"What's relevant to kids these days?"
"Facebook," the audience cries out in unison.
"See, you know it. I know it. What's relevant for the students? Let the kids use Facebook. Get them on Twitter. Find the tools that they use in life."
I have serious concerns with Facebook, ranging from privacy to data mining. However, I'm much more concerned with the obsession with relevance and the blind embrace of technology, regardless of context.
* * *The Astrodome was the most relevant stadium of its time. With the largest JumboTron, the trendiest color choice and a very modern, symmetrical design, it embodied the Space Age. It was the most technologically-driven. It was the anti-Fenway. It was the ball park of the future. It was relevant.
It wasn't developed with the purpose of baseball in mind, though. A simple foul ball nearly blinded the players, so they had to paint the ceiling tiles, which killed the grass, which led to Astro Turf. Astro Turf was relevant. It was Space Age technology. It made sense. Except it looked ugly and it meant a diving catch could end a career.
The stadium, once relevant, became a joke.
So, I think of lesson design. I'm not interested in relevant. I'm not looking for the trendiest tools. I'm not out to find the latest research from a collage artist like Marzano. I'm not peppering my lessons with the latest pop culture references to prove just how insanely hip I am (not that hip if I use hip, unless I'm a hipster using hip ironically).
Remember Carmen San Diego? Remember Lazer Discs? Remember WebQuests? Remember how all of those relevant technologies were going to transform learning?
Fenway gets it right. The stadium was designed to fit the community, which explains the quirky field dimensions and why it continues to be one of the most creative designs in baseball. It was designed to fit the game of baseball, which is why it's so classic.
I want to teach more like Fenway and less like the Astrodome. Or better yet, I want my teaching to be a hybrid ballpark like San Francisco, where there are still new innovations in structure and design (no one's staring at a pole like they do in Fenway), but a clear embrace of the context, the community and the classic ideas. I want to start with meaning and purpose rather than relevance. And the crazy part? When I start with purpose, students often find it relevant to their lives.