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Ron Burnett

President and Vice-Chancellor, Emily Carr University of Art and Design

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Are Educational Institutions responding to the challenges of teaching and learning in the 21st Century?

The Digital Age offers all sorts of opportunities for learners ranging from the formal to the informal, from the Web to the classroom and the studio. Why do educational institutions continue to rely on traditional models of learning? Why have schedules, disciplines and departments remained the same as in the 20th Century? Why has the architecture of schools changed so little? How have learners changed?

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  • Feb 21 2011: The problems we're having should be expected given the complexity of the topic and rapid pace and variety of changes in our modern world. Even coming up with a simple response to your question is in itself no small task. Given that I'd say that the only way to reach an answer is to start from square one.

    The first thing then is to determine the role of education; in the past up until now I would say it was a means of passing on knowledge which previous generations felt was important. However I feel that in the future it would be wiser choice to pass on the ability to find (or even discover) and process knowledge than the knowledge itself. Some would say 'but they need a foundation', however I would ask them what good a solid foundation does when the landscape is constantly morphing and changing. As Conrad Wolfram said in a TED talk regarding this issue as it pertains to math, "Is the basics of driving a car learning how to service it?"

    A very careful evaluation must be conducted regarding what information is and is not neccessary information for functioning in a world where vast quantities of knowledge are readily available everywhere if we are to see any significant improvement in education.
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      Feb 22 2011: Scott, many thanks for such a considered response. I float between, we need a base to build on (i.e., foundation) to completely agreeing with you that everything is shifting, hence what does it mean to have a base in the first place? So, one of the solutions that we have developed at Emily Carr University is a class aptly named "creative process." This class opens students to a variety of experiences from the creation of objects to discussions of material practices, creativity and theory. It is always changing. The syllabus is rarely the same from year to year. Lots of work, but well worth it!!
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        Feb 28 2011: The use of the term "creative process", or "creativity" is something which appears in many curricula. The understanding of how ideas emerge, either as evolutionary ideas or as novel solutions seems to me to be fundamental to improving the education system. The making of links and allowing students to imagine from the known allows them to play with their own creativity an perhaps to become creative themselves. The processes of thinking, and understanding one's own learning journey, at whatever stage of education, is fundamental to learning progress. Teachers need to have the capacity to walk alongside the learner and act as guide and counsellor as misconceptions appear. Too often the potential for creativity is stifled by the personal need to impart a body of knowledge.
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    Feb 20 2011: As a Chemistry teacher in the Mississippi Delta, I have a few possible answers.

    Why do educational institutions continue to rely on traditional models of learning?
    - Before students can synthesize new ideas, they must have the foundation of information to build ideas with. They must have a core knowledge as E.D. Hirsch argues. Therefore, many of the current educational models teach facts very well. For example, Teach for America uses a simple model, "I do, we do, you do," that allows students to rapidly learn information. Once the information is learned, teacher's may probe at higher level thinking such as synthesizing and evaluating material (these are high depth of knowledge practices for more info look up Bloom's Taxonomy), but whether it be state tests, an intensive curriculum, or the subjectivity of evaluation, teacher's generally move on to the next unit.

    Why have schedules, disciplines and departments remained the same as in the 20th Century?
    Similar to the previous argument, schedules have remained the same because many institutions believe that students should learn a core knowledge. If a student is passionate about art and shows amazing talent in art, most schools still believe that student should learn math because it will provide a foundation for students to explore other fields. However, disciplines remaining the same is one area that I would like to see change. If math teaches students strategies to solve problems and recognize patters, then why don't we call the field Pattern Recgonition, a skill that can be developed and SHOULD be developed in the brain. Likewise if science teaches us to explore and find empirical answers to questions, then why don't we call the field Exploring, where we teach students how to use today's technology to explore and empirically answer questions.

    I'm running out of words for the last two questions, but if interested I'll continue to post my opinions, I don't want to overshadow other great thoughts!
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      Feb 21 2011: Garrett, great points and very important ones. Foundations are essential. The key question is which foundational concepts, skills and competencies should be taught to learners who have access to many different sources of information? Part of the challenge is that we need to adapt....schools need to adapt to the changing context of knowledge circulation now heavily defined by the Internet. The fact that we are engaging in this discussion although we have never met, suggests that the Web enables the development of new ideas and conversations. How come so few schools engage in critical thinking about the digital culture we now share?
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        Feb 28 2011: The problems as I see them are that we need to have a very sophisticated approach to the integration of technology into the education system. At the early stages of learning, children need to experience, explore and develop the skills to explain what they have done, and learned through the experience. This can often be determined by the extraneous adults who may seek to validate their role as teacher by interpreting for the child. Children need a careful mix of introduction to novel situations and experiences, time to "play" and assimilate, then time to reflect and explore means of capturing thier ideas.
        Often the bigger issue is simply time. By incorporating technology too early, the time for experiential play can become more limited, restricting the early experience to delivery and reception.
        Technology can certainly broaden experience, bringing ideas to life and bringing experiences from around the globe into the learning space. Awareness of the world an be heightened. Image and sound capture is important to support early language, ordering and organising ideas for later use. This is the use of technology as a tool supporting learning, the development of ideas.

