Jun 16, 2009

Can You Design A Better Course Than Your Teacher?

America has a long-standing tradition of industrialization. We tend to standardize and implement on an ever-increasing scale with just about everything we involve ourselves in, from agriculture to automobiles. The same can be said for education. Parallels can be drawn to a batch-processing assembly line where lecture-driven classes turn out 25 students per classroom, per teacher, per 50 minute session.

Despite American efforts towards an industrialized system of education, graduation rates have stalled over the last 30 years. But if industrialization increases productivity exponentially, why do we see this stall?

One answer could be that the system in place simply does not work when brought to bear on the problems surrounding modern education. Industrialization is easy when one is creating a product. Shaping minds, however, is not quite as simple. An ever-increasing class size and a decreasing teacher-to-student ratio are both difficult barriers to circumvent. Kids feel as though they are stuck in a system that is simply putting them through the paces and pushing them towards a purpose-less graduation.

Myk Garn, Director of Educational Technology at the Southern Regional Educational Board, believes one solution lies with a form of individualized instruction coming not from teachers, but rather from the students themselves. “The more you standardize a process, the more it must also be individualized. The idea is mass-customization for effectiveness,” he explains. “What we know is that teachers are at the end of their ability to individualize instruction at some point around 25-30 students. But many smart minds believe students, using technology, which is inherently a 1:1 medium, guided by a teacher, can realistically individualize instruction themselves. We need to try this because if we want to make a significant difference in the success rate of students, we have to do something significantly different.”

Myk’s vision puts students at the helm, guiding the curriculum in a model that is student-driven as opposed to student-centered. It is the student, Myk proposes, that should be able to direct their own learning, passing on knowledge to their peers in ways that they see fit.

The tools to do just that are already in place. Modern technology gives the student the ability to create their very own learning objects and modules, driving the methodology towards higher efficacy in radical new ways.

This, of course, raises many questions. Where will the teacher fit into this equation? How will the students be guided so that accomplishment and achievement can be recognized and measured? What will this new model look like in the real world? Will students be better or worse equipped for the workforce?

With new possibilities comes new hurtles, but the most important question remains: can you design a better course than your teacher?

1 comment:

Jonathan Lopez said...

Some food for thought on this topic-