Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hacking Higher Education and Teacher Training: Part I- Identifying the Nature of the Problem

When it comes to educators, the one thing that we all have in common regardless of whether we teach at an elementary school or the most prestigious, ivy league university, is that we are all the products of our training. We all bring specific strengths and weaknesses to the profession but how those gifts and talents are shaped is determined by the education institution tasked with teacher education.
Most universities have faculties or colleges of education for teacher training but the work ethic and philosophy of the education faculties are microcosms of the greater whole and reflect the vision, goals and mandate of the university.

Therefore, before any real and effective change can occur in education faculties, the changes must first be brought into the greater university or college.

"An important caveat for universities in this age of learning and information is that they need to remember that they are open to the disruptive forces brought on by the exponential increase in knowledge across the disciplines and the greater integration of a variety of technologies into the lives of learners on many levels reaching down to the very personal level of people living in a digital age. They have a choice. They can be proactive in this process of meeting the disruptive forces and re-shaping how higher learning is carried out or they can be reactive to every wave of disruption which leads to a lack of synergy for the learner between their everyday lives and their education."

There are three particular areas in higher education that are vulnerable to disruptive forces:

  1. The university vision of the model and purposes of higher education.
  2. Use of emerging technologies by faculty in instruction
  3. Pedagogy in the light of online technology and resources.

Hack #1: The Vision of Education

 For decades, the vision of education was based upon the Industrial Revolution ethic which basically said that the vision of education involved two purposes:

  1. To create efficient and obedient workers for the variety of industries which were considered to be the economic engine of society, The idea of questioning rules and authority were considered to be traits that should be discouraged. In order for this purpose of education to be fulfilled, a "command and control" ethic was established in schools so that conformity and a one size fits all mindset was firmly established throughout the various stages of education. The idea that creativity and innovation should be encouraged was considered to be a recipe for chaos and a loss of control. Creativity to a degree was fine as long as it never left beyond the walls of the classroom. Business dictated the shape that education should take.
  2. To create life long consumers of the products and services produced by business and industry. One observation of the influence of business in education became readily apparent in physical education programs where electronic scoreboards in gymnasiums became very much like the neon advertising signs put above city streets. The influence was seen also in curriculum when such courses such as:"How to become An Effective Consumer" became mandated parts of a school curriculum.
 The vision and purposes of higher education need to be in sync with the needs and problems of our societies. Some of the needs are as follows:

  1. We need people who will become the needed agents of change for our societies. In order to have such individuals, we need to remove the past emphasis on content accumulation and instead put higher priorities on developing and nurturing the higher order thinking skills found in the revised Bloom's Taxonomy, especially as they pertain to working in an online world. One way to accomplish this task is to " un-bundle the taxonomy" at the university and college level. One caution I would point out is that I see this approach as a transitioning phase between moving from the industry economy mindset to a fully engaged higher order thinking regimen for all students. Consider this a sliding scale. I would also suggest that such a scale and approach may also be adapted for high school and elementary education levels.
  2.  We need people who are able to collaborate effectively on a global scale. This means that     people should be able to network with other people in other parts of the world for the purpose of solving complex real world problems faced by their respective societies, making use of a variety of technologies.
  3. We need people who will be creators of new knowledge and skillsets. Creativity and purposeful innovative thinking are necessary skillsets.
  4. Higher education needs to enable learners to go beyond the four walls of the classroom for tasks that are real and will contribute to needed solutions to real world problems. This needs to be developed throughout the learners higher education and not be left to graduate school alone.

 This raises some pertinent questions in regards to the present status of higher education:

"Does the present vision and model of education used by universities support the development and nurture of the mentioned needs?"

"Are universities being proactive in dealing with the disruptive forces impacting education or are they in fact being reactive and are they using a "band-aid" approach to lessen the impact?"

The next segment will delve deeper into the other two problem areas before looking at teacher training in faculties or colleges of education. I will leave you with the questions above and also the following quote from William Pollard.

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