        Poorly used, it can replicate the use of worksheets,restrictive approaches which pay lip service to the incorporation of technology in learning. Most UK classes have an interactive whiteboard. It would be an interesting study to see how they are put to use to enagage children with learning, or if they are used as a teacher notepad and presentation of tasks.

        Technology, well deployed can significantly enhance learning. I have on occasion been blown away by the use of technology by a student teacher, which has not just captured the children's attention, but engaged them in ways which have added real value to their life experiences, to me, a definition of learning.
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    Feb 18 2011: Institutions, by their very nature do not "respond". The people in them might and some have. The fundemental "problem" with education is that it takes place in an institution. Having been institutionalized in that manner, it seems they may never learn to respond. The challenges of teaching and learning are very different. Many are taught but never seem to learn. The tricks they teach you in institutions are rarely of any real value outside those institutions. Most folks are only impressed with the diploma. It's the one thing they are sure to teach you in the institutions: how important their recognition of your achievement is. Or is it a recognition of their achievement? "Feed your head."
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      Feb 18 2011: Agreed. I do feel that institutions have a personality or perhaps many. People are the institution, but often the cultures of schools encourage the opposite of learning. True, many people are only there for a degree, but that is a symptom of the problem and not the cause.
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    Mar 2 2011: Short remark. How can you learn this in University's : http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/films/universities-teach-harry-potter-classes-2136367.html
    Really aren't there more interesting things in life to be learned ?

    "St. Catherine College in St. Paul, Minnesota
    A literature class requiring the reading of all seven J.K. Rowling books for group discussions. The final project lets students create a Hogwarts character for a computer game."

    I don't see how this can help an individual in life.
    As Jamie Oliver said in one of his TED conferences, we should learn how to cook first. In research for innovation we are loosing the basic skills we need to know.
  • Feb 25 2011: Education need not "catch up" to technology, nor need they utilize them. Filling the minds of little ones with data promotes not intelligence but confusion.
    One should not seek school as answer for anything, but a hobby one may attend if one wishes out of conscious decision. School have nothing to do with growth, learning, social interaction, or success of any sort. "Improving" school is unnecessary, for school itself is unnecessary (in the way that we view and expect them to function); that is the only way to "catch up" to technology, if one may suggest. School had a specific function; to produce working middle class men. There is no longer any use for "middle class men" since this so called technology replaced them. Now we need schools to do everything it was not meant to do.
    To answer all the questions in the original thread; we, children of this age, who don't rely on school will make all the change, so need not worry nor obsess. We will use technology appropriately, with moderation, without over relying, nor undermining and compromising its effectiveness. The whole idea of "integrating technology to school" or "changing schools, modes of learning and curricula" itself is an outdated, archaic question and endeavor and is irrelevant and useless to attempt to alleviate.
    The issue is catalyzed and magnified even more in more diverse ethnic areas, and thus, exponentially hopeless...

    how negative i was in this post lol
  • Mar 3 2011: I concur that the answer, in short, is no. This conclusion is drawn; however, for two basic reasons:
    1. No one has really taken the time to develop a ssupported theory as to what the "challenges of learning of the 21st century really are". You cannot sit on the outside looking in visiting the classroom (no matter the number) and have any idea as to challenges of the classroom. There is not a pure prescription for the "typical", "average" or "normal" classroom of the 21st century because it does not exist.

    2. Funding for our public schools face a monumental dilemna which our governmental system cannot and will not face completely. First of all, let me admit my bias. The primary purpose of our "modern" legislator, be it local, state or national, is not to represent her/his constituency or to create a better society, but to be re-elected.

    The generous tax breaks that state and local governments are providing corporations are creating significant problems for our public educational system across the United States. Whenbusiness attain property abatements or diversions for 10, 20 or more years, the flow of revenue into the public coffers diminish, public funds receed, funding for public projects, including our public schools diminish and our programs are left out in the cold. Schools currently across the country are facing cuts of 10 to 25% in funding. Why? Because states are facing budget shortfall with TIFs, tax free bonds and other tax breaks to businesses. These have exsculated from 9 states in 1977 to 36 in 1998.

