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What can we do? - an open letter to teachers - promoting the flipped learning

As Sir Ken Robinson ended his talk with Benjamin Franklin's quote , "There are three sorts of people in the world: Those who are immovable, people who don't get, they don't want to get it, they're going to do anything about it. There are people who are movable, people who see the need for change and are prepared to listen to it. And there are people who move, people who make things happen."

Lets be the type of people who move. Instead of questioning "why has the education system not changed yet?" or " why didn't the government take any initiative to change?" , I believe we should act within our circle of influence. It is the question of "What can we do about it?" What can we do about our education system? How can we improve it as students, teachers or parents.

As a student myself, I've been working on promoting the flipped learning , as I believe it is one of the first steps in progressing ourselves for change. Here is an open letter to teachers out there, http://faizulzuraimi.blogspot.com/2013/05/an-open-letter-to-teachers-my-name-is.html

and do visit my blog as well: faizulzuraimi.blogspot.com

"Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." as mentioned by John Dewey , one of the figures in Progressive Education Movement in the late 19th century.

Perhaps we too , can be one of those "movable people" .Perhaps there shall be a Digital Age of Progressive Education Movement. It all begins with one simple question , "what can we do?"

I would love to see your opinions :)

update (5.6.13) : http://faizulzuraimi.blogspot.com/2013/06/education-is-everyones-business-do.html


Closing Statement from Faizul Zuraimi

Thank you all to those who participated in this conversation and those who took the time to read and visit my blog. I've learned a lot from dialogues with you guys , the TED community, and I'm really glad that some of you sent me emails , articles and ebooks to help me in this cause. This is the first time I ever hosted a conversation on TED. Your comments and support are my inspiration and I'm looking forward to host another conversation in the near future, perhaps when I'm done with my exams. :)


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    May 12 2013: To be honest :
    Make it easier for people to go into a state of "flow" (and rely more on intrinsic motivation), whether that it is in a group, or just by themselves.
    Don't put too much emphasis on failure, rather than on succeeding and the "willpower" to not give up.
    As Thomas A. Edison said : "I Have Not Failed. I Have Just Found 10,000 Things That Do Not Work."
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      May 13 2013: Yeap , the intrinsic motivators ; mastery,autonomy and purpose as pointed by dan pink on his talk on puzzles of motivation , which is very important when it comes to creativity . And we certainly need a culture that don't emphasis too much on mistakes. I believe we should measure intelligence by its top achievement , not by the number of mistakes made
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        May 13 2013: I mean there are many other things you could do. Like acknowledge people's hard work, and their effort.
        Here are my seven main (which I like to call the seven deadly sins of our current education system) criticisms of the current education system. Not sure how useful this will be.
        1. It encourages a culture of extroversion, while the benefits of introversion are ignored.
        As Susan Cain said : “There's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
        2. It doesn't encourage a good work ethic of admitting mistakes, and puts merits of the individuals "natural" ability; rather than putting the merits on the individuals hard-work.
        3. There is no "moral guidance", people are expected to find their own moral code. To paraphrase Alain De Botton : "If you went to a university seeking guidance, you would be rejected very quickly"
        4. There is a "stereotype threat" (of categorizing in "sets") which reduce performance, and motivation. Along with this there is a set view of "intelligence", which in my opinion is slight out-dated, and doesn't take into account the concept of "late bloomers".
        5. It is built upon a false view of happiness, which views that once you get a job and get lots of money, only then will you be "happy". And to quote Sir Ken Robinson : "It trains you to be a university lecturer". Considering this point, having a degree isn't (i'v heard) as highly rated as it once was!
        6. It doesn't take into account the fact of "intrinsic motivation" and makes it very hard for people to go into a sense of "flow". So that many don't study, for the sake of knowledge, yet do it for that "external reward".
        7. Finally, our current education system doesn't encourage original thought (lateral thinking), or creativity. It encourages "road-block" learning, and relies quite a lot on the basis of "memory
        A perfect education system would have none of these faults.
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          May 14 2013: I agree with your points , especially with point no.2 with the work ethic of admitting mistakes. This could lead to some serious problems , like publication bias.In the medical field, the development of lorcainide was abandoned for commercial reasons, and this study was never published; it's now a good example of publication bias. That's the technical term for the phenomenon where unflattering data gets lost, gets unpublished, is left missing in action, and they say the results described here "might have provided an early warning of trouble ahead." Perhaps we need an education system that allows students to make and learn from mistakes.

