Friday, 7 September 2012

21st Century Education

While rather ironically taught in twentieth Century education style, the course I had today at school on twenty-first Century English did make me think. The whole idea was that thanks to technology, students have now moved beyond the good old fashioned teaching style and that new things have to been taken into consideration to really deal with these changes and develop students for the real world. That means taking into account things like the Internet and social networking.

It's great that academia is starting acknowledging that things are changing and I think any step towards modernisation of education is a step in the right direction. However, it does seem that the kind of education that they are talking about is something that would have been suitable for when I was at high school and their in lies the rub: academia does not live in the present, but only in the past. It's a twentieth century model of research trying to find ways to deal with twenty first century children, rather than becoming twenty first century itself and it doesn't work any more.

Think about it. Most people with doctorates are no spring chickens to begin with. I mean they might have profile on facebook or twitter, but do they really use it? Is it actually a part of their lives? Maybe, maybe not, but it doesn't matter, they can still study it, right? After all you don't have to have been a drug addict to understand drug addiction. Then again, I bet it helps.

But that's not really the main problem. The thing is, that the world is changing faster than ever before. When someone prepares a study on education and technology, it's going to be out of date by the time it gets to publication, never mind by the time that it filters down through the system and into the actual classroom. So what we are getting now are educational methods based on students who in many cases have already graduated and even if it is current, we are teaching them to deal with the technology as it is today. Not the technology as it will be by the time they have finished their education.  To put it into context, when I started school, around 1987, I don't think I had ever seen a mobile phone or used the internet. Almost thirty years later the thought of not having a net connection scares me.

So what to do about it? Well of course we could try to modernise academia, although that in itself seems like quite a mine field and far outside my world as a lowly teacher. As for predicting future technologies, while fun, it does seems like a rather hit or miss idea - Myspace was a sure thing for a while. For me though it seems that the best thing I can do is help students learn to adapt, because that, more than any skill is what's going to be needed if students hope to do well in any future no matter what technology they encounter. Maybe it would be better then if we worked on universal education - skill that are useful no matter the technology, or lack of - rather than trying to keep up with the current trends.

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