    Wake up America. Public Schools are working with the future generations for this country. Neglect them now and our country will suffer for years. Our public schools are our future. What do you wish for your children and grandchildren? What do you wish for your country? Tax breaks to corporations have a direct negative impact on our educational system. Now is the time to stop same.
  • Mar 3 2011: In brief, NO. The poor institutions have a giant scenario laid out for them. In.the past schools were not meant to care for social ills.and make up for societal weaknesses. Today, they are too busy trying to keep up with the demands of School Boards (ours was particularly lobotomized).while attempting to keep children learning. I think they are fighting a losing battle because the wonderful teachers we train are burned out by their experience though they want to do well.
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    Mar 2 2011: Educational institutions are mired in their own past. They cannot help it because they are bureaucracies. The future will bring learning to the child in a Montesorri fashion through gaming and hands on life. Kids could go to school in virtual reality and learn so much more with people of like interests. They could learn from the very best and ask and have every question answered one on one.
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    Mar 2 2011: As a lifetime learner, I know the digital age has changed my needs drastically in two areas.

    First the speed at which I need new information, today staying on the cutting edge means knowing what I need to know RIGHT NOW. My university programs didn't accommodated my primary need/primary gratification.

    The second area my learning needs have changed is the amount of connectivity I need to other learners. Being in a theatre of students being lectured at WITHOUT a Twitter feed or hashtag is such a uni-dimensional experience. When I can enhance my real time learning with thoughts, opinions and experiences from more then just the speaker, I retain more information and assimilate more learning.

    If Educational Institutes embraced either of these issues more readily, we'd improve the system and engage more people.

    Thanks for a brilliant topic! Cheers!
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    Mar 1 2011: Education must change because the definition of intelligence is changing. We no longer have to memorize facts, we have Google in our fingertips.

    What we need to be able to do is to make connections and know where to look for information that can help us reach our goals.We need to workout how to relate with people that can enable us to achieve what we want to achieve. To develop these skills, schools would need to encourage a more collaborative learning.

    I recently interviewed Sam Aldenton, a social entrepreneur who runs a charity in East London that firmly believes in learning by doing and by fostering collaboration.His contribution to the Hackney community is truly admirable!
    http://capsulasdetiempo.com/en/2011/02/22/there-will-be-no-work-left-unless-we-create-it/
  • Mar 1 2011: This is both humorous, invigorating and sad all at the same time. If you want people to learn, get them excited about learning. I am very excited about new findings in brain research, and one of the local universities has a course in their psychology department about it. However, if that's taught by one of their professors that lectures for an hour in a monotone drone, why the hell would I pay $500 a credit to be put through hell?

    I really like the model of higher education that's emerging at this point in time - the global university. Take courses from several universities around the country, demonstrate your learning, and receive a degree. Put the best out there on the Internet, and let the learning begin.

    For the stuffy professor that believes that the classroom discussion model as been the standard of education since Aristotle, I agree with your assertion that engaging discussion is the key to learning...but Artistotle didn't have an iPad.

    Educators have this belief that "traditional" education provides the basis for the ability to grasp complex concepts in linearly progressive process, preparing learners for the perpetual "next step." Yet, the goal of every college student is to "graduate." The unfortunate thing is that our society sees achieved goals as ends, rather than plateaus, and thnks that, as things progress, life should get easier (retirement, relaxation, and sittin' on the porch). The sooner we, as educators, teach our charges that life becomes more and more complex and that we need to prepare for the next complexity, the better off our educational system will be.

    By the way, that would be my dissertation for my Ed.D., but I'd have to take 15 courses to come to the point of where I already am.
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    Mar 1 2011: Educational institutes have change cycles at the very minimum of a year. Very few schools can make pedagogical changes within a school year, and generally the time-frame for change is much more than that in many educational systems, on the order of at least 5 years for any substantive curriculum change to occur.

    There are many reasons for this, including resistance to change, a recognition that changes should be pedagogically sound, that they should fit within existing contracts, or such contracts should be revised, an inability to pay for changes because of limited research and development budgets, a tendency to react to changes in their environment rather than be proactive, and a host of other reasons. The upshot is, educational institutions as they are currently structured are slow to change.

    However, technology is changing rapidly. You don't need to be futurists like Moore or Kurzweil to recognize that technology is changing on a much shorter time-scale than schools can deal with. The vast majority of school systems have no futurists to help them make predictions for the future, they deal with the system they have and make predictions based on it, rather than being able to step outside their system and look at alternatives.

