Searching for the Next “Golden Ticket”

“Charlie picked it up and tore off the wrapper . . . and suddenly . . . from underneath the wrapper . . . there came a brilliant flash of gold. Charlie’s heart stood still. ‘It’s a Golden Ticket!’ screamed the shopkeeper, leaping about a foot in the air. ‘You’ve got a Golden Ticket! You’ve found the last Golden Ticket! . . .

In a few seconds, there was a crowd of about twenty people clustering around Charlie, and many more were pushing their way in from the street. Everybody wanted to get a look at the Golden Ticket and at the lucky finder.” – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Education is always looking for the next BIG push and there is this burning desire to find the one thing that will bring success. This isn’t anything new. We are drawn to success. Drawn to stories of underdogs. Drawn to those who are down and less fortunate, only to see them rise up and succeed.

“…the kids who are going to find the Golden Tickets are the ones who can afford to buy bars of chocolate every day. Our Charlie gets only one a year. There isn’t a hope.”

For Charlie, the ticket symbolizes hope. We are always looking for that “golden ticket” to take us to the next level. To solve all of our issues. The problem? We have a tendency in education to run away with these “golden tickets” and forget about everything else. And sometimes . . . this golden ticket isn’t everything it is chalked up to be. It might have worked for Charlie, but it’s rare that such a “quick fix” can be adopted that will truly be a “game-changer”. We are only one scary boat ride from jumping ship.

Let’s take a look at a list of educational “golden tickets” that have come and gone and come again . . .

  • Rapid progress
  • Learning Styles
  • Written Learning Objectives
  • Differentiation
  • Competency-Based Learning
  • Brain Gym

And although one golden ticket was what Charlie needed to find his hope, it took five golden tickets in all to get into the factory. We need to realize this. Education cannot be solved through some one-and-done dream scenario. It’s a process.

And now we are on a new hunt for these elusive tickets as Maker-spaces and 1:1 technology are all the rage. What we keep forgetting is that in order to truly implement something new, something else NEEDS to be removed from our plate. So we rid ourselves (our schools) of other things we are not sure are “golden” and pray that we will finally have our “Charlie moment.”

But what if we had it all along? One of the reasons I am a believer in gamification isn’t because it looks cool (although when done creatively well, it really does). It’s because gamification is a distillation of all the best education has to offer. It incorporates differentiation. It incorporates mastery learning. It incorporates PBL, student-centered, and self-directed learning. It meets various learner styles, but offers choice, and allows students to prove their learning in skill-based ways before moving on to the next level, #winwinwin.

I think this is what we need to take away from it all – before old ideas become new and new ideas become old. That we need to embrace what IS working already, and continue to revamp from the ground up instead of spending time eating numerous chocolate bars, only to end up with an upset stomach. These golden ticket ideas are only golden if we can incorporate them into good teaching. It’s about what we do with them and how we can creatively weave them into the great things we are already doing.

We are the musicmakers and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

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