Friday, September 23, 2016

Hacking Teaching in "Brick and Mortar" Schools and E-Learning

One of the great fears that educators have with respect to change in education is that:

  1. They will be out of a job, or
  2. There will be more tasks added to already overflowing daily work tasks which will result in them not performing their job up to expected standards from a number of levels of government and as a result, they lose their job. This becomes a real possibility especially during government election periods.

In this age of exponential increase in knowledge and the rapid development of technology, the learning curve for educators appears to have risen steeply and for some, it has driven them into early retirement. When the educator first entered the profession of teaching, the feeling was akin to a child's first week at school. There was fear, excitement, dreams, creativity and the need for reassurance that this adventure was worth taking. Contrasting those feelings with the last day of teaching, for many it is similar to a teenager in high school. Cynicism has replaced wonder, pragmatism has replaced creativity and reassurance has been replaced by fatalism. The question to ask is:

"Why would educator and student arrive at the same state of mind and emotion which in the end profits neither them or their society?"

The answer is simply that there develops a sense of betrayal of the promise that education made to both educator and student. The talents and gifts that both educator and student bring to education are muted by a "command and control" mindset within the education sector by people more concerned by public image than the enrichment of the education lives of educators and students. They apply a Darwinian "survival of the political fittest" as their mantra with anything that might reflect badly upon them. Bureaucracy was originally envisioned as a means of freeing educators and students from the administrative tasks that were tangential to the act of teaching so to allow them  to use their talents and gifts to enrich education. Instead it has become a quicksand pit that both educators and students struggle in daily.

Going back to the definition we are using for hacking which is, " it refers to a procedure or a way of doing something that:

  • Demonstrates cleverness or ingenuity
  • Solves a meaningful problem
  • Is not a common or well known solution to the problem
  • May not be the most straightforward or appropriate solution"
 Our first hack of teaching is to take education bureaucracy back to its original intent which means that administrative tasks that are tangential to the act of teaching should be taken off the desk of the educator and either automated through the use of effective computer AI or put back on the desks of the well paid "Educrats". This should not be considered a political move even though some of its potential ramifications will be rabidly political.

The second hack of teaching is to take the teacher off the stage and off of the task of teaching content for content's sake. If your goal is to teach content to students for them to remember, then unfortunately, you are on a "fool's errand". In this age of knowledge explosion on the web, more information is accessible to the student without your intervention than you could teach them in several lifetimes and the digital natives know this to be true! Educators are still vital to the education of students but as mentors to teach them how to use and think on the web. The use of "flipped classrooms" and "blended learning" was only the beginning. Using the new advances in technology that are required by a new and agile online pedagogy means that the innovative and creative talents of educators can be used to enrich education and in turn enrich the learning of their students.


 What this essentially means is that by removing time consuming layers of administrative tasks that have been downloaded to educators, educators will now be able to capitalize on their gifts and talents by:
  1. Spending more time on the design of irresistibly engaging learning experiences for their students
  2. More time for educators to learn the potential of different technologies that would be useful in putting the creativity and innovation back in their profession
  3. Engaging students more directly by teaching them how to learn in an online environment and helping them to learn collaborative skills that allow them to network with others over the Internet tasked with solving complex real world problems in ad hoc real time relationships.
  4. Educators would have time to build real world networks with global organizations that are willing to volunteer time to engage students in projects as well as mentor them in necessary skillsets. The evolution of online learning communities is not a "frill" but in this age is an essential.
Obviously, for online educational institutions such as private online high schools and colleges, the avenues to accomplish the tasks above are greater and perhaps easier to implement given the developments that HTML5 has brought to enable online education anywhere and on any digital device with the automatic scaling features. Mobile learning can really take off in the online education world. However, it is worth repeating that this all rests not on advances in technology but the evolution of pedagogy to take advantage of the potential that the online world holds for education.

However, we still face one dilemma in regards to hacking teaching, that being the teachers entering education even now. They are being turned out into educational institutions still trained in the model and practices of a past world which is not the world that students, as agents of change, will enter into.

 Next....Hacking Higher Education and Teacher Training Institutions

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