    There is an unreasonable amount of concern over the use of technology and collaboration within schools. The vast majority of parents, administrators and teachers do not understand things like wikis, creative commons, and downloading music. They do not understand the new emerging collaborative culture, even if some of them participate in it. While the debate goes on about whether students should be exposed to technology at a young age, the world changes and students come to school better adapted to the changes.

    This will always be true while we use a hierarchical administrative and funding model for schools. Want to effect change in education? Listen to the innovative educators and their students.
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      Mar 1 2011: "Want to effect change in education? Listen to the innovative educators and their students." Succinct powerful point David! Thank you!
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    Feb 28 2011: Successful teaching involves inspiring kids to be curious, to accomplish goals and to become self-motivated to learn. In any classroom it is clear which kids are inspired and which kids are “yet to be inspired”.

    Changes over the last generation make this approach more possible than ever. The 21st century brings convenient and inexpensive access to oceans of knowledge in all media formats as well as novel communication channels to facilitate new ways to participate, explore, discuss, collaborate, debate and listen. The proper application of Web 2.0 technology can make this possible.

    The opportunity in front of us is to change the classroom from 20 kids in a box to a flexible, but guided, learning environment. This environment has no barriers to individual growth, emphasizes self learning, supports multiple learning styles, and nourishes opportunities for launching “inspirational moments”. At the same time, it provides a safety net for those who stumble off the launch pad.

    Imagine a learning space with multiple learning stations to support teacher with small groups, teacher with one student, small student group collaboration with remote students via web, individual study with web access, and individual study with mentor (parent, older student or remote tutor). The classic principles (Bloom's Taxonomy/different learning styles/hard work) still apply. But new technologies bring us new opportunities.

    So how do we create inspired learners?

    1. Communicate the new learning approaches in ways that teachers _and_ parents can understand and use.
    2. Give students guidance and access to Web 2.0 technologies to increase flexibility and freedom to explore and learn.
    3. Invest in professional development for teachers to master 21st approaches and assess teachers’ application of this with students.
    4. Get more parents involved in the classroom as a resource to support teachers and mentor students.
    5. Guide parents on maintaining this learning environment at home.
  • Feb 25 2011: I reject your premise that "the digital age" somehow demands a new framework for learning . Complex subjects like math,science, language,economics demand a concentrated set of purposeful actions by both the instructor and the student. These actions primarily consist of reading,discussion,and lecture. This was how all the leading lights of science and technology instrumental in creating the groundwork for the digital age- from Einstein to Steve Jobs-were taught .An expansion of that basic formula into newer formats made possble by contemporary technology should be approached as an addendum,cautiously and with a practiced hand, not on the wings of half-baked intellectual fads born out of overnight enthusiasms by"out-of-the-box" people recently caught up in the "significance" of social media and the internet.
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      Feb 27 2011: You mean the same Einstein who said: "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education," and: "The only source of knowledge is experience." That Einstein? And the Steve Jobs who dropped out of university?

      Really? Those are the people you are going to use to back up your argument for the status quo?
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        Mar 1 2011: You made me laugh out loud with your counter-examples.

        I can give a couple of more:
        Abel (father of mathematical group theory) never attended university.
        Srinivasa Ramanujan, one of the top mathematical geniuses of our time had very little formal training
        Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin empire, dropped out of school at 16
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          Mar 2 2011: Well they seemed like kooky examples - especially Einstein who is legendarily and consistently used as an example of how the education system fails to serve the best interests of the students.

          Earlier I had spotted the same poster referencing the mythical rugged individualist who kicks open doors and breaches new frontiers and then produces great things out of nothing with his bare hands, and no help whatsoever. I let that go so I had to comment on this one.
      • Mar 2 2011: Your succinctly right of course .I researched Einstein's education and to my surprise discovered an old photo of the young physicist bent over an Ipad gushing at a Facebook photo of Lady Gaga while unraveling the unseen mysteries of the universe.
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          Mar 2 2011: Hmm. Is "my right" anything like "my bad"? You kids today with your slang and your pants halfway down your butt-cracks. I just can't keep up.

