I saw the following video on my colleague and good friend Tom King’s blog. It speaks so clearly to the fundamental strength of learning, especially in the absence of teachers. Watch, get inspired, do!
When Dr. Ekin initially sent his Capstone sections an e-mail explaining that he was inspired by many sources on the subject of problems in education, I wasn’t quite sure I understood what he was getting at. It seemed as though something had gotten him excited and since everyone in my class seemed to be jumping on board, I grew curious about the challenge he was presenting to us.
My skepticism remained constant during our next class meeting as he explained more about the assignment. As the class period progressed, it seemed as though the class let out a small yet collective sigh of relief. Almost as if we said, “Okay, we can do this.” I believe that my and my classmate’s initial hesitation stems from exactly what Dr. Ekin is so worried about. The ancient system of education has required that we do very little. We are asked, as students, to show up. To be physically present, but not much more. We buy the books, read and highlight the chapters assigned according to the syllabus. We complete cases and assignments. We write papers and most importantly, we study for tests. Lastly, we take the tests and earn our grades. Students at Providence College are no doubt bright, but they are products of their previous years of education. We were so nervous about this assignment because we have never encountered anything like it before. We were more comfortable with the boring, vanilla syllabus filled with industry analyses, executive summaries, and cases that asked nothing more of us than what was stated on the paper. Why are we so scared to complete an unprecedented task?
In my senior year of high school, I took an advanced level English course. Our end of the year assignment was to create a twenty-minute documentary on a subject of our choice. We decided to complete a project on the problems with education since we experienced them firsthand. Over the next three days, with little sleep and a lot of junk food, we created something we were truly proud of. We focused on how much time students spend in school and how little of that time is stimulating for them. We took a deeper look at how the current system of education, since it is so outdated, still forces the student to memorize and repeat, rather than form original ideas. I can still say that creating that documentary with my peers was the best learning experience I have had. We bounced ideas off one another, discussed the meaning and implications of the problems and said things that hadn’t been said before. Our ideas unfolded as the hours went on and we created something greater than we thought was ever possible. The reactions from teachers, students and administrators were extremely encouraging.
Clearly, the ideas explored by my friends and I are still important. If anything, the influx of technology and online access to youth has created further gaps in education. A recent article I came across supports these claims. Since students are spending an increased amount of time online and on mobile devices, their interest in learning has decreased. It is of no surprise that textbooks and maps can no longer hold their attention. Students are becoming more and more like consumers, shopping around for the best deal and skimming for the most relevant, helpful information. Students today read a Wikipedia page on a subject they have never encountered before and feel confident that they have mastered the idea. But just getting “the gist” of a subject is not enough. We are forgetting that mastering a subject is far more valuable and rewarding.
These changes in education have been a long time coming. It seems as though those who are capable of making changes – politicians, lawmakers, educators, and administrators are acting with extreme complicity. They see the problems as China and India’s students make ours look positively brain dead; however, they are slow to do anything about it. Students are graduating without the ability to access complex thoughts, use critical thinking skills and truly form an idea their own. These skills are not something we can “Google.” I feel as though if we are committed to this cause, the system of education, through time and hard work, will only benefit from the implementation of new methods.
This post is a welcome addition to this site. Allison shared the video clip she mentioned in her post with me and allowed me to share it here. There will be a better quality version coming soon, but I think the video really complements her post. Thank you Allision for your thoughtful post. Others are welcome to share their thoughts too.
For the benefit of thos who are not in the class, we are undertaking to organize an “event” at the end of the semester to “market” the idea of “learning-centered education, creativity, and thinking”. We do not yet know what that event will be, that is up to the entire class. But, “learning-centeredness” has already started.
— Cemal Ekin