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Bell talks on trends in education

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Darlington at Rotarians 2017

Darlington Head of School Brent Bell shows Rotarians, from the Rome and Seven Hills Rotary clubs, a video of a student's CAD -- computer-aided design -- animation of a dinosaur. He touched on the changing landscape of education and what actions must be taken in response. (Spencer Lahr /

As competition for college admissions and jobs soars in our globalized society, it’s essential for leaders to always have the long-term view in mind as they develop the type of education students receive, said Brent Bell, the head of school for Darlington.

“Real learning and instant gratification aren’t really connected to each other,” he said.

During a joint meeting of the Rome and Seven Hills Rotary clubs Thursday at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, Bell touched on current trends in education and what can be done for future generations to prepare them for the reality they’ll come to face.  

The emphasis should always be on “thinking beyond the now,” Bell said.

“We always have to be learning and we always have to be seeing things,” he continued.

Piecing together the big picture of the necessary skills students must have for the future is essential, Bell said, to ensure that the education they receive is translatable to the job climate they will enter. Skills such as critical thinking, communication and problem solving are now more important than ever, as is the ability for students to find problems, he added.

“Kids don’t need to be told everything,” Bell said, adding much of this skills-based learning can come from the students themselves, particularly in the form of experiential learning —learning through experience — and the exposure of kids to actual working environments through internships.

In sum, it’s about practical education, not just grades and test scores — these coupled together can further distinguish students in the admission process. Educational leaders must attempt to unite traditional admission criteria with the ability and skills students possess, Bell said. So “they can see value beyond what people traditionally place value on,” he added.

At Darlington, Bell said each student has a skills portfolio they develop — part of the Portrait of a Graduate — in the process of meeting an end goal for their education that is developed from the start.

Peer teaching has become increasingly valuable, Bell said, referencing the use of technology to enhance and expand the capabilities of a learning space — examples being Google Classroom, where students can collaborate without being in the same room.

“It’s not four walls of a classroom anymore,” Bell said. “It’s how to use every space.”

Bell showed a video that summarized the impact globalization has on the American education system and job market, by deepening the talent pool of people competing for opportunities. The video points out that the jobs with the highest demand right now didn’t exist 10 or so years ago.

In relaying a quote he’d heard recently, Bell said students need to be prepared to work on robots, not have the jobs that will be replaced by them.