Thursday, March 26, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future-Bringing It Together-Part I-The Finland Initiative

The important idea behind putting in place elements of a blueprint is that at some point you have to bring those elements together to produce a usable blueprint. In this post, I will describe how this blueprint might be realized in a blended learning context within a brick and mortar classroom and then describe how these elements would fit in a totally online E-Learning context.


The Finland Initiative

On March 20, 2015, it was reported in "The Independent"( in an article titled:" Finland Schools: Subjects Scrapped and Replaced with Topics As Country Reforms Its Education System "(Richard Garner) that Finland was making a radical change in the ways in which the education system educates its students. The education system of Finland is well known as being at the top group of education systems in the world. It ranked 3rd after Singapore and China in the international student assessment rankings (PISA).

So the obvious question is:

"What prompted this change from an education system that is widely recognized as one of the top systems in the world?" 

Finland's Revelations About 21st Century Education

  1. The Finns have come to the conclusion that the industrial model of education that has been in place for around 200 years does not serve the needs of societies in the 21st century. If the purpose of education is to educate students and educators to be agents of change who will create new knowledge and skill sets in synch with bringing about a culture of innovation, this model and its constructs will not do that.
  2. The compartmentalization of subjects is a product of the industrial model of education. If a major skill set is to educate students to be collaborative problem solvers using the higher revised critical thinking skills required to analyze and arrive at solutions to problems then a cross disciplinary approach to learning is required that enables students to use the skill sets from more than one discipline in order to get a greater understanding of real world problems.
  3. The "Phenomena" based teaching approach where topics with the perspectives of multiple disciplines are incorporated has been chosen by Finland as the vehicle for bringing this about.
In order for Finland to give vital form and function to this initiative, IMHO, there are a number of considerations that must be looked at and processes put into place.

Here are four suggestions that I would make:
  1. Creative thought on the part of students and educators must be encouraged and nurtured throughout all grades. Under the old model of education, creativity was sacrificed in the name of conformity as students moved through the grades. Everyone was conformed to the idea that there is only one right answer to problems. Creative thought was discouraged in such an arrangement.
  2. New habits of the mind that are in tune with requirements of working in a digital connected world in a blended education format needs to be started and nurtured throughout the grades. For example cross disciplinary thinking combined with collaboration and development of divergent thinking skill sets can be nurtured through design thinking with respect to the learning experiences presented.
  3. A new and evolved "expanding horizon" approach to the organization of topics in curriculum should be considered in which students at early grades would work collaboratively on real world issue that are local and familiar but expanding outward through the higher grades. This recognizes student development from concrete thinking to more abstract thinking individuals. The expanding horizon approach would be on two levels: in brick and mortar classroom and online. In the middle and higher grades a greater emphasis on divergent thinking in approaching real world problems is important to nurture.
  4. A thematic approach for the organization of topics should be considered with an emphasis on PBL both in the brick and mortar classroom and online
If you remember correctly, I suggested that the STEM supporters have the right idea. In part II of this post, I would like to describe to you hybrid combinations of subjects that might help the Finns achieve what they are hoping to in their changes in education......

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