Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Rise of Global Education--Virtual Education

You are not going to like my message if you are a teacher who thinks that brick and mortar schools, assemblies, recess and the Socratic method of teaching are always going to be needed by the families of this age and the next.
The walls that education has built over hundreds of years are coming down as surely as the Berlin Wall had to come down. The Berlin Wall had to come down because it was a remnant of an age of tyranny where freedoms of the population were strictly controlled and limited. This is true of education today. The walls need to come down in order for a new age of freedom in education to begin to blossom.
The education system has tried to resist this change. It thought that by introducing the latest technology into the classroom that this would satisfy those who thought that education was not turning out citizens ready for the future that they would live in. The problem with what they did is that it was merely a disguise in which they continued to do what they had always done in education. They called these by the term "best practices" but one quality that these best practices had was that they were intolerant of practices that were completely unique and alien to the practices of the past. For example, the Smartboard was just a way to continue to give students notes, bland assignments and assign research papers. Where is the innovation or creativity in that? We still have not broken away from the industrial model of education! We are still instructed to turn out good, law abiding, consumers. It is the economic powers within society which pressure governments in real and substantial ways that do not want those walls to come down. Why would they? They have been too profitable!

In response to an unresponsive education system, a new, virtual education system has come about as a result of advances in technology. There are some who say that even in this new environment, the old pedagogical practices must be used. The reach of this new system is no longer bound by national borders but instead has a reach that is global, touching on many of the cultures on the planet. The potential for an education that is enriching and able to provide skills for the citizens of the next century and beyond is enormous. What is needed are new innovative practices that are totally alien to the practices of the past and yet fully in synch with the new education environment. INNOVATION is what is needed from educators not "more of the same". Students need to be producers of new knowledge instead of being trained to be good, unproductive consumers. A new assignment for students might be something like this: Using the tools of the Internet, create a fully interactive virtual tour through the Pyramids of Giza. Use a real archeologist as a mentor in its design and include interdisciplinary tools that students can use to interpret ancient writings that they will see on the walls as they proceed through your virtual tour.
Notice that in the above example that the student is being asked to consider the world as a source for his assignment. In line with such innovation, there must also be innovation in methods of assessment. A new paradigm outlining benchmarks is needed.
Some "virtual schools" are better than others. Some have given away the freedom that such a system could have in favour of conformity to the directives of old men and women in ministries of education who only look forward to their retirement and not to new innovative approaches.

Well, by this time, some teachers who may have stumbled onto this blog have walked away content with their assessment that I am a crack pot! That's okay because this blog is not for them. It is for those who want to see an education system where the dreams of young people can experience freedom to think & create.In the present systems of education, the dreams of young people go there to die.

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