          Thank you, though, for your eloquent defense of the status quo, what with the reading comprehension and grammar. I particularly enjoyed your use of irony.
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      Mar 1 2011: Just as the first "digital age" revolutionized our understanding of digits themselves in the 13th century, this second digital revolution will provide the most equal opportunity (to date) for people from marginalized communities around the globe.
  • Feb 21 2011: Echoing Michael, I would agree that the dilemma of 21st century education is fundamentally the dilemma of 21st century institutions. Look at a wide range of organizations, from the private to the public to the not-for-profit sectors, and you'll see wide variation in their ability to engage with new technology and change in the ways that social media and web 2.0 both enable and demand. Interestingly, some of the first sectors to identify the potential of new ways of engaging -- notably, government and education -- have been the most profoundly challenged in embracing these tools. Because, of course, it's not the tools that are challenging; it's the requirement to give up a significant degree of control, respond in real time, and work in a way that is genuinely (as opposed to rhetorically) collaborative. My gut feeling (based mostly on personal observation) is that part of the reason that public sector organizations (including government departments, agencies, healthcare & educational institutions) have lagged in this arena is because the kinds of people who are attracted to serving in public institutions are fairly risk-averse...which makes them tempermentally ill-suited to ushering in the kinds of disruptive change that's needed to work effectively with digital tools. But most organizations start their digital revolutions with just a few brave souls, and those folks can be find in educational institutions too. The key is to reward those who stick their necks out, try new kinds of teaching and learning strategies, and encourage them to share what they learn with others -- both their successes & failures.
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      Feb 21 2011: I am not sure that people who serve in public institutions are risk averse. Rather, I think that this is a serious issue that is at the core of the social and digital spaces that we share. In an environment of greater and greater complexity, the ability to act and act for change seems daunting. Fundamentally, institutions reflect the societies of which they are a part and today being risk averse is a function of a lack of vision about the future. In other words, movements for change especially in education need visionary ideas about how to shift the structures we have built to teach our children. This ranges from new types of courses to entirely new kinds of learning strategies.
  • Feb 20 2011: I think that educational institutions, especially those who train the trainers, still fail to recognize the importance of Early Childhood. If those who first nurture and care then teach the children under the age of 8 were the highest trained and highest paid in the the field of education we could turn things around in next to no time.
    Instead, it's the University lecturers who are paid highest while those working with the babes are low in training, in education, are often itinerant workers....and then we expect children to like school and learning?????
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    Feb 19 2011: An editorial in the April 8th edition of Nature raises some important issues about student learning experiences in the sciences. [The] "evidence strongly suggests that most of what the general public knows about science is picked up outside school, through things such as television programmes, websites, magazine articles, visits to zoos and museums — and even through hobbies such as gardening and birdwatching. This process of 'informal science education' is patchy, ad hoc and at the mercy of individual whim, all of which makes it much more difficult to measure than formal instruction. But it is also pervasive, cumulative and often much more effective at getting people excited about science — and an individual's realization that he or she can work things out unaided promotes a profoundly motivating sense of empowerment." (Nature 464, 813-814)

    The same argument can be made for many other disciplines. The relationship between informal and formal learning is characterized by extreme fuzziness. As I have discussed in recent articles (particularly, The Radical Impossibility of Teaching http://rburnett.ecuad.ca/archive/2010/5/16/the-radical-impossiblity-of-teaching.html ) classrooms and formal lectures may well be the last place in which empowered and empowering learning takes place. The formal schedules of schools, departments divided into sometimes highly contested disciplines, and the credit system all discourage the value and importance of informal learning.

    In fact, learning informally is at the heart of how people discover new things and new ways of understanding the world.
  • Feb 19 2011: How have learners changed?

    As a current grade 12 student in Alberta, from my own expiriences, I think students have started to see high school as a necessary evil before they can go to post secondary schooling, and because of technology we are starting to realize that there are many diffrent career oppertunities other than a doctor or a lawer.. ext. Without the internet I would have not known the program I am applying for even existed. Also we don't even really need to pay attention in class because we can google whatever we need to know for the tests, In the final english exam some of my classmates didn't even reread the books they just got a summery of it off of the internet and studied that. For me and many of my classmates some subjects we veiw as a waste of our time, usualy the subjects that we are not good at, this is because we know it will not be usefull any other time in our life, and as soon as the final test is done, all of the information is gone.
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      Feb 19 2011: Ashley, my own feeling is that it is not one subject or even one year that determines whether you have gained value from the learning experience. Rather, it is the entire package, everything from the social context to the materials you encounter that motivates you to learn and change. To me, no subject is a waste because we can always find some value in everything.
      • Feb 20 2011: hahaha, yes. A very valid, wise, point! Thank you for effectivly changing my perception!
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        Feb 25 2011: I'm sure we can all agree that some packages are more valuable than others and the 20th Century Education is lacking in so many ways for vast majority of us, of all ages. As long as there is one curriculum to rule them all, usually enforced by the state, the perception of wasted time and effort will remain.

        The current schools are teaching machines where the learning experience is just incidental. If nothing else the schools should show students how to seek knowledge not how to endure the teaching.
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      Feb 20 2011: Hi Ashley! You seem to be uninspired by your curriculum, but you're clearly interested in learning or you wouldn't be on the TED website. If one of your classes was based purely on TED videos and the conversations, I'd bet you'd ace it - even if most of the things on this site may never be "useful" in your life.

