Random Thoughts

about reading, writing, and anything else that interests me

Can we change education?

Another interesting post from Edward Cherlin on the OLPC News. This one is about education. He says:

The problem that we face is that almost every education system in the world was created by a colonial power, not to encourage innovation and problem-solving, but to keep the population in order while their country was pillaged.

Now, I don’t want to get involved in a discussion of the political elements of this claim, but I do want to discuss the state of education today.

It seems obvious that our schools do not “encourage innovation and problem-solving”. This situation does not seem to be improving. And it is not just K-12 education.

If there is a chance of changing that situation, it comes from the free access to information. And that is where the OLPC project comes in. Students can have access to information much more easily when they have access to the Internet. Children are naturally curious and, given the chance, will follow that curiosity and will learn.

All too often we kill that curiosity in school. We force kids into move lock-step through material that may or may not be interesting to them. I do not understand why this has to be. Why do all students in a class have to do the same thing in the same way at the same time?

There are examples of teachers doing things differently, or starting to anyway. I think of Clarence Fisher’s work,like his students’ Outsiders wiki . I think of Eric Langhorst’s The Guerrilla Season project. And then, of course, there is Barbara Ganley’s blogging and her work with her students. She sets the bar, as far as I can see.

Computers don’t and won’t automatically change education. It will take teachers who are able to open up the world to their students through using them to make a real difference.

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3 thoughts on “Can we change education?

  1. As a high school special educator I believe that the primary and critical idea that is absent is the importance of relevance. It is not possible to MAKE any student learn material if there is no connection to their life. They may memorize materials but will not learn to apply knowledge if it is not applied to their life. This can be corrected to some degree if schools would specialize and allow students to choose which school of interest to attend. There is not a business today that succeeds without specializing. A high school can not be everything to everyone. So why not have each school in a district specialize. That school could teach 2 periods of that class and still incorporate all of the core curriculum.

  2. Alicia Rey on said:

    A great post that triggered deep reflections Nancy.

    I posted them
    http://arinformes.wordpress.com/2008/01/27/social-media-in-elt-reminds-me-of-don-quixote-and-his-windmills/

    Btw ,I’d like to point out that the very first shock at reading your words was the quotation cited at the top of the post.

    May I rephrase it according to my context?

    The problem that we face is that the education system in my country has been-sad to admit-neglected.

    The worst part of the story is that governments -no matter what political side they represent- boast on encouraging innovation and problem-solving, but what we get is a population unable to think and decide for themselves. The idea of giving them fish instead of teaching them how to catch the fish has been growing deep in our society. Whoever planned this deserves no respect at all- Unfortunately this is not only an educational or even social problem but cultural. And, like you it is NOT my idea to get involved in a discussion of Politics here but to
    show the background for certain contexts which currently struggle for a better education because a better education will undoubtedly lead to a better citizens of a better world.

  3. Sarah Braxton on said:

    Thank you for the heads up about the Guerrilla Season blog. I am anxious to see how it is structured for student participation.

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