Tuesday, March 31, 2015

E-Learning: A Blueprint to the Future- The Finland Initiative--Part III

The last post ended with a question whose purpose was to get you to think about the potential of cross disciplinary learning with the focus on the need to recognize that when confronted with real world problems in the 21st century, we need to stop thinking in terms of the compartmentalization of disciplines and start thinking in terms of the collaboration of disciplines in applying their specific skill sets to a common real world problem. From a business perspective, it is the application of the best intellectual assets in a collaborative arena to a common problem which, as NASA, discovered was the best way to go.


One thing that I need to make clear is that when I suggested S.T.E.M. or S.T.E.A.M. as the configuration, I am not suggesting that these are the only configurations for cross disciplinary learning. What I was suggesting is that we need to do away with the strict compartmentalization of subjects in education and move towards "clustering of subjects" in such a way that the skill sets will complement each other when applied to real world issues. As Finland is starting to do, arranging topics set into a thematic framework can help establish the important habits of the mind, such as collaboration, very early in the education life of learners. I also believe that it is absolutely crucial that the basic literacies be woven and reinforced into the foundation of whichever configuration that is used.
Another potential configurations might be: H.E.M.G (History-Language-Mathematics-Geography). This configuration might not be used at the primary level but might be an invaluable approach in the study of current conflicts in the world. The nature of the real world problems highlighted within the thematic structures determine which configuration would be most useful. This is arrived at through a collaborative effort

Role of the Educator?
Obviously, the role of the educator changes. The often used saying, reaching the status of a clichee, is:

 "No longer the sage on the stage but the guide on the side!"

The educator is the individual who organizes effective learning experiences and develops mentor contacts on the web that students will use as complementary resources in a blended learning context.

What About Technology and Online Education?

Imagine, using LEGO MindStorms to design the next Martian rover and having a NASA scientist as a mentor, an M.I.T. robotics scientist to help with the programming and the design.( S.T.E.M)! This is the potential for education through the creation of professional online mentor networks.

Middle and Senior Grades

The essentials of effective collaboration using problem based learning principles should be well grounded by the time students reach middle grades. It is at this level that I believe that another crucial habit of the mind should be introduced and nurtured in its development. I am referring to the trait of divergent thinking. Real innovation is dependent upon the ability of learners to see the possibility of more than one solution to a problem than just one.
One of the lessons that I have learned regarding the traits of middle school pre-teens and teens, is that they can be notoriously innovative when they feel the need to beat "the system". It is at this point that I think it would be good to channel their innovative tendencies to things that benefit humanity instead of frustrating it. One of the areas that requires the greatest of caution is teaching young people the coding languages of computers. It is unwise to do this in a moral vacuum.

These are just a few ideas that I think that Finland education should consider. We will have to wait and see how their plans come to fruition.

Next.......Bringing the elements of the blueprint together..

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