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A few thoughts about the open class

 

In general, the open classes we had were very helpful to me, especially in terms of getting different opinions from outside of the class. By using twitter and blog in the class routine, the module is no longer restricted to physical space and time. All internet users can join the class and speak freely about their views. From my own experience, I think I have spent more time than expected for participating in the online discussion, at least on reading them. Not only I get a chance to read other blogs and tweets during the class, I also found that these discussions online cover more aspects than the ones I often had in the classroom. In addition, with the help of smart phone and tablet, it also seems natural to get involved in the topic after the class. Since the twitter automatically pushes notifications of the new tweets and suggests new accounts to me. Sometimes, I found myself unintentionally reading new tweets on my way home, during cooking, before bed, etc. It was like these tweets and blogs have a “corrosive influence” on my learning habit somehow. I guess it is like what happens when people check social media in their daily life—it takes more time than expected.

 

Personally, I am very careful when it comes to sharing on social media in daily life. Maybe because of this “over consciousness” of over sharing online, I am very cautious about tweeting in the class as well. Posting my opinions to the world feels different than speak them out in a class. My notes are no longer just for me. I always want to put them in clear and persuasive language for all potential participations in this open class and join the #EDU8213 discussion. What is more, the twitter’s 140-character limit has been another challenge. As a result, it takes longer than expected for me to tweet notes during the class. Although I have tried my best, I ended up doing more reading than posting.

 

One thing good about blogging is the fact that it makes me to review everything that the class has discussed after school. This is a very effective way for me to sort out the main points covered in the class and go over them again—it works as a reinforcement for getting the knowledge. However, it is a little different from just taking review notes after class—there are more audiences for blogs. Thus, writing up a blog usually took a little bit more time and effort than just go over the contents covered in the class. It often requires further reading and put all my thoughts together in a well-structured text.

 

In a word, I think open class has its advantages and challenges. By subtlety influence me to read more and encourage me to think deeper, it has definitely stimulated me to learn than any traditional classes did. I guess the only challenge for me is to tweet with more confident.

 

 

 

The future of learning

In recent years, Self-Organised Learning Environment (SOLE) has been widely employed in classrooms all over the world in different subjects. Teachers and students with SOLE experiences have given a large number of positive online feedbacks about its promotion of students’ motivation as well as engagement, even learning results. Mitra’s (2008) study finds that learners’ knowledge of the subject underlying the question given can be promoted without the presence of teachers. However, there are also teachers who had unsuccessful SOLE experiences (e.g., Didua (2015)) and questions have been raised about the actual effect of SOLE in terms of learning outcome. For example, Tom Bennett (2015) questions that Mitra’s conclusion is not “credible evidence based”. In similar, Dellar (2014) questions about the implication of SOLE in language learning and suggests that a great deal of more reinforcement and practices should be necessary in order to allow learners to make advanced linguistic development.

 

Although this newly invented approach in education has similarities with independent learning, personalised learning and child-centred education, which has “been preached before in many forms” (Bennett, 2015), SOLE stands out in a rather radical way to some education practitioners today. No doubt, fewer studies have been taken to test this approach in the form of large quantities and longitudinal research projects. Naturally, many people are in doubts.  For instance, what students will actually do when enjoying learning autonomy in SOLE has been doubted since certain studies find that unsupervised environment is likely to cause a higher incompletion rate (Ho et al., 2014; Jordan, 2014). Also, certain cognitive skills required for learning with peers can be underdeveloped among children when comparing to adults (Kuhn et al., 2000; Kuhn and Pease, 2006; Dean Jr and Kuhn, 2007; Paradowski, 2014). What is more, Harmer (2014) and Sowey (2013) point out that the absence of the teacher in SOLE can result in lack of instruction, facilitation, and evaluation, even social exclusion and isolation during the process (Arora, 2005).

