10 May 2011

The Vise of Education

Yes, there is a intentional pun there (in fact, I even spelled it wrong the first time because of that), but what I really mean is this:

Which to the typical student probably feels more like this.

Which is where I would like to begin an extended discussion of the problems of education today and what we can do to work toward a solution. This is the first step in a first draft, expect it to be revised an awful lot. I mean, I've already figured out that I needed to rename the first slide.

The vice of education is important and problematic because it crushes students between two very strong unidirectional channels, while only giving them a single much smaller channel with which to add their own voices to the classroom. This is, of course, discussion, which usually takes the form of student asks a question (or professor elicits a response) which the professor than responds to at length.

In this model, the assignments handed in are not effective channels of communication for largely the same reason that forced confessions are often not admissible in court. From the student's perspective, the work done feels coerced, squeezed out of them for the purposes of the course they are taking.

Of course, not all education is like this, and not all educators teach this way. But this is the model they are saddled with as they try to develop their own innovative solutions and workarounds.

The problem, perhaps, is that for all our talk of addressing student's needs, we really spend far too much time addressing educator's needs (or at least their belief systems). Which is to say, we spend far too much time talking abut teaching, and not enough time talking about learning.

Most new educational resources and technologies still reflect this. They are built on the model of teaching, of imparting knowledge, rather than being built on the model of exploration and experience. For all the talk, those seeking to learn are not allowed to run wherever they want in the museum, they have to follow the path and the narration of the docent. This doesn't facilitate learning, it hinders it, by creating bored students who are not allowed to go in directions that interest them.

Which really sums up the point I want to consider. How do we develop conceptualize educational technologies that are learning technologies instead of teaching technologies? Monolithic data warehouses storing the wisdom of those who came before to be fed to students (aka, any course management software package out there) who will mystically become enlightened by this fodder is definitely not the answer.

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