s project on this very topic-I think the pages are actually smoking I am so fired up! I am questioning outdated, highly restrictive policies that tie our hands and ultimately the experiences we can provide our students. That sensemaking and wayfinding really stuck with me too. I am desperate to create opportunities for my students that support them in piecing together knowledge in their own ways from rich, relevant, real sources and experiences. I love that the journey of learning is messy and undefined. The journey is where the richness lies. The stage of grappling, discovery, wonder, challenge. Your image made me laugh because I feel like losing it when obstacles are created for no other reason than something is new or unfamiliar or different than always. I was actually just about to paste this Seth Godin (my personal guru) quote as a Tweet “There are plenty of skeptics, critics, trolls and naysayers. What a shame. Shun the non-believers.” The naysayers only fuel me more these days. I am just going to keep on with “the doing”. I figure that with forward motion and a commitment to “the doing” change can happen. I may need to get creative and resourceful but I will also be brave and focused and dedicated. My students now and in the future deserve at least that much. (Sorry for the rant but I feel so connected to your post, Mick-thank you for sharing!)

  2. Lisa P says:

    I just did a presentation to my staff with this exact quote in it! Our fundamental purpose as educators is to ENSURE learning not simply to teach. (Dufours, Learning by Doing) Teaching without learning is simply presenting. We need to shift from the “I taught it they didn’t learn it” perspective to an “ALL students will learn” perspective. I know a lot of students right now who can “do school” really well but can’t think critically or creatively to save their souls and the data is proving this. But we blame the “stupid assessment” or the kid’s home life for the dismal results and we go back to teaching kids the way we have for 100 years which was designed to prepare our students for the industrial age yet, we can all agree that the CREATIVE age is well upon us. But it’s what we know. We’ve been doing school since we were 5 years old. It’s time we let go. Our world is different from when we were in school so why shouldn’t our schools look different too? We don’t know what the future holds for our children so we better start producing some kids who can ask questions, collaborate, think critically and creatively, and solve problems. (Hmmm….these are all outcomes the VAAs are assessing…CRAZY!).
    We’ve known the solution to this issue for two decades now. Professional Learning Communities. But PLCs are more than a thing you do every two weeks when your teachers get together for an hour and chat and then email the principal the minutes. It’s a way of being. It’s a way of authentically working together to ENSURE LEARNING. And it has to start with strong Instructional Leaders like you who are willing to roll up their sleeves, have some critical conversations with their staff members and start paving the way to a school where ALL kids are learning. Anyway, I could go on and on, Mick. I am living it right now too. Learning By Doing by DuFour, DuFour and Eaker is a great book on PLCs. Another great read is Transforming School Culture by Anthony Muhammad.
    And my response to “that’s not the way we do it around here” has been, “This way might be good for the grown ups in this building but it’s not good for kids.” We call ourselves professionals which would make our kids the client. In the “real world” if we were only meeting the needs of 70% of our clients, we’d be fired.

  3. L Renton says:

    I absolutely LOVED this post AND its insightful replies! Your words “Every revolution in history eventually favored those who embraced change.” spoke to me on so many levels. The “Yurk” image made me giggle because, while I do not condone violence either, the frustrations of being “asked to think out of the box … as long as it isn’t REALLY out of the box” frequently brings a similar cartoon image to mind!!! Fostering a love of life long learning looks completely different in this day and age. “Doing school” is no longer an option. We all know how to “crack open a text book” but how does this inspire anything other than, for most, passive engagement? Tannis’ words “I am desperate to create opportunities for my students that support them in piecing together knowledge in their own ways from rich, relevant, real sources and experiences.” ring so true. The students in my classroom know that I don’t know everything, (gasp!) … and … together we grow in our knowledge of where to search out the answers we have … which … often create NEW questions. Google – one of the greatest creations on earth, (where was it when I was a student), professionals in the field, skype sessions with experts – being open to learning along with your students, pursuing passions and interests, allowing the learning to be “messy”, as Tannis says, is what creates rich engagement and active learning. You are the kind of AP that I would LOVE to follow! I have added you to my “blogs to be inspired by”! Thank you.

  4. lbechard says:

    I thought I’d share a few links I found recently with you. The first one talks about the role of teachers in Education 3.0. The white paper contains some great comments

    This second one emphasizes that “it’s about the kids, not about you” and the need for teachers to teach wisdom since google can teach them everything else.

    If you are looking for a resource on learner-centred education, I recommend Blumberg’s book Developing Learner Centred Instruction. ( It’s geared more for post-secondary, but an excellent place to start. She provides a rubric for teachers to self-assess the degree of learner-centred instruction in their classes and provides templates and suggestions for moving along the spectrum.

  5. Great post Mick, I always appreciate your thoughts. I think you have identified some very key elements of what education is beginning to look like and how the business of “doing school” is going to radically change over incrementally shorter periods of time. I think back to when I started 15 years ago, the changes that have occurred in that time and can only imagine how our thinking and learning will change. Pretty awesome isn’t it?

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