Considering the heated debate between increasing number of education practitioners who are inclining to experiment the new learning approach (SOLE) and strong resistance from the “traditional” schooling, it is reasonable to think that in the recent future, there might be a time that schools with different teaching/learning approach and beliefs may co-exist peacefully just like public and private schools are today. In my opinion, a primary school system which uses both student-centred and teacher-centred approaches, traditional and conventional, can be a solution in the recent future.

 

With the speed that the internet has developed through the last decades, it is almost impossible to predict what it will enable us to do in 20 years. However, I believe the internet will be available to almost everyone on earth in a decade. In the discussions, most of our classmates believe that the physical spaces that limit the classrooms now will disappear in recent future. It is a reasonable thought since we just had the open classes which didn’t exist a few years before. My guess is that there will be no more “classroom” with tables and desks that limits the students’ participation and virtual spaces online just like online gaming or face book groups might be the solution, too. What is more, SOLE centres with PC stations and workplaces might be replaced by 3D interactive technology with internet connection (whatever it will look like) that enables students to communicate and collaborate from their own home. In addition, primary educationists can share their skills over the internet because learning and teaching will no longer be restricted to the physical time and space. In this way, the resources for children’s education, not only with learning materials, but also including human resources (e.g., teachers) with different expertise can be shared in order to help children in any possible way.

 

One of the main concerns that teachers have when using SOLE is “Can children learn with just Google?” (Bennett, 2015). The current trend of pedagogy already starts to shift from teacher-centred to student-centred approach. Nevertheless, leaving students unattended can be worrisome for us who are used to the teachers’ help just like how people felt about student-centred teaching hundreds of years ago. There is no doubt students “don’t learn evenly” (Bennett, 2015) in SOLEs and it is a good thing to notice that there are risks when teachers are not around. However, it is equally important to know that it is also common for some children to perform better than others when a teacher is at help. Another concern is the case that not all knowledge is easier and more fun for students to learn by themselves through internet. Even with the convincing evidence in studies of SOLE finding that it has certain advantages than traditional schooling, knowledge and skills which are more abstract, such as art and music, may be easier and quicker to understand when explained by teachers comparing to searching information’s from the scratch by students themselves.

 

Following the question of what and how should children learn, assessment can provide some answers for both teachers and students in terms of “what exactly have been learnt?” Traditional and “standard” tests are useful for testing certain knowledges in a straight forward way (e.g., vocabulary, grammar, questions with only one right answer, etc.). In addition, diversified methods should also be employed for investigating individual performance.

 

Albert Einstein once said “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” In the same vain, I believe that the difference between knowing and learning lies in the understanding. Therefore, if simply remembering things can be called knowing, then it is obsolete. Unfortunately, a big part of my education is reciting the information and this kind of education only gives me good marks but never empowers me more. I believe learning is the progress of understanding the world and it is learning that makes us confident as independent human beings and enables us to make decisions which other creatures on earth cannot. As many science fictions has described, if A.I. in the future ever tries to turn human into slaves, our independent mind might be the only advantage we have left, and the generation who are only encouraged to recite and remember may not stand a chance when that comes.

 

Maybe my imagination has gone too far. Anyway, new pedagogies like SOLE is very inspiring and has shed a light on the current issues in education. The discussions in the module allow me to rethink my own education experience. I think the role of technology in education should be taken more seriously in terms of enabling students to have different ways of learning as well as being aware of the possible side effects that it might bring. Consequently, teacher’s role need to change. Students should be more proactive in learning and assessments need to transform accordingly. Most important of all, we should always remember the beauty of learning and rethink what education is about.

 

 

References

Arora, P. (2005) ‘Profiting from empowerment? Investigating dissemination avenues for educational technology content within an emerging market solutions project’, International Journal of Education and Development using ICT, 1(4).

Bennett, T. (2015) SOLE: Snake Oiled Learning Environment?  . Available at: (http://www.tes.com.c.tes.ent.platform.sh/news/blog/sole-snake-oil-learning-experience) (Accessed: 07/01).

