Ripples & Reflections

"Learning is about living, and as such is lifelong." Elkjaer.

“When you have interest, you have education.”

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It’s the last day of the academic year, and the kids have just left the building. I went on Twitter for a quick read and saw this video from GOOD Magazine, after a tweet from Adrienne Michetti (@amichetti). If this reads like a tired teacher’s ramble, then it probably is!

I like to use tech in class and am always looking out for useful tools that will help student learning and build relevance. However, I’m also a bit skeptical of what sometimes comes across as ed-tech hyperbole: when this site or that app is touted as a ‘revolution in education’.

For about the first three and half minutes of this video, I was a bit dubious. However, when it reaches the point of ‘just in time’ learning and relevant problem solving, I was starting to be won over. Then Sugata Mitra came on and I’m a total fanboy of his, since seeing James Tooley at an IB regional conference speak about him and his hole-in-the-wall computer experiment in Delhi. His similar TED Talk is at the bottom of this post.

“A five-year old today; by the time he’s 25 it will be 2031. Can any teacher say that they’re preparing that child for 2031?”

It is true we are in some way preparing students for a life of work using tools that don’t yet exist in a future which is uncertain. It is true that the current model of schooling is built on industrial revolution or military needs and that we now live in an age of abundant opportunities and digital learning resources. It is true that we need to better make connections to real life and create authentic opportunities for learning.

“If a child knows how to read, knows how to search for information, how do they know how to believe? […] If we could [activate that mechanism] early in life, we would have armed that child against doctrine.”

I feel it is true also that we need to be making sure that our learners are good thinkers, good problem solvers and good human beings. One part of this is being able to work as a team, to meet the needs of others and not just the wants of themselves and to become generally useful, compassionate people. Yes, I believe we should make meaning and allow students control of their learning, but at the same time I’m conflicted (perhaps irrationally so) that if we go too far in the direction of personalised learning that we are creating kids who are too self-centred. Maybe this is the key role of the teacher in a world where access to information is easy and much of the mechanistic parts of learning can be computerised.

“A teacher who could be replaced by a computer, should.”

Tech is not the only solution to the current dilemma, but it will surely be a large part of it. More importantly is curriculum and the people that create, implement and breathe life into it.

I do want to emphasise greater relevance in my own teaching and will continue to look for authentic and immersive tasks and assessments. I do want and need to focus on a better differentiated and more inquiry-driven, time-efficient classroom – and maybe tech can help achieve this. I also think that I should be making more explicit and relevant connections to community and service, global issues and the school’s mission statement.

Sounds like next year’s going to be just as busy as this year!

……….o0O0o……….

“The absence of the teacher, in the presence of the internet, can become a pedagogical tool.”

It’s the summer holidays now. Two months of absence of teachers yet I bet that almost all students will be perpetually connected to the internet. I wonder what they will learn in that time, without us (or the IB Diploma subject guide!) there to tell them what and when to learn. They will create their own meaning and content, and I really hope to see some of it when they return.

Here’s Mitra’s 2010 TED Talk on kids teaching themselves:

“When you have interest, you have education.”


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Author: Stephen

Director of Learning & MYP Coordinator at Canadian Academy, Kobe, Japan. Formerly MYP HS Science & IBDP Bio teacher and missing it terribly. Twitterist (@sjtylr), dad and bloggerer.

2 thoughts on ““When you have interest, you have education.”

  1. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for the hat-tip. 🙂

    I feel similarly to you… perhaps even more skeptical. I’m not sure Khan Academy does a whole lot to motivate students, to be perfectly honest. Unless you’re talking about the extrinsic motivators of badges, points, etc. Blergh.

    I view Sugta Mitra with about the same amount of skepticism. While I think his hole-in-the-wall experiment was groundbreaking and offered tremendous insight into the hows and whys of student learning with technology, I don’t always think every child knows what s/he needs to learn when s/he needs to learn it. I also wonder at which point in a child’s journey they then learn how to simply do the things that have to be done, whether they like doing them or not (e.g. laundry).

    I’m thinking I might need to post on this myself… Thanks for the spur. 🙂 And have a great summer break!

    • Hi Adrienne,

      Thanks for the comment!

      I love the idea that tools like Khan’s and Mitra’s can get education to students who have limited other means. I’m really not a fan of using Khan videos in class in an international/ privileged setting like ours. If I were to flip a class I’d rather use something either more engaging, reading-based or personal.

      I feel like you in terms of the ‘gamification’ of education – not a fan of it becoming about extrinsic motivation. But then for some students, university entry is their extrinsic motivation.

      You have a great summer, too!

      Stephen

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