Sunday, May 19, 2013

Cults, Brains and Education 3.0

Photo from
The article, Education 3.0 and the Pedagogy (Andragogy, Heutagogy) of Mobile Learning, both excites me and makes me uncomfortable! It excites me because it recognizes the power of technology, and how it can be used in the classroom to enhance the learning experience. But it also makes me uncomfortable because I find it follows a very bizarre notion that has become popular lately that, simply put, children are now adults.

Granted, the author does observe that "it is not as simple" as stating an educator "uses one teaching orientation over another." For example, I did a fair amount of training on Project-Based Learning and have applied it to some of my courses. But at one session I was forced to ask the "expert" on the topic (the facilitator): is Project Based Learning for every course or every student? The answer, unsurprisingly, was no, it is not. What prompted that question? It was this overwhelming tide of enthusiasm that PBL (I hate acronyms!) was going to transform our schools. Now, don't get me wrong, my experiences with PBL have been overly positive, but why is it when a new approach, new theory or new model is introduced and promoted, a cult-like atmosphere appears to develop among educators? There is sometimes this all or nothing attitude. So to see an acknowledgement that one philosophy or one approach is not the end all or be all and "educators need to examine what they are teaching and the population to whom they are teaching" is very refreshing.

That brings me to the notion of children as adults. Despite all the brain theory that has influenced educators over the past several years, there seems to be a lack of recognition that the brain development (particularly in males) is not complete until near the age of 25, particularly in the areas that control reasoning and impulses. So it only makes sense that we should implement a learning experience for students, let's say in high school from ages 14-18, that will be "highly autonomous and self-determined and emphasis (will be) placed on development of learner capacity and capability." Granted, I do have students who are 14 years of age in grade nine who could participate in a heutagogical, connectivist orientation. But they are few and fair between.

I think in order for schools to consider such an approach, there has to be major changes from the ground up. When I consider even my classroom setting where I have 24 students (yes, I know it sounds small compared to some schools - benefit of teaching at a rural school) sprawled out in a small area, even dividing them up into groups and creating space for them to work in is difficult. So trying to apply many different teaching approaches in such a space would be incredibly confusing and frustrating for the teacher and the students. It is one thing to have differentiated instruction for learners and another to use completely different teaching theories.

Furthermore, aside from just the physical space, in my district (and province), we have major difficulties allowing students to choose software and hardware that is "engaging and relevant" to them. For example, special requests must be made to purchase iPads. Google Chrome is apparently a network security risk (try using the collaborative power of Google Docs/Drive on Internet Explorer - not a pretty sight) and the wireless connectivity is locked down and students are not supposed to use their own tablets or smart phones in class even though they continually use built-in 3G capabilities so they can tweet funny photos of other students sleeping in class when they could be using them for real work. And if we were to ask the question that is proposed in the article about some of the suggested software we are told to use in the classroom: “Would the learner choose to use the app if given the choice or use it during his/her free time," the answer would be a resounding no.

I know I sound pessimistic, and I like to think I am not. I support and have tried to develop ways to use technology in my classroom for higher-level teaching and learning, and I will continue that effort. I think the implications of Education 3.0 in many learning situations is both exciting and challenging. I also imagine as time progresses there will be more discussion and more movement in that direction in my province. I just wish that when it is preached from the top, it would trickle down into reality for teachers in the classroom. I know teachers have to help make it a reality, but we need the support and the acknowledgement of what we are dealing with in our schools each and everyday. Until then, I think most educators will try to do the best they can with what they have and many times even find ways on their own or with other educators (and their students) to make it better. I guess at the end of the day that is what it is all about.

No comments:

Post a Comment