We have heard repeatedly about the need to reform the way we educate. It is a challenge, it is a gradual change, that it requires changes in State policies… Many conferences, workshops, activities and forums have been held to suggest new ideas in this area; “applicable” ideas. I have not seen any results of all of them yet. It is still a discussion, and it seems the parts can’t reach an agreement. What are they missing?
Let’s start from the beginning: why do we need to change the way we educate?
The current education system has a 19th century format, which was promoted mainly by Lutheranism in the Prussia Kingdom. Just by its date, the need for a change it is at least something that could be raised.
In the current system, not very different from the 19th century one, the adults describe to the kids a set of topics they need to learn. And they have to learn them. It is a format mainly based on almost inviolable written content, which the teachers transmit to their students. The classroom, where the transference occurs, is rarely (though there are some variations) used to encourage any other kind of discussions. Creativity, imagination, decision making criteria, are examples of elements that are usually **not **discussed in class.
Almost three centuries after the beginning of the Prussian Era in Germany, neither society nor technology are anything like what they were at that time. Today, we search for “the glenoid impeller detachment” in the Internet and we understand, without taking many years of Medicine, what kind of injury it is. We see a video about the principles of ultrafiltration and it is clear to us what it is used for. Or we read an article on a blog and we can find several points of view on a topic. Everything without leaving our home. Note: I understand this is applicable only to part of society; for those who access to technology is almost an utopy, the main topic of discussion is still valid, but the examples don’t apply.
Regardless of the use or the forms of the technology available, today we could use part of the time we spend on classes talking about other things. We could take advantage of this time and go beyond, not only in the depth of the theory, but also on the discussions and talks associated with them. For example, a classroom could be used to:
- Encourage the debate between students
- Find a clever way to solve a problem
- Explore creativity (and not only the artistic kind!) when facing a challenge
- Elaborate insightful arguments and encourage individual growth without limitations
- Put** ideas** into practice
We no longer need the omnipresent teacher of the previous system, who fills the student with basic information that can be found on a digital encyclopedia. Our society has gone through many changes; we can let them affect the classroom experience.
What challenges does something like this involves?
Firstly, it is clear that no change related to the massive education system is simple or abrupt. Nothing is going to change overnight. Gradual steps must be taken. Therefore, it may take time to see the results of any innovation in the system.
Secondly, any of the ideas previously stated require the *voluntary *participation of the student. If there are elements which students must “figure out by themselves” in order to carry out other activities in the classroom, the success of that measure is associated with the students’ commitment. It is already challenging by itself. of those students.
Moreover, in case technology is involved, its access must be guaranteed equally for the whole student body (at least ideally). Anyway, the fundamental reform is something independent of technology (its contribution is undeniable, but not essential): the point is that the role the teacher/professor has in the classroom and the activities there held could be approached in different way,** **to put aside this old learning method.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to assist to a workshop on Educational Innovation fostered by the Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires. The objective: to start walking the path of a change, one that apparently is coincident with one explained on this article. On the fist one of a series of workshops, we were taught, as teachers, the utilities and features of a software tool (Microsoft Mix, in this case) thought to encourage the students’ participation “from their homes”.
What is the ides? To re-think the theoric-practical contents taught at school in such a way that an interactive class could be generated, but “at home”. Thus, each student can learn the concepts how, when and from where it works better for him. With quizzes, tests and even “homeworks” included, this particular class without a teacher would let this century student learn without a blackboard and chalk. but, be aware: it is not a distance course, it is an informative complement adequate for the current generations; the presence of a teacher that teaches other kind of knowledge (one more deep and innovative) is still essential.
To this university, the implementation of these changes will happen in a near future. The first step os to change the way in which we teach and learn. And suggestions are accepted.