      Good teachers can capture your imagination and make you want to engage with the material. You won't want to take the shortcuts. That's why sites like TED are great - you get to see what it's like when someone is truly passionate about a topic and makes it come alive... whenever I watch a TED talk I always want to learn more.

      The problem is, there aren't enough good teachers to go around. The answer to the problem is to find the best school teachers, the most passionate ones that bring their subjects to life, and make TED-like videos of them. Make enough videos and you'll be able to learn every subject from K-12 from these videos. Now every student can learn from the best teachers. Your "live" teacher then really just becomes a mentor and facilitator - helping you take the lesson to the next level, answering your questions.

      There are several people and organizations trying to do just that... hopefully one day it will be a reality, probably by the time your kids end up going to school!
      • Feb 22 2011: Hi Wes,

        I actually have some fantastic teachers. Most are passionate about what they talk about, and the ones that are not quite as passionate about what they talk about, are passionate about teaching and truly try their best to find innovative ways to teach us and motivate us.

        However I think that the curriculum undermines their best efforts, because the only purpose of high school is to get into post secondary, that's it.

        This is obvious in the way we are taught, our teachers want us to succed ( getting further education ), so they give us the tools that we need. They teach us exactly what is in the curriculum, focusing on areas that are commonly found on the final exam, then they prepare us for the exam by giving us questions similar to the ones found on the final exam.
        Note: this final exam called a diploma in the Alberta education system is worth 50% of our final grade. And is all multiple choice except social studies and english also have a written portion.

        The video teaching is a great idea, a definate start to changing the education system, maybe along the way someone will add a better purpose too.
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          Feb 22 2011: It's a good point to differentiate "uninspiring curriculum" and "uninspiring teacher". However I believe the best teachers can not only prepare you to succeed on the exam but also find ways to make the material inspiring. This is very challenging, and not just from a experience design point of view.

          Teachers are under pressure from many angles to focus on the exam grades as that's what gets measured and compared. Any time spent on "extra" topics is heavily scrutinized. Even if the topics are valuable, parents and other teachers complain that students barely have enough time to do the core work in all of their classes + extracurricular activities needed to get into good schools + social development + jobs etc. Doing anything "extra" comes at the expense of something else... what can be cut?

          The answer is that you don't need to cut. A great teacher will find a new approach to the learning that gets all the students fluent on the core materials while motivating them with the extra materials. But this new approach will look risky to many supervisors (just because it's different) and so unless the teacher is in an environment where they have free reign to experiment (e.g. the school is so bad that anything is better than what they have or the school is an experimental school where this is part of the expectations) then it probably won't happen. At least, that is my experience.
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          Feb 25 2011: Wes, I think you are missing the point. Where is the value in having an inspired teacher teaching uninspiring curriculum? Were do we even get all this teachers? You can't do it in the US, we can't do it in Europe and nobody can do it anywhere. Sure, we might get some in the best schools but what about the rest of the planet?

          Having the best teachers available on the web is great but after countless hours of "wasted" time who wants for more education on the web? As I see it we are well beyond being able to fix the current education system ... it must be revolutionised and it will be.
      • Feb 23 2011: I agree that a great teacher can make a world of diffrence. However the teachers usually are not set up to succed they have many limitations and requirements placed on them. Also there is a great condensing of the curriculum, paticularly in math. This leaves teachers with little time to get through all of the required material. You are right most teachers are not in an environment to be great.

        Another issue with education has nothing to do with teachers at all, it is the lack of purpose behind all of the learning. How can we aply this learning to everyday life? We spend 12 years building up informationfor what? To go to university. I am saying that school needs a purpose beyond getting a better education.

        Maybe we should start school later on at age 9 then only have nine years of schooling and instead of a rigid schedual of do's and don'ts set up a more flexable style of self discovery, to discover talents and such. Now this obviously has flaws, it is only an idea.One can have all of the passion in the world, without a purpose, it is nothing, but passion with purpose equals change.
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      Feb 27 2011: hey sweetie... we had no google but we got by on Coles Notes...
  • Feb 19 2011: institutions are unable to respond. most teachers know quite well how to educate and how to help young minds develop, however these days with all the meddling by psychologists, government bureaucrats, school boards and other non-teachers, they're left ridiculous conditions that they can't do much with.
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    Feb 18 2011: Students come with a wide variety of knowledge, past experiences, expectations, and needs. No one model can fit all of that. Instead we have a wide variety of models such as continuing education, community colleges, traditional face-to-face degree programs and increasingly online education.

