Is “Traditional” Education So Bad?

I’m the first to say the education system in the US could benefit from some serious changes.  However, the more people I talk to the more I realize that it doesn’t seem quite clear what “traditional” education is.  I’ve attended many events and talks on the need for a new model of education, one that replaces the so-called “traditional” model.  For example, I’ve heard people say that lecturing groups of students and having classrooms are part of that traditional model that needs to be replaced.

traditional classroomLet’s just focus on those two elements of “traditional” education.  This makes me ask, what’s so bad about a classroom?  What’s so bad about talking to students in a large group?  When students watch Khan Academy videos, the presenter of the video lectures them.  Two main differences come to mind – first, we can pause and replay a specific part or all of the video and second, we cannot ask the presenter questions.  That’s one pro and one con.  The other question I ask is what’s so bad about the classroom?  As far as I am concerned, rooms perform some very useful functions in my life.  There’s the office, the dining room, the living room, the steam room, the bedroom, and let’s not forget the best room of all, the bathroom!  One thing you may notice these rooms all have in common is a purpose.  The room has a clearly defined purpose, which empowers it and gives it value.  Perhaps what needs to change is what we call the classroom because “class” does not clearly communicate a value-added purpose.  Maybe we can have study rooms, math rooms, reflection rooms, lab rooms, brainstorming rooms, etc.

The reason I am writing this post is not to make a case for traditional or untraditional education, however anyone may or may not define it.  My point is that we need to be careful of what we include in “traditional” education when we refer to getting rid of it.

I am just as passionate as anyone else about the opportunity to make some value-added changes and additions to the current models for education.  However, I believe there is a lot to be appreciated such as teacher presentations and classrooms.  The opportunity for improvement lies within those elements.  WHAT we do in the classroom can be untraditional and HOW we deliver presentations and lectures can be untraditional.  Technology is on our side and provides us with a powerful opportunity to significantly add value to these elements of education.  Let’s not forget, as awesome and revolutionary as the smart phone was, it’s still a phone.  What Apple did so successfully was add tremendous value to this existing device.

The last thought I’ll leave you with is to consider carefully what is meant by and included in traditional education when it comes up in the next EDU conversation you have.