Dean Jr, D. and Kuhn, D. (2007) ‘Direct instruction vs. discovery: The long view’, Science Education, 91(3), pp. 384-397.

Dellar, H. (2014) Why we should be afraid of the big bad wolf: Sugata Mitra and the neoliberal takeover in sheep’s clothing. Available at: http://eltjam.com/why-we-should-be-afraid-of-the-big-bad-wolf-sugata-mitra-and-the-neoliberal-takeover-in-sheeps-clothing/ (Accessed: June 21).

Didua, D. (2015) Is it just me or is Sugata Mitra an irresponsible charlatan? Available at: http://www.learningspy.co.uk/myths/is-it-just-me-or-is-sugata-mitra-an-irresponsible-charlatan/

 

Harmer, J. (2014) ‘Angel or devil? the strange case of sugata mitra’, angel or devil? the strange case of sugata mitra. Available at: https://jeremyharmer.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/angel-or-devil-the-strange-case-of-sugata-mitra/.

Ho, A.D., Reich, J., Nesterko, S.O., Seaton, D.T., Mullaney, T., Waldo, J. and Chuang, I. (2014) ‘HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses, fall 2012-summer 2013’, Ho, AD, Reich, J., Nesterko, S., Seaton, DT, Mullaney, T., Waldo, J., & Chuang, I.(2014). HarvardX and MITx: The first year of open online courses (HarvardX and MITx Working Paper No. 1).

Jordan, K. (2014) ‘Initial trends in enrolment and completion of massive open online courses’, The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 15(1).

Kuhn, D., Black, J., Keselman, A. and Kaplan, D. (2000) ‘The development of cognitive skills to support inquiry learning’, Cognition and Instruction, 18(4), pp. 495-523.

Kuhn, D. and Pease, M. (2006) ‘Do children and adults learn differently?’, Journal of Cognition and Development, 7(3), pp. 279-293.

Paradowski, M. (2014) ‘Classrooms in the cloud or castles in the air’, IATEFL, 239, pp. 8-10.

Sowey, M. (2013) Can you kill a goat by staring at it? A critical look at minimally invasive education. Available at: https://philosophyfoundation.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/ (Accessed: June 21).

 

 

 

Provocation 2

This week, EDU8213 had its third session on Tuesday with a new big question: “How should children acquire the knowledge and skills?” It is a matter relates to the first question in provocation 1about what children should know by the age of 12.

 

To look at my own primary school learning experience, I remember a lot of times trapping in reciting and memorizing the things just for the sake of the tests. For instance, memorizing and calculating complicated formulations and equations for imaginary situations only existed in math tests. I never understand the point of doing this and I often forget these “knowledge” that I worked very hard the second after the exam. It seems like that I had to make a habit of memorizing and deleting unwanted information repeatedly. Therefore, I really think that the discussion we had in the previous sessions is essential for moving on to today’s question—we need to find out what the children need before thinking of how to educate them.

 

One of the most popular discussion of this session is about the teacher’s role in future schooling. The leading and guiding role of teachers sometimes can be questionable because of the possible side effects on making children less creative and curious. However, it can show up as a good thing as the mental support children can have when they encounter difficulties in finding the answers of the world. Nowadays, the developing technology and its appliance in education are changing teacher’s role in one way or another. We are turning to computers and internets for answers now because they may know better than our teachers and are available 24/7.

 

Another noteworthy point is the connection Professor Sugata Mitra made between a PhD and studying in SOLE. If the research question of a PhD thesis can be seen as the big questions in SOLE, the process of finding knowledge to answer the research question and writing up thesis can be seen as a self-organized learning process by doctoral students, and the viva is another form of defending and presenting students’ studying results just like the presentations in SOLE.

 

Just like it is always a bit scary to think about how new things can change the way we used to live, it is gruesome to imagine that there is a chance that one day our beloved teachers may be replaced by the cold hard machines. If it ever became true,  I just hope that we had figured out what is the future of learning by then.