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Posts Tagged ‘future

After reading this review of research on homework, my mind raced to how some people might resort to formulaic thinking.

This was the phrase that seeded it:

Based on his research, Cooper (2006) suggests this rule of thumb: homework should be limited to 10 minutes per grade level.

What follows were examples and an important caveat:

Grade 1 students should do a maximum of 10 minutes of homework per night, Grade 2 students, 20 minutes, and so on. Expecting academic students in Grade 12 to occasionally do two hours of homework in the evening—especially when they are studying for exams, completing a major mid-term project or wrapping up end-of-term assignments—is not unreasonable. But insisting that they do two hours of homework every night is expecting a bit much.

If you assume that people would pay more attention to the caveat than to the formula, you assume wrongly. Doing the former means thinking harder and making judgements. The latter is an easy formula.

Most people like easy.

If those people are teachers and administrators who create homework and homework policies, then everyone who is at home will likely suffer from homework blues.

Am I overreaching? I think not. Consider another example on formulaic thinking.

I provide professional development for future faculty every semester, but this semester was a bit different. There was a “social” space in the institution’s learning management system (LMS) where a certain 70:30 ratio emerged.

A capstone project for these future faculty is a teaching session. The modules prior to that prepare them to design and implement learner-centred experiences. At least one person played the numbers game and asked what proportion of the session should be teacher-centred vs student-centred.

I provide advice in person and in assignments that the relative amount is contextual. My general guideline is that student-centred work tends to require more time since the learners are novices and that the planning should reflect that.

However, once that 70:30 ratio was suggested in the social space, it became the formula to follow. It was definite and easier than thinking for and about the learner. It allowed future faculty to stay in their comfort zone of lecturing 70% of the time and grudgingly attempt student-centred work 30% of the time.

But guess what? When people follow this formula or do not plan for more student-centred activities and time, they typically go over the 70% teacher talk time and rush the actual learning. This pattern is practically formulaic.

Formulaic thinking is easy, but that does not make it right or effective. In the case of the course I mentioned, the 70:30 folk typically return for remediation. It is our way of trying to stop the rot of formulaic thinking.
 

I read a tweet like this and the linked article more critically than most.

I am glad that the school is doing something different, but is it doing something qualitatively better?

As much as maker spaces seem to be the flavour of the moment, how many school authorities have asked themselves whether they need such spaces to make?

Why are students not already making and creating in mainstream curriculum? Unless extremely dangerous or specialised, why must these activities only happen in special spaces or rooms?

In April I questioned the validity and purpose of maker spaces. Others more articulate than me have blogged about the same issues.

Why is the whole school not a maker space?

Is much of the curriculum and practice driven by design thinking, exploring, tinkering, learning from mistakes, and reiterating?

Does a maker space help school leaders and teachers question the assumptions of schooling?

Can having a maker space for robotics or coding really be setting sail to the future while the rest of schooling is anchored in the past?
 

This tweet made me pause for thought and to recall what I think about “the future” of schooling and education.

Individuals and collectives that perpetuate the rhetoric of being “future ready” might be wasting their energy. The only thing we can say about the future is that it is uncertain.

We might know what is going to happen in 15 minutes. But how about what is going to happen in 15 hours, 15 days, 15 weeks, 15 months, or 15 years? How certain are we of determining the future the further away it is?

An alternative is to consider the perspective of William Gibson. I prepared two similar image quotes based on photos here (from Brazil) and here (from the Philippines).

The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. --William Gibson

The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed. --William Gibson

This perspective does not mean that we ignore the future or not try to prepare for it. Instead, it helps us think about more concrete actions.

You cannot be future-ready because you cannot predict it; you can try to be prepared because you can shape what happens now. Trying to be ready is an impossible state of being; being prepared is a constant state of mind.

Part of our effort to shape the future is recognising that segments of our community or population are stuck in the past, perhaps due to circumstances beyond their control, e.g., they are born on the disadvantaged side of a divide. Their future is our current, so we need to bring them forward.

Consider a few examples. We have kids who do not have access to current technologies. We also have kids that have access but do not have permission due to outdated rules and policies. We put all those kids in classrooms that are kept separate from the wider world. These classrooms focus on content and curriculum (learning about) instead of context (learning to be).

Blindly focusing on the uncertain future and trying in vain to be ready for it could be selfish and wasteful. Focusing on the now and near-term future of the have-nots — and there will always be have-nots — is certainly a more giving and productive mission.

Much of the anglosphere seemed to ga-ga over 21 October 2015 as the day Doc Brown and Marty McFly came Back to the Future.

This spawned needless analysis of whether the movie had correctly predicted life in 2015. No movie or even a well-regarded think tank can predict the future with any certainty.


