Today, my husband and I ate at a Chinese restaurant. Here are our fortunes.
“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.”
Paulo Freire would certainly agree with that. He was a Brazilian educator who taught impoverished peasants to improve their lives by learning to read, learning the concepts associated with their situations, and empowering them to change those situations rather than accept and proliferate them. In my opinion, his work is very valuable for the oppressed, but also has much broader applications. To me, it’s very similar to user-centered design, and could be used to teach most anything.
Facing History and Ourselves would also agree with that fortune. This organization, founded in the Boston area, shows students the realities of history on a personal level, then asks them to act on their beliefs.
Matt Damon learned a lot from FHO when he was in middle school:
At the end of the interview, he underlines the importance of being able to look at things from the perspective of others. I agree! User-centered design and knowing a foreign language would help, but living abroad provides the most depth in that area. Why not do all 3?
I think the basic idea of that fortune is that we ought to be able to do something with what we learn, but not just political action. Education must be useful.
“A smile is nearly always inspired by another smile.”
Many teachers who are passionate about the subjects they teach inspire their students. And some say that since the advent of fun educational shows on TV, kids expect school to be “entertaining,” though that seems to be a tall order. But is it impossible for education to be enjoyable? Not for enjoyment’s sake, really, but for learning. Wouldn’t it be easier for teachers and students to be excited about something if it were both interesting and effective?
I’ve heard that the things you remember best are the experiences that were highly emotional. (A Wikipedia article substantiates this, if you’re curious: Emotion_and_memory.)
So, what emotion is associated with memorization? How do students feel when they aren’t able to master the content, but the teacher has to move on to the next unit?
Do kids feel that what they’re being taught is relevant? As teachers or parents, how often do we hear the questions “Is it going to be on the test?” and “Why do I have to know this?”
The last one is an especially big, but important question, and we need to address it much better than we have so far, though some educators are making great progress in this area.
One thing that students often feel lacks relevance in schools is the relative absence of technology. They often have computers, MP3 players, cell phones, game consoles, and other devices, but invariably aren’t allowed to use them in school. Many of their parents use very sophisticated and useful technologies at work. I know a teacher who increased the enrollment in her school’s French classes tenfold by understanding that students want to use technology at school and that the native speakers of Spanish in her area want to learn French.
Karl Fisch (a teacher who created the Did You Know videos, along with Scott McLeod) came up with the idea of flipping, now known as the Fisch flip. The gist is that the teacher makes a video of the normal lecture, and the students watch it at home. They can replay sections to understand concepts better. Then the teacher can provide individualized instruction during class. I found that part similar to Freire’s idea, that the teacher’s role is to facilitate the student’s learning, and empower the student.
It seems that the Fisch flip came after Salman Kahn made videos to help his younger cousins learn, and teachers (apparently Fisch and others) saw additional benefits that technology provides. Kahn explains very well, here:
How do you think we can make education more relevant and useful?