This last week I attended the IECA (Independent Educational Consulting Association) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The conference, composed of programs, schools and universities, as well as independent educational consultants (IECs), was a great forum for professional dialogue about admissions and the practices of IECs. As usual, I left inspired and rejuvenated by the job I do. More importantly however, I was constantly reminded about the importance of connecting students to schools and programs that fit their educational needs.
Probably the most intriguing presentation was from the President of Goucher College, Maryland, Jose Antonio Bowen. Mr. Bowen is the author of Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning. His basic premise is that if professor or teaches teach out of a book, they miss the opportunity to actually engage students. Today students have all the resources and information they need on their mobile phones. They can research at depth any topic possible, so why teach using antiquated means? Instead focus learning on taking knowledge and making it useful. If students cannot think critically, analytically, or communicate succinctly, that education has failed. Being able to use information to drive ideas and innovation should be the role of the professor.
So why is this important? For a couple of reasons. First, most readers will have heard of Goucher College, yet Goucher is on the cutting edge of new thinking education. But the purpose of this article is not to promote the college but to get students and families to think about the point of education. As students are currently beginning a new cycle of research into their next educational setting it is important to consider what education is all about. This leads me to my second point, finding a school that will drive the learning of skills for the next generation of jobs and careers. Each student has their own learning style, so finding schools that match their style or envisioning new ways of learning put students in a quandary if they have not stopped to think about how they learn or if there is a different and better way than their current school has provided.
Many, if not most students, are used to learning by going to the classroom expecting the teacher to provide them with knowledge – handing them information and data to memorize. But what if the learning happened at home and the classroom was where students applied their knowledge on projects and innovation? Or what if a student had only one class they attended for three weeks with no other courses to interfere? Or what if a student were required to engage in an internship to apply what they learned in an actual job, thus honing that information and tweaking it in a performance based internship? These three types of schools actually exist – Purdue University, Colorado College, and Northeastern University. And this is just a small sampling of the breadth of educational opportunities that exist.
Today a student came to me to ask what I thought about a particular university. They wanted to know whether its “brand” was good. With a confused look on my face, I asked why is the brand is important compared to actually learning? Does brand or rank imply better teaching or, for that matter, better learning? Particularly since it is impossible to rank the outcomes, is one learning environment better or worse than another? How does one quantify what is essentially one students experience over another?
So this brings me to the final part of this article – walking on the wild side of finding schools that provide the platform of learning best suited to the student given his or her learning style. But as often mentioned, There are important factors of a school aside from teaching skills: size of school, potential engagement of learning, environment (ie: location, weather, access to activities), potential for research, and internships to name a few.
Walking on the wild side provides the opportunity to seek one’s education not driven by fear of not attending a ranked university but seeking to find a personal setting to be challenged in a global context and a flatter world. But, the question behind all of this is, can you walk on the wild side? Can you take the risk of not just looking at a name of a school but finding schools that will prepare you for a future which does not exist today? The world is changing faster than the classroom, so are you ready to walk on the wild side?
Photo: Colleges 360 (flickr)