          Indeed , most people study for external reward, rather than appreciating the intrinsic values of learning itself. Incentives or giving good grades might encourage students to work hard for good grades , but unfortunately it narrows down their focus as pointed out by Daniel Pink on his talk on "The puzzles of motivation". And one thing about standardised test is that people have high tendency to study just for the grades, and forget everything after the exam, which is , in the end , a total waste of time. Exams are necessary , but should not be the dominant culture. I think we should emulate Finland's education system

          I think it is true that there's zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best. ideas. But unfortunately , not just in education , sometimes people with the best idea don't dare to speak out , or their opinions don't get enough attention. So what changes do you think can be done so as to encourage the introverts to say out their ideas?
    • May 13 2013: but thanks to well-meaning but misguided psychologists, teachers now have to call those 10,000 failures "great job", so that students' self-esteem is not damaged. what they fail to realise is that self-esteem is the natural result of reaching the goal of doing something well, and not a goal in itself.
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        May 13 2013: perhaps they should give the students some constructive criticisms,a real feedback and give them some perpectives rather than simply tell them "great job" for every mistakes they make.
        • May 13 2013: that would make sense yes but they're not allowed to. no winners because that means there are losers so everyone must get a medal. also having nothing but constructive criticism available to be used doesn't cut it, it doesn't work for everyone in every case.
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        May 13 2013: I guess there can be many approach to it, and choose the one which has the pros that outweights the cons. In your opinion , what should be done?
        • May 13 2013: get all non-teachers out of the system. parents to work with teachers rather than ordering them how to treat their kids, psychologists to make suggestions but not policies, school boards to work on extra-curricular and administrative areas only and stay out of curriculum and classroom management, and education department to ask teachers what they need to do a good job and work to fulfill those requests.

          universities accept the best and most well-balanced students, and employers too, so university entrances and job placement is the best feedback we're going to get. if the teachers at a school have been able to prepare their students so well that many are getting into jobs and courses, then they must be doing a good job no matter how they are doing it. the worst thing that can happen is you get some bureaucrat judging a teacher bad because that's not how they think teaching should be done, ending a program that was actually working well. the only oversight that's needed is to make sure nobody is cheating, like forming deals to get kids accepted etc.

          it would help for education departments to have symposia rather than dictate policies, where teachers gather from around the country and present experiments they've tried with teaching methods. the teachers can them take some of those ideas back home with them where they may or may not work since every idea doesn't work equally well in every place.
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        May 13 2013: That's true. I agree especially with the part "psychologists to make suggestions but not policies"

        Leadership in education should not be command and control , but creating a climate of possibilities. Teachers will and should be more accountable. And I think flipped learning does support this as well. It empowers the role of a teacher from rote-lecturing to giving perspectives, and mentor the students. It also make the students acquire the ownership of their education , for i believe that we need students who are curious , creative and lifelong self-learners. As the saying goes , "give a man a fish , you'll feed him for a day. Teach the man how to fish,you will feed him for a lifetime".

        I've put in some of the links on flipped learning on my blog here http://faizulzuraimi.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-flipped-learning.html?m=1 . It earliest work was done by eric mazur of harvard who is an educator himself . What is your opinion abt it?
        • May 13 2013: i agree very strongly about "climate of possibilities", for teachers to enable students to find their possibilities.

          who should teachers be accountable to? is there anyone in existence who knows how to judge a teacher besides another teacher? and who's to say that that teacher's methods are better? different methods work on different groups, and we don't really know the outcome until students get into a job or college course.

          remember that teachers only do rote learning because they have to, so that students can do well on standardised tests and their funding isn't cut.

          teach the man to fish and he'll become dependent on your teaching. take the man to somewhere he'll likely work out how to fish! ...then get fired for doing so because that's not in the curriculum as dictated by the education department and the parents objected, sigh...
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        May 14 2013: in the flipped learning , rote learning is shifted outside of the classroom. The idea is that teachers broadcast their lectures through videos like the one in here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wvnX1f7yRY .