    With so many different programs and delivery mechanisms we can access education whenever and wherever we need it for whatever we need. Degrees are far less important than engendering a sense of lifelong learning.
    I tell my students if they ever say "if it ain't broke don't fix it" or All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten I'll give them an instant F.

    In the past it was often assumed that one would get a degree and then they would get a job and more or less continue in that career path for their life. That was never fully true and is not at all true now. We must be constantly creative and prepared to reinvent ourselves. Very simply this means we must be committed to lifelong learning in all of its various forms both inside and outside of schools.
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      Feb 18 2011: In response to Syd Nash: Informal learning has exploded. This means that students come to university, for example, with a great deal of information in hand along with access to even more. Your five primary methods of learning (with which I agree) are often not engaged with by learners and their teachers largely because the routines of school along with expectations that often exceed the capacity of the institution, overwhelm the process. I am not sure that classrooms socialize in the same way as in the past. The combination of social media, web access and other forms of information exchange suggest that various forms of socialization are happening all the time. I sometimes think that classrooms actually inhibit growth and development because they are so artificial.

      I also believe that we are in a new technological era that has changed the rules of the game so profoundly that we cannot ignore the impact.
    • Feb 19 2011: The label "21st Century" is being used in education to distinguish a new paradigm to view education. Do a Google Search on 21st Century Skills and also Blended Learning to see some of these shifts technology is causing in education.
  • Mar 2 2011: I want to share this information that alarmed me a few years ago when I was sharing information with K-12 educators. I was presenting some of my research in hyperspectral remote sensing, explaining things such as physics of light and how we utilize reflective properties and albedo to create classification maps. The educators were very interested and I had brought with me to the workshop some templates that they could take back to their classrooms. I did not print the copies because I thought it was best to give them a DVD for easy storage. One teacher told me that my presentation was great but that she would need a color printer to show the graphics and that her school did not supply color copiers or printers. Another educator laughed and said I do not have a computer to get the information from the DVD. I knew the school system where she taught had been given computers for every teacher classroom a few years back. She said let me rephrase that I do have a computer in my classroom. It is still in the new box. I use it as a podium. I asked if she needed some help learning how to use the computer. She said know I can use a computer but we do not have electrical outlets in our classrooms! I was a bit taken by her comments. Do we really buy teachers computers that have no electrical resources for operating them. I guess we do! I am a scientist not a formal educator. I began working side by side with educators about 10 years ago. I volunteer for workshops and share scientific information. I have learned so much from our educators. Perhaps, if the decision makers providing the "feel good" purchases for the educators classroom would ask them what they need first, we may not have to use computers as podiums!
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      Mar 2 2011: Perhaps we do not need "classrooms."

      I think back to the 17th century salons of Paris and Edward Lloyd's Coffee House in early 18th century London. What about the Maqhah of arab history? Perhaps the thought of Starbucks being the nexus of commerce and education in the future is just too capitalist for people to accept still.

      Got hookah?
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    Mar 2 2011: The short answer is, pensions.

    To propose a scalable alternative is to destroy the prevailing paradigm and all of its dependents. The real discussion should be whether the current paradigm is durable and, if not, what is the best way to shift?

    Read Dr. Donald L Bitzer for more information on e-education. He discovered some 50 years ago that the barrier to change was the teacher lobby/establishment.
  • Mar 2 2011: Well school never taught me a thing not even English , to be truth full here in my country they still use violence in schools , they still beat kids , kids still get beat from parents , then in school , then in the university when they stand against the law or when they want their rights , and they get beat too when they take the diploma and ask for a job , so in my country we grow up with violence , from our childhood , and in schools the way they teach it's a very low quality imagine someone get to the university and he even can't speak French that we learn from the second year of education , almost 12 years of leaning French and they still can't speak French ... well i left the school and i tried to learn things from Internet and Medias Like songs and movies and Anims and video games , they really changed my life , they made me realize that i was wrong about lot of things even my personality , with an other word i was an evil one who don't care only to himself , but now No , i agree with Debra Smith when she said "Kids could go to school in virtual reality and learn so much more with people of like interests. They could learn from the very best and ask and have every question answered one on one." i tested that and it's worked perfectly , the good thing is you can find many things to learn in the media sometimes you find lot of deferent answers to one question , and that make you use your mind to find the true one , not like in the school they told you that this thing is right you keep believing it's right without even using your mind cause you just heard it , in an other word , you copy files to you computer without analyzing it , you don't know if they will work with your computer or not , you don't know if they work or not , you don't know if there's a virus on them or not
  • Mar 2 2011: Hi Ron,

    I saw you're from Van - so I was actually curious - how is Emily Carr addressing your question? What's the status there? It is, after all, reputed as the most avant garde art school in Canada. :-)


    Now I agree with your notion that the technology these days offers all sorts of opportunities. However, I don't think new opportunities and new methods means the tossing out of "old" methods. There isn't such a dichotomy to begin with.

