The education system is out of sync with our phase of evolution as a society.
Evolutionary psychologists remind us that in the beginning we were hunters and gatherers- constantly looking around for nuts and berries, scouting protein and being vigilant about threats. Our bodies were always in motion as were our senses and eyes.
When we became agrarian, we learned how to dig holes, drop seeds, and tend to them according to the rhythms of the seasons. Our current educational system still has its roots here. We expect our students to sit in a classroom, focus on an educator and a board or a screen, to memorize and to splay back what is learned. Dig holes, drop seeds.
The challenge here is that many students are like hunters and gatherers again–reared on videos, apps and games that change images in nanoseconds, who communicate in 140 characters at most. They connect in small bites while constantly monitoring the environment (their smartphones). It’s hard for them to tend to their seeds when they are once again attuned for the hunt.
So what now? As educators, we need to create an ecosystem for hunters and gathers. This means variety in how we share information, stimulating student minds by engaging their eyes, and ears, and bodies. Instead of teaching from a podium, or a board, educators need to navigate the room, speaking from different places so that students will have to move and track. Stopping next to a student to ask a question, giving them the option to pass the question onto another or and take the next one keeps them aware and engaged. Receiving a high-five for a good answer keeps them trying.
Educators need to craft more challenging and interesting projects to engage student propensity to “hunt” for relevant information and “gather” from across multiple perspectives. Then, they will not be waiting for the seed to germinate and grow. Instead they will be producing tight, integrative critical work. Yes, this is more work for educators, and for students. And, these hunters and gathers are the future leaders of our tribe. We need to evolve together. We need them to put down their smartphones and think.