        It is evident that it turns out to be very effective for many reasons. Amongst them are;
        1. It improves the student-teacher time ratio , as the teachers get to spend more time with the struggling students. The ratio is also augmented by peer tutoring.There will also be more differentiation in class.
        2. Many times, when students don't get what the teacher is teaching , they are too shy to ask for clarifications , or sometimes, " the class have to move on. ". The one-pace fits all model is obsolete , given how competitive the world is getting now.
        3. Two words: critical thinking.It encourages high-order thinking, students get to see things from many different nuanced perspective and this will enhance their critical thinking.

        Here is a good video on the flipped learning. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9aGuLuipTwg

        "to somewhere he'll likely work out how to fish!... then get fired for doing so". That's a good point , this is the reason why teachers play such an important role, which is to lead the students in the right direction at the same time trying to stimulate their creativity , which I think is necessary knowing the global challenges we face and will face in the future. So the question is how? Perhaps , the teachers can spend more time on doing past year questions in class, with rote lecturing being shifted out. Or maybe, students can do the exam-style questions , which is accompanied by some explanations in a form of video, like the ones in here http://www.examsolutions.net/ , so as they don't deviate themselves from the curriculum dictated by the education department. It's the reason why I think the flipped learning is the best solution under the constraints of public education system.
        • May 15 2013: your points 1 and 3 i agree, but not 2. when you give students all the time they need, they never learn to get faster. if you understand something completely you don't need to think about it any more or spend effort working it out. the math faculty in my school is currently suffering from this problem actually. the students don't seem to completely grasp the concepts, so they add more study time and naturally the students get slower and slower. a better plan would be to introduce timed mental tests, where the questions are easy but the key is getting to the answers in time. also you have to help them get over being shy, rather than accepting it or they'll carry that problem all the way through their lives.

          also focusing on exam question means students get good at taking exams, but worse at the actual skills the exams are supposed to be testing as time is re-prioritized. you want students who are good at math (for example), not who are good at math tests. logically students who are good at math will also be able to pass tests.
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        May 15 2013: I think that is more to the question of motivation. People feel happy when they progress , and they are motivated by autonomy,mastery and purpose. I think the first thing we should acknowledge is that people have different learning pace, just because you are slow, doesn't mean you are smart and just because you fast, doesn't mean you are smart either. Mastery learning should be incorporated in school, by making full use of the technology. This is proven to be true when some students , who are labelled "slow" , or have "learning disabilities" , when they tried to understand some of the math concepts from Khan Academy , they turned out to be some of the top achievers. Why is it so? Because when we understand the concept thoroughly , everything that precedes it can be intuitive. It'll make sense rather than just memorising some formulas. And when students understand the concept, they have this sense of progress , they will certainly be able to score. Sal Khan did this in one of his summer programme as mentioned in his book if I remember. https://www.khanacademy.org/talks-and-interviews/our-vision/v/sal-khan-video-lecture-on-digital-learning

        Indeed , we want students who are good at maths , not good at math tests. Unfortunately the problem is that the system don't seem to allow that, and we can't blame the students or teachers for being too exam-orientated. However, what can be done is encourage students to acquire the ownership of their education , in which one of the ways should be applying the flipped learning , which in my opinion is the best given the restrictions of the education system. In the end, it's up to the students. The best way is find the best method possible in encouraging the students to appreciate the intrinsic values of learning.
        • May 16 2013: i'm not saying understanding isn't important, i'm saying the way a person comes to understand is. do you come to understand something because you've worked it out, or because you've accepted what you've been told?

          also fast does mean you're smart. it doesn't mean you're good at everything though. i myself was always pretty quick to get science concepts, but useless at music. there's nothing wrong with being slow or bad at something.

          what do you mean when you say students should "acquire the ownership of their education"?
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        May 16 2013: What I meant by "acquire the ownership of their education" is that the students will become self-learners, in which students become responsible for their own education.. Very often that people stop learning after they have graduated , as a result of having an education system that is exam-based, where people learn to master how to answer the exam papers rather than the subject itself. The notion that education is a preparation for life is wrong, education is life itself , as John Dewey emphasised in his Progressive Education Movement. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_education

