saudixpat’s Weblog

November 25, 2008

Education Needs to Be Changed

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 10:48 pm

George Siemens, in his blog posting, asked for people to respond to the following questions:

As a small research project, I’d like to ask people to answer the following questions (on their blog, in YouTube, Seesmic, or wherever – please post a link in the comments section below):

Does education need to change?
Why or why not?
If it should change, what should it become? How should education (k-12, higher, or corporate) look like in the future?

First off, I teach technology in an international school, at the MS and HS level, I am a certified English/History/Social Studies teacher who has taught everything else under the sun in my career to date. Here are my responses.

Does education need to change?

Yes, it does. If you think we are doing fine in education, read Thomas Freidman’s, “The World is Flat” Right now, we are adrift and not necessarily training our students and giving them what they need to learn. What needs to change? I think the model of education we have today, with local and provincial jurisdictions setting curriculum is going to change. I think HOW education at the middle and higher levels needs to change.


Thomas Friedman at the National University of Singapore.
Skip forward to five minutes so you avoid all the chit chat at the start.

In what way you ask? First of all, collaborative learning between jurisdictions – between students in different cities, provinces, territories, and states – is going to increase. As Web 2.0 becomes used at earlier ages and as knowledge continues to flow online, the internet and Web 2.0 and later, 3.0, will play a greater and greater roll. I will post my musings on this at a later date. Secondly, WHAT and HOW students learn will also change.

Not at the elementary level, though. The foundation of learning there will continue to be the same. Oh, there will be changes, but structural rather than pedagogical. The purpose of learning and what we want students to learn in ES won’t change considerably. However, by the time students get to grade seven or eight, the whole paradigm of pedagogy is going to have to change.

At present we teach skills and content. In many cases, content is layered. We expect students to mater and regurgitate content and apply skills to manipulate that same content. The big change is going to be with content and what we teach our students to do. We will be teaching our students what I have come to call JIT – “Just In Time” – learning and how to cross-reference what they have discovered in one subject with what they are discovering in another subject. Cross subject integration won’t necessarily be the outright goal – that goal will be creating a well-rounded learner who can work with disparate ideas from more than one discipline and make sense of them. The goal is to have students who are flexible, can work with information from a variety of sources, and who are capable of collaboration with others in a “team” approach.

I can hear people scoffing, but JIT is what the internet has enabled many of us to do right now. At present, I know how to do many things and I have a memory that retains a lot of information. However, now, when I DON’T know something, it is immediately accessible to me. I am not reliant on a book, a library, a location. My limitations aren’t the hour of night or the day of the week – rather the primary limitation on me learning what I need and want to know is whether I can frame my search terms in the proper phrases to find that information. This is where the flexibility comes in. Learners will have to be taken through framing what they want to know in words which will lead them to the information. They will need to have verbal aptitude and an extensive vocabulary!

So now, when I don’t know something, I JIT it. I frame my search terms, execute my search, and assess the results. If I am not happy (and I often am not), then I reframe and refine my terms, substitute alternate wordings, make use of Boolean symbols such as + or ” ” and begin again. Once I have found the information I am looking for then I use it and promptly forget it. I imagine many of you do the same thing.

However, (and this is where the deeper learning comes in), something that I JIT again tends to be a bit more internalized. And if I JIT it again after that, internalized more. Finally, I am able to instantiate that piece of JIT learning at will and no longer need to find it. Isn’t that what happens to most of us? We have been intent on having our students memorize things (and don’t get me wrong – I believe some things should be memorized) instead of teaching them the new thinking skills – critical thinking and assessent skills, vocabulary and verbal dexterity, information access (frankly, I find that many teachers take students to the lab and either (a) set them free to search with little guidance; or (b) give them very specific things to search for which tends to discourage the cross-connectivity aspect of searching – those serendipititious moments where you commit “the perfect search”.

It is late, and my thoughts are muddled; however, the thoughts I have written pretty much serve as an answer to all of George’s questions. I am off to bed now, but first I will nip back over to George’s blog and post my comment URL so he can incorporate it in his research.

Good night all!

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1 Comment »

  1. Thanks, Bruce. I’m a big fan of just in time learning–something that teacher-librarians have been trying to do for a long time (e.g. don’t teach library skills in isolation; teach them within a specific context so that they ‘stick’) and I agree that we need to let go of some of the control we teachers love and get used to this new kind of teaching and learning.

    Comment by Joanne de Groot — November 27, 2008 @ 6:42 am | Reply


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