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The New Education

Earlier in this blog I discussed various formats through which education occurs, in one way or another, for children. Some of these give a great deal of freedom in learning; others are centred on the child; some are based on religious beliefs or cultural ideas.

They divided up into four basic approaches to education:

Broadcasting from the Front

1. Teacher stands at the front of the room as the ‘source’ of knowledge and the ‘right’ attitudes.

2. Children sit in rows and listen, occasionally repeating back what they have been told and being corrected (in the past, harshly) if they get it wrong.

3. Education is a consumer product under this model, delivered and managed, measured, graded and packaged into curricula

4. Children are labelled, streamed and categorised.

This approach is narrow, undemocratic and authoritarian by nature and is often criticised as such, and it does have its problems. But some professional or technical subjects, as well as cultural or religious teachings, require that a large body of data be passed on, as it is. Objective knowledge of this kind needs to be taken in and understood to ensure any kind of continuity and handing down of data.

Freedom for All

1. The child is the centre of everything, able to choose pretty much what they want to learn and to do with that learning

2. Learning always starts with the individual’s needs, goals, and desires, and not with any objective body of knowledge or teacher’s demands.

3. Learning is a social endeavour, requiring interaction between and among children and adults in an environment that encourages meaningful cooperation, inquiry, and problem-solving.

4. Knowledge is neither entirely objective nor entirely subjective, but is constructed through the relationship between and among people and their environment.

This isn’t just transmitting knowledge or preserving social traditions but revolutionising society by helping children to question the world around them, philosophically and politically.

Educating the Soul

1. The teacher has a very active and authoritative role, but whereas ‘Broadcasting from the Front’ often assumes an authority for the sake of authority, this approach tries to establish a structure meant to support the unfolding of each child’s latent ‘spirit’.

2. The teacher can know a child’s true potentials better than the child can.

This model is often used by education based upon religious principles.

All approaches have something important to say about the process of learning and nature of the human being, and all of them are useful at some point: the Broadcast method, if properly done, can ensure a vast amount of material is communicated effectively; the Freedom method encourages an appeal to the student’s understanding; while the Spirit approach can place the whole of the learning in a wider context.

But what’s the underlying problem that all of them are trying to solve?

Let’s take a look at this diagram:

The task is to enable the required knowledge to enter the world of the child in such a way that the child will be able to understand and use it.

The important thing is that, whatever the nature of the material about which a child is being educated, it actually becomes part of the child’s world, as shown here:

In some of the models above, the teacher has been the active gatekeeper of knowledge; in the ‘Freedom’ model, the child is the gatekeeper.

With the advent of smart phones, tablets and the internet, the role of the individual teacher in either the ‘Broadcast’ or ‘Freedom’ models is receding, and the power of the child to determine his or her own educational input is increasing.It’s possible envisage a time when schools in their traditional forms cease to exist. With children able to gain access to the world’s existing knowledge, in just about any form, directly through computer-based devices while still in a home environment, the only purpose for a separate institution would be to enable group work or social interaction. Scheduled group ‘sessions’ would replace the old mandatory ‘lessons’; children would be able to work far more at their own pace and, theoretically at least, in their own way.

Video-conferences would be part of this. With no real limit except time-differences across the globe, children could interact internationally and get input from experts in different countries, either live or recorded. Anything that the child was uncertain of would be available in a recorded format for review. Children could even record their own learning experiences and sessions to form part of a ‘learning package’ for others.

All of the technologies needed to conduct this kind of education already exist. A little more infrastructure and training and such an education, an all-encompassing form of education, could become a reality.

Right now, human and technical resources have to come together in a physical premises in order for the thing called ‘education’ to occur:

But in the near future, the use of technologies that span activities mean that time spent at home can be converted into various educational endeavours for children everywhere.

Technology will change education. Soon, every child will have access to a library vaster than anything available at any point in the past - in fact, this is already accessible. The expense and time consumed by bringing people and resources together into rooms so that teachers can in one way or another bring about a transfer of knowledge will be saved. Virtual reality devices, complex networks and individual portals will transform the nature of education itself, opening up large and much deeper understanding of how people think and learn and apply. These changes are already occurring in business, where intense competition forces innovation and reengineering of basic procedures.

As technology moves from the edges to the centre of education, it is creating many new opportunities for learning and changing the shape of what we think education is.

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