        As Mark Twain quoted " I never let schooling interfere my education" , it really raise a question as to whether our education system is going to the right direction or not. Quite often we've seen successful people without formal education, or rather , formal schooling are self-educated. They learn by themselves. They are curious , self-learners and creative. 3 main traits which I believe the education system should be focusing on rather than getting good grades in exam. It's because life is more than just getting the grades, and since change is happening with no historical precedent, how different is the world going to be 10 or 20 years from now? The world is very ambiguous , that is why I believe that people "should acquire the ownership of their education".
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          May 16 2013: You are right that students need to stop focusing on performance on exams. It is a particular issue when a student perceives his whole future riding on one end-of-high-school exam, which is all too common a situation in many countries.
        • May 17 2013: why would students want to become self-learners, and what makes you think they will be able to educate themselves better than a professional educator? and is it enough to learn only what you are curious about?

          you picked a good example with mark twain. he made a lot of money from his writing, but blew it all and a lot of his wife's inheritance on bad investment decisions. he should've paid more attention in school! maybe then he'd have learned about things other than literature and writing and could've avoided bankruptcy.
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        May 17 2013: yeap , as Sir Ken Robinson mentioned , the dominant culture of education has come not to teaching and learning , but testing. Testing has its place ,but they should not be the dominant culture of education.
        • May 18 2013: it's not about tests or not, it's about what kind of test and how they are used. they can be done well or badly, and if sir ken had ever taught a year in his life, he'd probably realise that.
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        May 17 2013: I'm not saying that they will be able to educate themselves better than a professional educator, I believe professional educator plays a big role in the society , in fact , a much more important role than last time given the challenges we face. When learning stems from your own initative and action, learning becomes much more meaningful and relevant in your life. What a teacher or professional educator does is facilitate your learning. Unfortunately , the system doesn't allow that since our education system is dominated by standardised test. However, the best way , to my knowledge to work within the system is by applying the flipped learning , as I mentioned before.

        Is it enough to learn only what you are curious about? That's a good question . The answer is obviously no. It's not enough to learn only what you are interested about. That's why I believe that we all should have someone as a mentor to guide us,giving us advice to make good decisions, it can be our parents or anyone who is capable to be a mentor. If I have not made it clear yet, the key to self-directed learning is to truly flip traditional classroom learning on its head and create initiative and action on your own part to chase down learning , with the help of professional educators who facilitate the learning.
        • May 18 2013: you seem to be understanding quite well!

          i wonder if you could tell me why a parent would not make a good mentor?
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        May 18 2013: Thanks for your comment.

        It would be best to have a parent as a mentor because parents are more likely to give their 100% for their children. However , it really depends on the area of their expertise. On top of that, it is most likely that parents are busy spending their time on work and have no time to spend with their children.

        However , one of the best parts about flipped learning is that parents have direct access to the teacher's instruction when they watch the video lectures at home. Since it is most likely that parents can comprehend the material better than their kids, they can spend more time in teaching their children.
        • May 20 2013: true, but is that 100% as good as an actual teacher's 50%? remember parents only have no experience educating you, though they are your parent they'd never had someone like you before, so it's all new to them, whereas a teacher has had 100's a students from which they gain experience and can apply to new students. no matter what kind of student they get, there's a good chance that they've had similar experiences before.

          also a parent has precious little vocational experience variation. they might be a professional at 1 or 2 things, and have had even 4 or 5 jobs, but know nothing of what it means to do anything besides that. teachers on the other hand hear regularly from people in industry and university, as well as from graduates who've taken a huge variety of jobs, so while a parent would be a good mentor if you want to do the same job as them, for anything else you have much more chance of reaching your potential with a teacher.

          actually i'd say it's less likely a parent will be able to comprehend the material, unless it's introductory level or happens to be the subject the parent is a professional at. also remember it's a long time since they went to school and are very out of date. you probably understand things like science and history better than your parents already.

          thanks for you reply!
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        May 20 2013: yeah , true. That's why teachers play such an important role! But for example say the parent is good at making financial decisions , he/she can become a mentor for his/her children in that aspect. Yeap, I was referring to introductory level when it comes to comprehending the material. Children at a younger age usually need more guidance, and their parents are there to help them when they are at home.
        • May 20 2013: yeah very good point, a parent has experience in some things, and many things are worth learning even if they're not what you want to be in the future. just as long as they're supplementing a teacher, not attempting to replace them, which would be like replacing an encyclopedia with gray's anatomy; great book as long as you don't want to know anything other than medicine.
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        May 22 2013: yeap. And the notion that technology replace teachers is certainly wrong, it complements and empowers the role of the teachers. In many cases , learning isn't complete without the guidance of a mentor/teacher.

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