The future of education

I love football. If you ask me anything about Newcastle United I will be able to give you the answer or make a well informed guess. I would certainly know where to find the answer quickly. But I have never made any special attempt to learn this stuff. Just like my friends who watch a film and learn the director, year it was made, cast, plot line and film studio via osmosis. It interests them so they learn effortlessly. They can put it into a rich context.

Over recent years I have begun to love science as much as anything else. I have no idea how much I know about science but I imagine it is only a tiny amount. But what I know, I love.

But at school I didn’t know anything. I used to love reading books. Some of my favourite authors include: Isaac Asimov, Tolkien, James Clavell, Phillip K Dick, Robert Greene, Sun Tzu and William Gibson. These books taught me a lot about the world we live in. Whether it was Asimov’s analogy of the collapse of the Roman Empire, Greene’s laws of power, or Clavell’s economic or political strategy, they all help you see things from other perspectives, which expands your own.

So why did I not want to learn anything at school? Why was I not enthused and inspired?

Many people are saying today that the technology in the students hand goes way beyond what they have in the classroom. This is true. But it’s a smoke screen. Students have got imaginations and energy that way surpass the teachers. They have books in their homes and the Internet or tv to inspire them.

Education is broken because individual students are not encouraged to explore their interests and passions. We live in a world of abundant information. Students should have history lessons to give them the skills needed to be critical about the sources of information and agendas/ societies that influence their teachings, as well knowing where our culture fits in and where it came from. They should be given lessons in living in the modern world so that they know what kind of life they can expect to live in the future, how other people around the world live and how it all fits together. And then they should be able to explore the world as their interests dictate.

Well, that’s what I think this morning anyhow 🙂


6 thoughts on “The future of education

  1. Agree with a lot of what you’re saying and personalised education has been a foundation of much current training and discussion (if not actual classroom practice) for a while now.

    Current GCSEs aim to assess the skills that underpin independent learning (however imprecisely) via examinations that focus on higher order cognitive skills such as analysis, evaluation and synthesis. However, the pressure of league tables and competition between schools often means that students are taught to pass tests – not a particularly useful or engaging activity. At my school, A-Level students often flounder when expected to research independently, read around the subject or pursue their own interests as throughout their school career they have been “guided” by their teachers as they trudge along the examination treadmill. I’m not convinced that the current system adequately supports many young people to move into the world of work or further study.

    Education talks of ‘personalising’ everything and developing student ‘independence’, but these must be based on a solid framework of basic skills. In my corner of the comprehensive schooling system students are unable to adequately access the abundance of information that is available due to a dearth in these skills. A student with limited literacy will have difficulty selecting, summarising and comprehending the information that they may be interested in. All students must be given the opportunity to pursue their interests and teachers, policy makers, parents (society?) have a duty to ensure that they have the fundamental skills to access the world around them.

  2. Application should always be present in learning to spark motivation; I agree. But it’s essential to remember that base knowledge must exist for students to know how to appropriately explore their environment and crystallized intelligence only comes in handy when past learning exists upon which to appropriately draw. Otherwise, students don’t learn to critically assimilate and will believe anything that is thrown their way (which has become part of the learning deficit in our society, I’m afraid). I too commonly find that the typical third-year college student doesn’t understand how to detect a reliable resource on the Internet (and even an ill-conceived research project has shown how easily information can be contributed – and falsely attributed – to sources upon which students often rely, such as Wikipedia). Yes, there is an abundance of information available; but it is not all useful, relevant or edifying. As an educator who has found creative techniques for reaching the learning audience, Asimov surely would agree with a healthy balance in both aspects of foundational skill set assurance and imaginative influence.

    • Dan – couldn’t agree more. Skills are essential. It’s like playing a piano – the ideal situation is where the lack of technical knowledge shouldn’t hold you back from being able to create music. Students need the skills to learn.

      Human Triumph – I am not sure how much knowledge students graduate with. Maybe the top ones remember a lot and use that to see the bigger picture. You make a good justification to learning knowledge as well as skills, which I certainly agree with to some extent – my day job is a history website that provides world history information (which I believe is critical to understanding todays world) – but then why do so many students “fail” under this system? I can’t help but think there needs to be far more personalisation to suit the biological, cultural, economical and educational variations that each individual faces. But this has been great for me to think about. I’d like to know, what do you think are the big questions for education?

      • Oh, I can think of many – such as: Why are we doing this assessment? If it’s for funding, rather than for the benefit of the learning to measure the learning, I’d advise not doing it. But that’s just me (and every other student who hates high stakes testing for several valid reasons). In this particular subject context, though, I think the point of lesson planning begs the question of how to create REALs – Rich Environments for Active Learning. Here’s a link I found on it:

      • I was reading this the other day and thought of this discussion – this is someone discussing the possibility of teaching skills and not knowledge. A couple of things spring to mind: 1) that when you hear that from someone else it sounds more scary and 2) how much I am learning from simply starting with an opinion and then working it through with others.

        But I do wonder. My argument against this guys approach was that if students weren’t taught knowledge of history how could they be aware that civilisations don’t last, or that killer plagues van wipe out populations, for example. They could easily not see the processes that may enable atrocities like this not to occur in future. But immediately I start thinking about the skills they would be learning – manipulation of technology, negotiation, programming, systems, team work, management alongside a much higher tech, closely knit together world. Rather than islands of cultural and knowledge variations.

        Perhaps the skills and technology learned would be better at preventing the atrocities than a few hours taking a brief history enquiry into a topic.

        My thinking is kind of torn here!

  3. Hi Jonny – I think “torn” is good – to the extent that it means we’re forced to wrestle with the issue. The article you posted gave me much to think about in terms of formulating a critical argument (not to be mistaken with criticizing or being argumentative, of course). Richardson suggests a replacement of knowledge-base with process-base and lists focusing on cognitive processes over information, those being: prediction, judgment, causation, and negotiation (none of which are operationally defined, which could be problematic for someone who didn’t have that information knowledge base). This replacement idea is where I have to take issue.
    The set-up to this article immediately brings to mind a fictional Asmovian future of a select group of teachers mining information to be programmed as software knowledge into others’ minds based upon the skills selected according to the needs of their work based on a societal productivity approach. I adore cognitive processes – when it’s recognized that the greatest PCs we possess are within our human brains & also acknowledged they cannot be as efficient as those programmed only for specific tasks/skill sets.
    But I’m begged to ask these questions: How can one go about making predictions without first obtaining pattern knowledge (of which you’ve already so eloquently pointed out)? How might appropriate judgments be made without base experiential knowledge? As for causation, even highly knowledgeable scientists have trouble discerning evidence for cause, so how could those with lesser knowledge bases determine it? At what base does negotiation begin for the process to take place? (With whichever party judged, predicted or argued the best case – without necessarily having ample reasoning? Isn’t that, instead, politics?!)
    Lastly, Richardson posits that knowledge is not ubiquitous; leaving me to assume that only the perception of it must be – (if indeed we aren’t concerned with knowledge-base that exists full of information that may or may not be correct), according to whichever process is deemed negotiable.
    Thanks for allowing me to continue thinking out loud with you. Peace & goodwill, -jody

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