What is the “Revolution?”These days we’re seeing this word “Revolution,” used a lot in talk about the shifting paradigms in education. Perhaps you’re tired of hearing it. It seems that “The Education Revolution,” with its harbinger of new technologies and “smarter” classrooms, has been coming for a long time. Is it here? What is it? What does it mean?
One thing we can say for sure: the Revolution in Education is not technology in itself.
There’s an App for That?
Of course, if you’ve been a techie like us for most of your life, you’re used to every new smartphone, every OS, and every new generation of web browser being referred to as a “revolutionary,” or “radical” new “re-envisioning” of the genre. And you don’t have to look very far to see clearly that almost everything we do today has been substantially altered by the intertwining of new technologies into our routine lives.
Technology advances on the knife-edge of the early adopter contingent, but geek culture, however adaptable and enthusiastic, doesn’t change society by itself. Advances in technology are only as good as the people who use them: Apple didn’t launch the iPhone with nearly 1 million apps already available for download from the App Store. It took people recognizing a need for new pieces of software and new, novel functionalities, for that number to grow from the handful that Apple itself had envisionedas being essential for everyone. And it took large numbers of people using the new technologies and new standards. When Apple shipped the iPhone in 2007, it didn’t actually do anything that other smartphones hadn’t already done. But now, after hundreds of millions of iPhones have shipped, if you’re looking for a time saving solution for buying movie tickets, tracking your calorie intake, or practicing Voodoo, you should hardly be surprised that yes, there is an app for that
The Times, they are a’ changin’.
But new and better (or at least more interesting) ways of doing things do not a “Revolution” make. There are more than a few examples of new technologies not exactly helping to do things better. At least, not on their own. And revolutions, despite the grandeur summoned by the name, do take time. No matter how technology changes, and no matter technology’s effect on education, we do not see millions of students, teachers, and parents rising all together in one mass and “storming the bastille,” to change our educational system, the way we teach and the way we view the process of learning. But things are changing, and at that, they’re changing quite quickly.
So today we’re going to take a look at a few different articles and videos that talk about what this revolution in education is, and what it looks like. What kinds of things should we expect from the near future that may really change the way we learn, the way we teach, and the way we view education as a whole? What is the Revolution?
Sir Ken Robinson: Changing Paradigms
This Ted Talk by Educationalist Ken Robinson is a bit of a vade mecum for us at Glogster EDU. In the talk, illustrated by RSAnimate, Robinson makes a compelling argument for the Revolution in Education being largely dependent on a different view of what “school” really is. He likens the traditional school to the 19th century factory, and points out parallels between the way that we treat school work, and the school day, to the way that early industrialists defined the working day of a common laborer. There are the roll calls, the report cards, the bells and the defined break periods, along with the mystery meat at lunch time. Essentially: we treat school like work, and we are surprised when children don’t excel in that environment.
For Robinson, The Revolution in Education is about changing the goals. Where the current system finds its goals in conformity and achievement measured by standardized tests, he sees a student-centered future for education, in which learners are free to define their learning needs, with the guidance of their teachers; themselves no longer task-masters, but partners in education and exploration.
Salman Khan: Video is the Way to Go
Salman Kahn, founder of Kahn Academy, sees things much as Robinson does. In fact, Robinson’s Ted Talk is a perfect illustration of concept for Khan.
Khan points out that part of the process of Flipping the Classroom, is changing the types of content we use, along with how that content is being delivered. Kahn points out that, as TED Talk forum itself has demonstrated, video offers a freedom to learners, the power to control an informative experience, that classroom teaching, and live interaction, cannot provide. Khan’s object is not to suggest that video is a replacement for teaching, but certainly it is to suggest that video is a valid replacement for certain kinds of teaching- the kinds of teaching that all of us do at one point or another, when all that we need to accomplish is to explain something complicated. And for that, Khan suggests, video may be better than a live teacher. Video can be paused, repeated, saved. Live teaching, really lecturing, is dependent on the teacher remembering details accurately, and speaking clearly; the same teacher might find that video offers the opportunity to fine-tune a lesson and get it right the first time, and every time. And this approach provides learners with the opportunity to review, to share, and to interact with the media in ways that young people are now very comfortable with.
Video is Not Lazy
Khan get’s some flack for his approach, and we think it’s undeserved. He’s not suggesting that school become a Youtube channel. There are complexities to a young learner’s formative experience on which real school, with real teachers and classmates, tables and chairs and cafeterias, has an important effect. Children are socialized at school, they get live feedback from teachers, they have role models, and they learn to cooperate and problem solve together- not activities that Khan suggests can be outsourced to video.
But we all know what can happen when the teacher is in “lecture mode;” those moments of the classroom experience, in which the student begins to carefully examine the wallpaper, and misses 20 minutes of important information because it’s hot, lunch was an hour ago, and there are more interesting things to think about. Those moments, Khan argues, are the Raison d’être for innovative, creative instructional videos. And teachers who make them aren’t lazy- they’re efficient. And that’s a big difference. The teacher who spends 100% of their energy, at all times, in front of the classroom, is not necessarily the best teacher. Why not pick the appropriate moments for passive input, so that we can put our energy into the moments in which we can be most effective?
For a proof of concept, check out Khan’s own Khan Academy video on the Debt Ceiling Crisis
The Revolution is Not an “Add-On”
We’ve seen that technology plays a vital role in this ongoing educational revolution. And the larger part of what technology does, aside from making the traditional tasks of teaching easier and more efficient, is to allow students and teachers access to the tools of creative learning and thinking. So we’ll leave you in this edition of Glogster’s EduTech Content Stream, with a few more words of wisdom from Sir Ken Robinson. “Creativity,” he says, “is not an add-on.” Instead, the revolution is the way that we use technology, and the way that we integrate technology into our learning and our teaching, to allow ourselves the space and time to be creative in everything that we do.
The EduTech Content Stream will focus each week on these sorts of problems. We no longer teach “computers,” and confine the use of advanced technologies to computer literacy programs, as if the tools that computing offers are limited to a specific industry or interest area. Nor can we now rely entirely on computers and digital media in place of teachers to teach our students. Instead, we have to use these tools to do what wasn’t possible before: to bring creative, dynamic experiences into every subject.
What Say You?
What do you think? Write in the comments about your experiences with preparing your own creative teaching materials using technology. What are the advantages and disadvantages of electronic media in the classroom? Is video lazy? Or is Salman Khan right? How do you ensure that creativity is more than just an “add on?”
Sir Ken Robinson: “Creativity is not an “add-on,” but calls for radical change in our schools.