Changing the paradigm in education

TED Talks are endless sources of ideas, especially in the field of education. This is how I made the virtual acquaintance of Will Richardson, an author and blogger recognized in the world of American education.

He starts from a premise that many of us share, while he affirms that the world of education is currently at a crossroads and in full transformation. There are just a few very interesting statements. I will report it to you in which I add my impressions, all mixed with the “storm of ideas” sauce.

Cleavage

We start from a world of scarcity (not to say poverty), in terms of didactic and educational resources, to evolve in the middle of a world of abundance (not to say superabundance). Today, teachers can trust a bottomless pit of the genesis of human knowledge since the beginning of time. At the same time, their students also have access to this manna, thanks to an obvious democratization of knowledge. Teachers have grown used to this scarcity. However, the students were brought up in this abundance. The result is a breach opposing two visions:

  1. The teaching habits of teachers and the expectations of their students are asynchronous. They want immediate and direct access to information. The school praises slowness and imposes a certain slowdown on them, mainly explained by the shift of the entire school environment in the face of technological changes animating society.
  2. The pupil has access to the sum of the knowledge of humanity at the tip of his fingers or in his pockets while his teacher and his textbook propose a model of limitation of knowledge. It is the human model that confronts the internet model, a “machine” which is formed from the knowledge of all humans.

It is, in fact, generations of young people immersed in accessibility and who want to be trained for the challenges of the coming decades who oppose generations of teachers trained by a school model dating, mainly, from the Parent Report of the 60s.

The lost paradigm

The Western mode of education is one that struggles for its survival of its model. When there are malfunctions, we strive to repair the model. We renovate or improve it instead of simply changing it by adopting a new paradigm. Here are three realities that should allow the world of education to change paradigm:

  1. The information is ubiquitous. However, school is the only place that young people cannot bring the ICT tool to seek it. Smartphones contain an encyclopedia of global knowledge. What a paradox! We prepare young people for the world of work where we encourage access to the best technologies to carry out their daily tasks while we restrict them in using the same technology. And we pride ourselves on preparing our young people for the job market? Really ? The Quebec guidance school has just taken for its cold!
  2. Education, teaching and pedagogy are no longer subject to the monopoly of the school. New platforms abound: MOOC, social media, Didacti, etc. The new world of education is what is now called knowledge just in time or, what I would call ergonomic education . It is accomplished by molding itself to the student’s schedule, when he wants it, at the place he chooses: in the school bus, between two hockey games, at a friend’s house. The possibilities are immense, provided the internet is available. Again, the portability of personal communications devices permanently plugged into cellular data waves simplifies the operation.
  3. Although the school no longer holds the monopoly on teaching and education, the fact remains that it is an environment that has the obvious potential to facilitate the educational process. In fact, school and extracurricular networking is the new classroom. This is collaborative and cooperative learning on a planetary scale. Nothing less. However, there is still an undeniable paradox: our classes prevent networking and openness to the world by focusing attention on a teacher who too often confines himself to his outdated pedagogical strategies. Yet in the age of social media and discussion forums, the winning conditions are met to encourage exchanges and correspondence between students from various backgrounds or various stakeholders who revolve around the school in order to offer a range of educational services, original and totally educational. The whole, under the informed leadership of the teacher.

We have to admit that soon we will no longer need schools to educate our students. The school remains irreplaceable for educating and socializing them, but not for instructing and educating them. Hence the importance of adopting a new paradigm which resituates the role of the school, and therefore of the teachers, instead of continuing to unduly prolong its life.

The whole world of education must shift its focus to open up to the reality of young people who, for their part, must be open to the global challenges of the 21 st century. Unfortunately, we have to admit that this world is rather trying to perpetuate an old and outdated model. Meanwhile, the dropout rate remains alarming and young people are increasingly withdrawing from their school environment and their studies.

Finally, many teachers are not excited about the global changes that are affecting their classrooms. This is understandable, because for many they feel angry because they have spent decades working to become proficient in a system that defined them in a particular way. And there, suddenly, everything has to be changed. There is a loss of bearings and, quite possibly, the teacher’s professional esteem is also affected. It therefore strives to try to preserve its achievements instead of redefining them. So some teachers are in mourning!

Today’s teachers are co-learners. They experiment, they create. They are no longer specialists in a subject. Google will always know more than they do. All must become learners and accept this reality. Before being a teacher, one is first and foremost a learner.

We must be agents of change. It’s our job, it’s our vocation.

(Text inspires ideas conveyed by Will Richardson’s TED talk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ekcWQxgk3k ).