I just a read a good book titled “Rewiring Education, How Technology Can Unlock Every Student’s Potential” by John D. Couch. Mr. Couch was Apple’s Vice President of Education, has always been a proponent of personal learning. He shares his experience of 50-plus years in education and technology. The book is 244 pages long and was published in 2018. Here is my take away from the book.
Nature Versus Nurture
The nature (gene)-versus –nurture (environment) debate has dominated educational field for decades. Proponents of the theory believed that nature is largely responsible for our intelligence and abilities and because of that we can learn and achieve so much. In other words, our potential is all in our genes. On the other side of the debate are those who believe that nurture (environment), not nature (gene), is what matters.
Research now suggest that, while of course we inherit the genes from our parents, including the ones that contribute to intelligence, our environment (i.e., things we experience) is key to how those genes are expressed, and even if they are expressed at all. Our environment affects and collaborates with our genes, forcing them to adapt. This field of science is called epigenetics. According to epigenetists, people actually affect their own genome’s behavior.
What Factors Affect Students Success
The most important component to achieving success is motivation. If a student wants to learn something badly enough, a bad parent, teacher, and school combined would not stop him/her from learning. Motivation is prerequisite for effective learning.
The Art of Motivation
There is indeed a lot of science and psychology behind motivation, but it can be just as much an art. Like most complex things- there is no ‘one right way’ to boost motivation. All variables must be taken into consideration. What motivates me today might not motivate me tomorrow.
Here are few suggestions:
A- Student Choice
Giving children choice in how they learn things can go a long way toward making it more engaging. The more engaged children become, the more motivated they become to remain engaged. Making learning fun, engaging, and relevant are keys to making learning experience better.
B- Realistic: To be or Not?
Everybody cannot become a professional athlete or physicist. Be realistic. But always being ‘realistic” destroys our ability to think differently and stay creative.
C- Encourage Failure and Practice Practice
We learn not in spite of our failures, but because of them. We should encourage a pattern of intelligent failing by children.
Researchers suggest that what we call natural talent is actually the result of practice. According to research,around ten thousand hours of practice offers highest chance of reaching expert level in chosen field- music to athletic (about two and half hours of practice every dayfor 13years).
The Grit Factor – (Persistence, Perseverance or Grit)
Grit as defined by Angela Duckworth, is one’s ability to persevere in the pursuit of long-term goals. Good thing is grit can be taught.
Types of Learning
A- Personalizing Learning
Personalizing learning means tailoring the teaching to each student rather than using one- size –fits –all methods which are the most common method of teaching in most schools now. It does not mean that there must be a 1:1 teacher/student ratio. Each student learns in different ways-some are visual learner, some are auditory and some are reader. Teachers should pay attention to that when they can.
B- Collaborative Learning
Some of the best learning that takes place is not just personalized but collaborative as well. Students learn from each other and the teacher acts as a facilitator.
C- Pedagogical Method
In this method the teacher knows it all and the students have to listen without questioning. They have to memorize the facts. It is the least effective method of learning.
D-Learning by Doing
Learning by doing is one of the best ways to learn. We make mistakes and learn. Mistakes are often critical to learning. In most high schools hand- on real world learning is completely missing.
The Learning Space
Educational futurist David Thornburg, in his book “Campfire in Cyberspace”, describes three types of primary learning space.
The Campfire – (Story Telling)
One of the best places for hearing story has been over a campfire, where parents, grandparents have shared their wisdom through a combination of fiction and real-life tales. The campfire is an example of the one-to-many model, where typically one person speaks to many others at once. It is a teacher directly addressing students while walking excitedly around the classroom, sharing wisdom from the real world, helping to bring theories to life. Lecturing motionless from the front of the class in monotone voice as student fight to stay awake is also a form of the one-to-many model, but it’s not campfire.
The Watering Hole
The watering hole is a learning space where an expert shares information with multiple learners. They can be formal or informal. The space can be the cafeteria, coffee room or other break rooms. All the modern companies like Apple, Google are deliberately creating this kind of spaces. Just a place to exchange ideas.
In this cave metaphor the learners have the opportunity to spend time alone, reading, writing, thinking, and reflecting on the information they receive from other spaces. Many libraries provide this kind of spaces- away from the main traffic of the library.
New Opportunities – Online Learning
1- Khan Academy – (www. khanacademy.org)
Khan academy is a non-profit educational organization started by Salman Khan in 2008. It is an online school that specializes in creating free and easy- to- understand learning videos on a wide variety of topics- Lessons and Practice via You Tube. It has nearly 10 million students from all over the world. Khan Academy has a great reputation and has been backed by people like Bill Gates and others.
2- Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)
These are courses provided by mostly for profit organizations including many famous universities like Harvard and MIT. Many of the courses are free but most of them are paying courses.One can earn a degree or certificate in a particular field. Some these well-known sources are:
In 2017 Apple’s co-founder Steve Wozniak has launched a new online educational platform called Woz-U, offering coding and multiple IT programs to ‘expose digital engineering concepts to students to nudge them toward a possible tech-based career.”
1- 3D Printings
These machines, often not much bigger than a traditional printer, allow students to turn any digital file into three-dimensional physical objects. In medicine, 3D printing is even being used to print human-like organs that, doctors believe, will one day eliminate the need for organ donor. It is one of the best emerging technologies.
Interactive books are different than e-books. In interactive book 3D animations of images and videos literally pop off the page. The reader gets a multidimensional example of the concepts being discussed. Apple I Book is an example of a platform where all kinds of digital books are hosted.
3- Immersive Technologies
Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) – are all part of a broader field called immersive technology, also known as immersion. VR uses a head set to place us inside a digital world, AR- brings the digital world to our physical world, and MR is a combination of both.
My personal recommendation is the Ted Talk web site for learning on all kinds of topics.
TED Talks- (Ted.com)
TED stands for technology, entertainment and design. Ted was conceived by Richard Sal Wurman in 1984. Ted talks and conferences are held throughout North America Europe, Asia and other parts of the world. They address a wide range of topics. The speakers are all experts in their field and are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas. In 2018, more than 2,600 Talks are freely available on the web site Ted.com. More than one billion people from all over the world have watched the videos. You must try to watch at least one video to get some idea about it.
John Couch and Jason Towne. Rewiring Education: How Technology Can Unlock Every Student’s Potential. Dallas, TX, Ben Bella Books Inc. 2018.
Dr Saheb Sahu