    One of my examples is that I believe we should still teach classical literary traditions. This isn't to indoctrinate - but just so people can trace histories (and this part schools do have to change) and [multiple] origins. It will make (as someone noted below about Harry Potter) Harry Potter make sense - and by that I mean readers will be able to appreciate the Latin & Greek roots, and the Germanic/Anglo-Saxon influences on wizards and dragons etc. It doens't make Harry Potter this wonderful island of experience - and that's it. It makes it a wonderful experience AND an interesting take on how traditions have informed works today, and how works today have reinterpreted traditions.

    I'd be mindful of digital technology outright replacing these teachings, and also thinking of technology as shortcuts to everything. I think there is value in physically looking up things in the dictionary (even knowing how to!), and there is certainly value in having legible handwriting and correct spelling.

    I don't think it's necessarily that the digital age is what should bring about educational institutional change, but rather that the educational institutions have continuously had the problem of being rigid. Teachers do impart knowledge, but they should also embrace new knowledge, and foster curiosity, love of learning, and critical thinking in students.
  • Mar 1 2011: I think they're not.
    They are more focused on knowledge based on the subjects they have to cover rather than let students learn.....so at the end....we don't get what's epeted from schools....we don't have happy persons, good people and people that can grow by hemselves. As long as we give students freedom to explore along with some basic foundations that learning based on doing things, on experiencing things will help to have more intelligent persons...not just persons with knowledge that they can't either apply or use.
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    Mar 1 2011: no.
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    Mar 1 2011: Look at what has been written so far. Most of it is teachers talking to themselves, communicating in that arcane language called teacher-speak. Ken Robinson's quip comes to mind, about the uncomfortable college professors anxious to leave the discotheque to rush home and write a paper about it. If there is passion in your ideas - and there should be - shouldn't your words reflect that passion? Instead of passion I'm reading cold, dead prose. What's up with that?
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    Mar 1 2011: typical story of my life: I just skimmed the other comments, but here are my thoughts any way.

    Here are a couple of my observations:
    1) There usually is some kind of scapegoat, whether shiny new theories from Schools of Education or Fed up Teachers and now the shiny new toys of Technology.
    2) There is a long history of rigid, formal process versus guided discovery.
    3) There will always be children who while growing older sustain self-driven desire and need to learn more whether in formal setting, from mentors, or from their own experiences.
    4) Mentor/student or Master/Apprentice has been around for a long time, I see it beginning to happen again in person or at a distance via communication technologies.
    4) Education can be a paradox -- the more I've seen children and adults be subjected to classes; the more I see them shut down and turn off to retaining what is being stuffed into their 5 senses.

    And so on -- basically, I think the challenge I had and have experienced with my two adult daughters is how to stimulate, support and keep a person interested, excited, a life long learner of primary, secondary, and new skills, continued scholarship, improved communication, etc., etc. With end results of being a more informed individual and hopefully a person who contributes in return to society or at least to other folks.

    I appreciate recent trends in tinkering (e.g., John Seely Brown), making (e.g., O'Reilly), community (e.g., Howard Rheingold), sharing (e.g., Charles Leadbetter), and Open Systems like the Meta Univeristy c/o Charles Vest.


    cORdially,
    geORge brett, autodidactic arty techo eclecticist
    @ghbrett
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    Mar 1 2011: Teachers and their methodology have remained relatively static while the world changed profoundly. Schools have been crushingly boring for a century. For most of that time, it didn't matter because students grinded their way through the
    boring material. Then the worm turned. The world became digitized and tons of fun data came blasting into the minds of young people from everywhere. The new normal kid became hyper-sensitized. Daily life was a rush;. Kids were perpetually buzzed...until they walked into a classroom. Then the world slowed way down. Those who could battle their way through the boredom succeeded. Those few students who could do that were so well equipped they went on to become teachers. And now, they try to perpetuate the system. Ken Robinson is correct when he says that the goal of all education is to produce college professors.

    The world changed and kids changed but teachers could not keep up. It's not that they don't care and aren't trying. They are. But very few teachers are good enough to stimulate their students. Most fail. Why should this be a surprise? Very few actors are good enough to play Stanley in Streetcar Names Desire. Sure, many will try, but there are only a few Brandos in this world. There are only a few Brandos in the teaching profession. Very few. We need to find them and pay them like any other rock star. Education needs radical changes but teachers believe that a little tinkering here and there will do it. It won't.