Book Review: “#EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education”
Can K–12 schools meet the challenge of preparing students for the rapidly changing real world, and if so, how? In search of answers, author Grant Lichtman spent three months driving across the United States visiting 64 schools and interviewing more than 600 teachers, administrators, students and parents. The result is #EdJourney: A Roadmap to the Future of Education, a must-read for educators that is both clear-eyed in its appraisal of the obstacles faced by the education community and refreshingly upbeat in its reporting about innovations that are already working.
In his introduction, Lichtman writes:
“My goal is to link the many wonderful, exciting, stimulating, energizing, passion-driven brushfires of innovation I found at almost every school I visited and help fan them into a conflagration…. The good news is that for every combination of intransigent obstacles there is an example of a school that has successfully solved the problem.”
He argues that traditional content-driven, assembly-line teaching must transition to new models that cultivate agile, self-evolving learners with such traits as persistence, patience, confidence, creativity, adaptability, empathy and self-control. These are the qualities students will need in a new technological, economic and social landscape marked by exponential information growth and mobile Internet access.
The title’s hashtag embraces digital connectivity, and Lichtman maintains a vibrant conversation with readers on Facebook and Twitter. In the book, he notes the declining use of textbooks and acknowledges, “In the time it takes to move this book from final edit to publication and distribution, new players, approaches and learning services will have exploded on the scene.” However, the printed text promises to have a long shelf life because he so effectively breaks down the details of transforming education in three parts.
Part one of the text surveys roadblocks that hinder education reform. Part two is a travelogue of innovations that schools showed him. Part three describes how schools can move from status quo to innovation. Lichtman sustains the journey metaphor by introducing each chapter with bits from his travel diary. Each chapter ends with a succinct summary, and the final chapter features a summary of his main messages.
In exploring why schools resist change, Lichtman devotes individual chapters to the key resources of time, people, leadership and structure. Realigning these assets to a new vision is crucial, but inertia and fear of failure are powerful disincentives. He describes transformative learning as being more dynamic, adaptable, permeable, creative and self-correcting. Innovative schools, he found, disrupt rigid schedules, move beyond classroom walls, break subject matter silos and prioritize mindfulness and reflection.
Lichtman, who previously authored The Falconer: What We Wish We Had Learned in School, a classroom parable about 21st-century education, was a geologist before becoming an educator. He displays those scientific roots in arguing for a paradigm shift that replaces industrial-age engineered classrooms with a model that is more like a natural ecosystem and has the ability to evolve on its own.
His emphasis on making time for professional development and creating environments where teachers become “lead learners” will inspire everyone drawn to the field by a love of learning and the goal of helping young people discover it.
Lichtman drives home his key takeaway on the final page, reminding readers that it is adults who are responsible for outmoded systems, aversion to change and lost opportunities:
“Children are naturally creative, adaptive, dynamic, fluid, metacognitive learners, ready to try whatever tool is at hand if given the opportunity…. If we keep talking about transforming education at the rate we have to date, we will lose another generation or more to an education that is just not preparing our children for their futures. I passionately urge us all to stop talking and start doing.”
Yes, #EdJourney is a passionate call to action, and it simultaneously fulfills its promise as a roadmap, while offering some welcome coaching and cheerleading along the way.