Sterling Spencer

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What do you think of many-to-many education in the classroom?

I believe that this should be expounded upon and that you have a great contribution that this conversation needs.

I was just thinking across the various forms of communications and I mentally stumbled upon a possible correlation between communication and education.

Forms of communication include:
One-to-one. (sending an email, texting, talk to a single person, etc.)
One-to-many. (radio, TV, youtube, etc.)
Many-to-many. (social networks, blogs, file sharing, chat rooms, etc.)

I noticed this somewhat resembles progress in education.

In the ancient days, few received education, and it was usually a pupil under a mentor. So it was one-to-one.

Today's education, now being more accessible, has a teacher in front of a classroom full of students. So it is one-to-many.

I wondered what it would be like if future education took the form of many-to-many communication.

I imagine a class is full of students and they all have a device with internet access. They do two things with this. One is they look up information that they will need to know for the class. The second is they share it with the class. Each person will share what they learn with each other, which also will help teach an amazing skill set of collaboration. This way the entire class progresses as a unit in teaching each other.

There will still be a teacher/mentor in the classroom to give homework and to tell the students what they need to look up and learn for a test. The mentor will also act as a guide with a sort of gentle push in the right direction if they get stuck. Also, since the mentor won't be doing very much teaching, the mentor will be able to make sure all of the students are staying on task.

There would be participation points involved in attempt to keep every one active. There could also possibly be "giving help" points for those who help out the students who are quiet and struggle.

So, what do you think of many-to-many education in the classroom?

  • Apr 7 2012: Class size is one of the greatest challenges, the other is a motivated, engaged, interested, curious and committed "studentry" in the classroom. With the advance of technology there seems to be many opportunities to touch the students where they sit in their own learning process. The student is the most important driver of their own education. With that said motivation is key. With technology, it seems that attention spans are shortening, that there might need be a certain novelty to be introduced or entertainment factor that can increase motivation. An engaged and communicative class, on topic is highly useful, a class that is facilitated by students and teacher and technology that is able to move across a body of knowledge showing the structure such that individual learners in the class can connect the dots is very important. The only problem that I have with what you stated, more to more, is that the process can become clumsy, too narrow, where over-communication on an aspect of the body of knowledge being explored could slow down the overall progression of the entire class. Where it can be done more efficiently, and moderated or facilitated by members of the learning environment, as long as the approach is broad enough to cover a wide territory of the knowledge being explored, while organized to show structure, rather than isolated points of interest, I think the better. to do it well would take commitment and work done before and after the sessions to integrate the learning content in a linked manner, such that it builds and there is a process to ensure that the absolutely essential content isn't omitted.
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    Apr 2 2012: Highly interesting subject matter Sterling,

    I think this sounds like my current college english professor. We sit and discuss our readings. The teacher brings key points, but adds a style of interpretation that invites others to join. There is a sense of trust in the classroom, which helps even more.

    Many-to-many type education should be more specific and have a direction, but definitely a group type classroom is much better. The classroom is set-up in a circle and this brings about more inclusion on topics. The teacher must be patient and extremely open-minded to talking about any subject, ANY! They may have to be a bit crazy or out there as well. The teacher needs to be slightly offensive, which makes the quiter students who have strong beliefs talk out more. Needs to be compassionate as well with a super gentle and big heart. A lot of patience because "shit happens" (Forest Gump).

    I think it also is important to have an integration of all three types of teaching to fully extend the level of understanding, but the most important type of learning at the end, which defines the individual, is one-to-self learning. If we can promote an individual to be more curious and have passion for learning, then the teacher wouldn't need to force students to talk. The teacher would then give the students a well developed set of skills from childhood to love to continue learning.

    Thanks for reading my thoughts and feel free to share yours!
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    Apr 1 2012: In my experience, the biggest barrier to having technology improve the lot of students is the physical network. Hardware, running costs and so on.

    Unfortunately, for some reason, many governments don't value educating the future generations enough to invest appropriate amounts of tax dollars.
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      Apr 1 2012: What if they just did it for a specific level of education? Probably in their teens perhaps.

      Or, what if they also just made the students use the resources that were already available to them in school(books, libraries, whatever computers the school may have, etc.) and outside of school, and then have them bring that information back to the classroom?

      It doesn't matter too much where they get the information, so long as they are able to get enough info for the class to learn and work. The internet is simply a huge resource where you can get the same piece of information in many different forms which accommodates the variety of ways different students learn, and thats why I named it above other resources. However I think it might be possibly to use almost any resource for many-to-many education.

      Well, cost and resources aside, what do think of many-to-many education?
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        Apr 1 2012: It sounds like you're describing child-centred learning which has driven education in New Zealand for many years.

        I have a little giggle when I see terms like collaboration - people have been doing it for years. In fact, some lists of the traits of 21st Century Learners that I have seen are no different from the traits and abilities we have always valued.

        But you have a good point - technology is only one tool (though people seem to think it will save us all). It's not the slate/paper/screen in front of you but the thinking that goes on as we use them.
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          Apr 1 2012: Exactly, and I think that a many-to-many way of how we are thinking, learning, and using our resources could be a really good way to educate. I'm still unsure though, so thats why I posed the question.

          Thanks for the input!
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    Apr 1 2012: Something to add.

    I just noticed that one-to-one education is really good because you are able to focus on that pupil's specific learning habits. One-to-one, however, does not educate the masses unless we could generate as many teachers as there are students in the world.

    One-to-many addresses this problem of educating a large group, but it sacrifices the individual student in this process because you can focus on a particular student.

    Many-to-many education addresses educating the masses and the individual, and it does this with great benefits. One is the excellent social environment it creates because of the faces-to-faces interaction that you can't get on the internet unless you use a live multi-chat system. The second is that it help students see the most important lesson of school: To learn how to learn. Realizing that you can teach your self, and not letting your success hinge solely on what other people do or teach you, is amazingly powerful!