By using post-industrial approaches to teaching and
learning, it is now possible to tailor learning to individuals rather
than large groups
At the start of the Industrial Revolution a new way was found to mix
coal with coke to produce iron. This concept was then used to build
the world's first iron bridge (at a town now known as Ironbridge) over
England's Severn River. However, even though a new material was now
available that allowed more efficient methods of construction, the
bridge was built as if it was made of wood.
The designers had not adapted their building style to the new tools available.
The current face-to-face model of education didn't always exist. It
was the product of the Industrial Revolution, when workers were
required to learn skills to enable them to work in factories and obey
rules. Even though we now have new tools and materials available,
we're still using an industrial revolution model of
teaching for a post-industrial age.
This fact was highlighted at EduTECH 2014, in Brisbane in
June. EduTECH is an annual gathering of people involved in education
and technology. This year there were over 4,000 people attending, from
schools, the VET sector and higher education. The event ran over three
days and featured workshops on teaching practice, show-and-tells from
industry and institutions, exhibits of fancy educational technology,
and master classes from world leaders.
Highlights included Sugata Mitra,
who created the famous Hole in the
Wall experiment (where children from an Indian slum taught
themselves from a computer mounted in a wall) and who is now a
proponent of Self Organised Learning Environments (SOLE). Sir
Ken Robinson spoke to a rapturous crowd about the sad state
of educational policy around the world. He referred to the
Global Education Reform Movement as G.E.R.M.
Three things were constant in many of the sessions and in the
large-scale presentations (Ken Robinson spoke to all 4000 delegates
and was received like a rock star):
A recurring theme throughout the conference was the fact that more is
expected to be done with less, and that the only measure of success
seems to be test results. "World's
Best Teachers call for end of Exams" was an item that ran
on the Channel 7 news. As Sugatra Mutri put it: "When the
children who come out of school go into the real world, what will they
be asked to do? They'll be asked to solve problems. They'll be asked
to use all the resources of the Internet to do so." - he was
arguing that students should be allowed to use the Internet in all
tests and assignments.
Sir Ken Robinson was scathing at the way in which education is trying
to mimic industrial-scale operations. He likened the current approach
to the use of chemical fertilisers which have denigrated the soil and
forced a movement back to more organic forms of farming. He said the
education sector now needs to emulate a more nurturing approach.
"The new class size is one to one" was a mantra heard more
than once. The implication here was that, by using post-industrial
approaches to teaching and learning, it is now possible to tailor
learning to individuals rather than large groups.
One thing was obvious. There are major changes and disruptions
occurring in education, just as they've occurred in other industries
like music and publishing. As both teachers and learners we need to be
prepared for them. Yet at the same time, we need to fight the dumbing
down of education by economic ‘rationalists' and administrators.
Time will tell if we are going in the right direction.