Learning for 2020

My journey to understand what life will be in year 2020 and how we should prepare our next generation to cope with life at 2020.

Location: Melbourne, Australia

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Blogging Your Education

about how her students are changing in their expectations and needs from their time in college. They are pushing against the traditional structures, asking to mix the classroom experience with online community and off campus travel, capturing all of it in their Weblogs with the voices of teachers and mentors and loved ones mixed in. I love that image...seriously love it...the reflective, interactive chronicling of learning. The getting it down, capturing the experience if for no other reason than to acknowledge it, and to help it take root.

This is about relevance of the education to the objective of life.

One of the reader commented

The only quibble I have with your comment is when you say, "... seriously rethink what we do in the classroom..." Why do we need to stay in the classroom? I think the growing irrelevance of the school system is mostly the artificial structure of classrooms that we have created over the years. To make learning relevant to our students, we need to be thinking of knocking the classroom walls down and moving away from classes that meet one block a day or whatever.

There are several industrial age devices in the current schools which block significant changes; Fixed group (classroom) and fixed time block. Another issue we should also consider is the possibility of more fluid groups, including mixed age, ability and talent.

Blogging is ONE of the many ways that students can use to collaborate. Blog is a collaboration tool. Not any more, not any less. The use of any tool is up to the imagination of the users. In an education situation, assuming that the role of teacher is still here, teacher will become the main people designing the environment to foster appropriate learning for all the member of a group, including different members' interest and ability.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Teachers are in big trouble

I have jokingly written the post "Teachers are in big trouble" in the Random Walk in E-learning blog.

I have seen the decline of the social status of teachers - at least in Hong Kong where I have taught for nearly 20 years.

In many countries, the education department of universities only attract the least capable students. After graduation, these teachers enter a workplace totally isolated from real world. In the school I taught, 50+ teachers shared one telephone line in the staff room. I struggled to maintain my own professional development at my own time and effort. I remembered the situation when I needed to attend my teacher training. Special application was needed to arrange a free period just before end of school in two afternoons. This was treated by the school management as a special favour to me. In one occasion, there was a teacher meeting after school on a day that I needed to attend the teacher training, I was demanded to still behind school for the meeting instead of the professional program I have enrolled - irrespective of the tasks demanded of me in the program. [I was due to have a presentation in the program, whereas the teachers' meeting was basically just a task assignment for the coming sport day - which I knew what my task would be anyway!]

I entered the teaching profession with a big heart - wanting to help the next generation. I have persisted and am still working in the e-learning industry. I am proud to have some very bright students who recognised my effect on them. But overall, I felt that teaching is not a highly regarded profession anyway.

To be fair to David Wiley, the two main camps referred to in the post are for "instructional designers". In many cases, instructional designers' job is to create teaching program to replace teacher. So drawing such a provocative conclusion from such a view is too easy.

However, the deeper lesson which we should consider is whether education is the same as learning. Is the job of teacher to help learner learns or to educate? Should well designed instruction replace teacher? If the answer is negative, then can teacher demonstrate values that can reverse the current path to extinction? As a society, should we allow teachers' social status to continue to decline?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

More on Eide Neurolearning Blog and Learning Styles

Response to Bill Gates from Derek's Blog brought up this thread again. A new comment posted by pepper to Eide Neurolearning Blog raised and commented on the practice of assigning time slot for different subjects.
Where in the real world do we think exclusively about math, band, history, and art in 90 minute mutually exclusive chunks on Monday, only to think about English, marketing, and physics in equally exclusive chunks?

This is "industrial age production line concept" practice puts to the best use. By using equal time slots with distinct subject matter, teachers' allocation, class allocation and resource allocation are optimized - at least on paper.

Unfortunately, management efficiency here is killing the very essence of the purpose of the education. Some children have difficulties with such time switching as described by Drs Eide.
in our practice helping kids with learning challenges we see large numbers of children, especially in the early grades, who have difficulties transitioning from one subject to the next, and find the present "fifteen minutes and switch" pattern in the early grades to be absolute torture. This is especially true of children with "autism-spectrum" type or sensory integrative problems, which seem to be on the rise. Going to a more flexible "bell-less" world would be a tremendous boon for these kids, especially.

Pepper suggested,
meaningful integration, a minimum of an inter-term where small groups of 8-10 students tackle real-world, and thus interdisciplinary, problems, maybe even with an adult facilitator from the "real world."

Drs Eide further elaborated,
We gave a talk last fall to the National Association For Gifted Children where we talked about the need to provide a more historically and real-world grounded context for education in all subjects, to help students come to view the acquisition of knowledge as a means confronting problems in real world--that is, tying the teaching of conceptual developments in science and math, technology, government, art, etc., together more closely with the historical circumstances that led to them. The kind of groups you describe would be ideal for that: "Suppose you were all a bunch of 4th century B.C. Athenians..." or "15th century A.D. Chinese" and really living entirely in that environment at school for a few weeks at a time. The opportunities for problem solving and learning are immense.

That brings me back to an undergraduate business/commerce curriculum I heard about during the first "League of Worlds" conference last year. The complete curriculum is designed around a "virtual island" where the students play the role of different businesses and officials on the island. The scenario gives the students context to learn the principles of the subject.