Today I began Dr. Sugata Mitra’s course, EDU8213: The Future of Learning. Always game for experimenting with learning environments, Dr. Mitra has opened the course to the public so you can join in as well!
Big question #1: What knowledge and skills should a child have acquired by the age of 12 and how do we evidence it?
The first 45 minutes in the classroom was spent fully immersed in our technology. Headphones on, computers, tablets, smartphones at hand; each of us listened and responded, via twitter, to the topics being discussed by Sir Ken Robinson, Sugata Mitra, and Scott Klemmer in the BBC clip: Cloud Education: The Future of Learning.
The discussion of creativity and critical thinking is essential. By the age of 12, I believe those are the skills children should be focusing on. In today’s society you can use the internet to look up just about anything, but the ability to aggregate and evaluate that information as beneficial or useless is key. That is where critical thinking plays an important role.
Creativity is necessary because children need to continue to be engaged and push the boundaries. If learning stays fun and interesting, children will continue to do it.
A product of traditional education my entire life, this class was outside my comfort zone. I’m accustomed to entering a classroom a few minutes early, settling into my seat, getting my pen and paper out and waiting to diligently take notes while being talked at for an hour or two. With the final ten minutes or so of class, feedback will be asked for, questions will be raised, my notes will be legible and tidy and I will never look at them again apart from one or two days at the end of the term where I will cram for a final exam. This course took traditional and chucked it out of the building.
Everyone came to class connected, Twitter pulled up, headphones easily accesible. Then Dr. Mitra came in, introduced our big question for the week and sent us into cyberspace to watch, listen, read, and respond to the material presented. I’d like to say I found this liberating and exciting, but I actually found it to be overwhelming and more difficult than I ever would have anticipated.
The topics were fascinating, but varied, and left me feeling like I was scrambling to synthesize all of the information that was coming too quickly for me to efficiently parse. For example, I sent a tweet:
…and then refreshed my page and several others addressing different topics came up on my timeline within minutes of each other:
At this point my brain was firing on all cylinders, “Oh! That’s interesting! How do we better assess children? Are creativity and critical thinking really complementary processes…do I believe that? Maybe creativity is inate and critical thinking is taught? How do we teach either or both? Changing terminology can be so important when evaluating a system and making changes. But, oh, wait, I was still back here trying to think about the differences between education and learning…”
Literally hundreds of tweets were firing back and forth while I was trying to wrap my own head around one topic at a time. Maybe this is the point? Maybe chaos does create order in learning as Dr. Mitra has suggested. My own ability to sort through information in order to come to a conclusion is being tested in a new way with the use of social media in the classroom. With time, perhaps I will learn how to parse through the rapid-fire information to find the topics and comments I want to engage with actively. I look forward to this course and hope that with all of the new questions we’re bound to ask, a few answers may present themselves as well.