Video source

The future is now. The future is what you make of it. You do not need 1.21 gigawatts of power to realize that.

Stop staring into an unforseeable future. Stop trying to make projections that are based on fairy tales or science fiction movies or dystopian novels.

The future is hopeful, not wishful. It is not merely envisioned, it is also enabled. Do it now.

Tempting to link the future of anything to technological development. That is what most people seem to do because technologies make things faster, better, or are just plain awesome.
 

Caps-Lock is FULL OF AWESOME!!1! by colinaut, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  colinaut 

 
Since my passion and work lie where the fields of education and technology overlap, that might also be why I am often asked to offer answers to the question “What is the future of education?”

I do not have a ready or standard answer. But I have distilled some ideas that have withstood scrutiny.

The first is that education and schooling overlap, but they are not the same. For example, schooling is about enculturating the masses while education is about finding the individual.

We need both schooling and education, but I think that we have too much schooling and not enough education. It is just as important to realize that some people use the terms interchangeably. This is why you will get different and confusing answers.

The second thought I have is that it is a mistake to link changes in schooling and education to the pace of technological development. Schooling and education move and respond very slowly to change. Both are very conservative, but schooling more so than education.

The world’s first university might have started in Bologna in 1088. Lectures probably started shortly after and they are still a mainstay in 2015 despite the changes in technology.

My third thought is that we are extremely short-sighted as a species. We want to look forward as far as we can, but we hold ourselves back with our short and selective memories, our biases, our greed, and our fear:

  • We forget that every important technological development had its opponents and failures.
  • Some of us refuse to accept evolution as a fundamental change process because we cannot see beyond a human lifetime.
  • A few of us in control of products like educational media and policies like Internet access would rather maintain the status quo to make money or to feed worry.

So is there a future for education in spite of all these barriers? Of course. Can I tell you what it will look like definitively? Of course I cannot.

What can we do then? Instead of wringing our hands in despair, I say we learn to be now-ists because what we do now shapes the future. If, as William Gibson put it, the future is already here; it is just not evenly distributed, then I say we find ways to spread it around.

Like the majority of Singaporeans, I am physically myopic (short-sighted). I cannot see clearly beyond my arm without the help of corrective lenses.
 

myopia by haglundc, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.0 Generic License   by  haglundc 

 
Some people can barely predict what they will do next week, so how are they going to see the future of education? I ask this in all seriousness because the future of education is no trifle matter.

The big question is: What is the future of education?

The people who seem the most worried about the future of education are politicians, policy makers, and administrators (strangely enough, teachers do not seem to be that concerned). The people most interested in answering this question tend to be vendors and self-proclaimed prophets.

On one hand, you can understand the importance of such a question. Any country’s ministry or department of education can correlate its core work with well-being (economic or otherwise).

On the other hand, you have to ask yourself if anyone can predict an uncertain future. Some thought leaders have started using VUCA to describe the world now: Volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. All four conspire to make prediction of the future of education next to impossible.

So should we just throw our collective hands in the air and give up? No, that would be just as foolish. I offer three perspectives.

  1. Here is a quote attributed to William Gibson: The future is already here — it is just not very evenly distributed. That is one way of saying that we can learn from others around and slightly ahead of us.
  2. Joi Ito recommends that we be “now-ists”. What we do now with verve and passion has a peculiar habit of becoming the future.
  3. We need to recognize another aspect of being short-sighted and that is not learning from the past and the mistakes others make. For example, we might think that the problems we have today like neophobia are new. An examination of the past will reveal otherwise.


Source

All that said, education can change quickly. However, schooling is unlikely to evolve or transform.

People are already educating themselves independently of school via Youtube and MOOCs. For as long as schools still cling on to pencils, think inside the paper-only box, operate by standardization over personalization, and create artificial bubbles, we are not likely to see much change. And as long as people confuse education with schooling, we will not see much change in education either.

I have always wondered why some teachers and school leaders are fond of citing ICT “use” in order to “prepare for the future”.

I could focus on why “use” is not as effective as “integration” or “immersion”, but that is for another day.

Take a straw poll and people will tell you that the future is uncertain. How can you prepare for what you cannot see or define?

We should be leveraging on the ICTs we already have to address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities we have now. These are the smartphones in students pockets, their always-on connections, their indefinite reach, and their relevance now.

What we do now affects the future and helps shape it, so we should focus on the present and work our way forward. Focusing on the future (for example, “they will need this later”) is attempting to reverse engineer a projected need that may not exist.
 

 
I know what these well-intentioned teachers and leaders mean to say. Look forward. Do not teach the way you were taught. Prepare kids for their future, not your past.

These are messages that resonate with me too. But let us not forget the now because it is what we already have and the now shapes our future. The future messages are empty rhetoric; the actions we take now might prove historic.

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