Well we’re back at it. Tackling the future of learning in a two hour class of chaos. Jumping off from Provocation 1, we recapped some of the concepts we believed a child should learn by the age of 12. You can recap that course here. In addition to what my classmates and I drafted last class I would also, without hesitation, add literacy and numeracy to that list.
As a kid I couldn’t get my hands on enough books. I’d choose the library over the park. A good book series over another episode of Full House. I’m sure my parents can tell countless stories of finding me up way past bedtime with a flashlight and a book under my covers. Perhaps my long standing love affair with bound pages of ink is the reason I have to keep my indignation at bay whenever Dr. Mitra suggests that the necessity of teaching literacy and numeracy to children in schools is an antiquated concept. While this topic wasn’t the main focus of Provocation 2, it has struck enough of a chord with me to warrant a response.
Sure, I probably would have learned to read even if I hadn’t been taught in school, but only because of my privilege. Learning to read, write, add and subtract are all benefits of my having grown up in a family and community where that was valued. An orphan who doesn’t go to school may know the basics to survive, but likely wouldn’t even know the vocabulary of add, subtract, divide. I think we should have bigger dreams for the future for an unschooled orphan child. Dreams where they could actually learn to build on the knowledge they have in order to achieve a higher level of education thereby increasing their chances of a more economically stable future.
I keep coming back to the idea that just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Just because a computer could read out loud to students, does that mean it should? Just because we could solve math problems using the internet, does that mean we should? Just because these technologies are available to us, doesn’t mean that using them is going to improve education. It absolutely could assist in many ways, that I do agree with. However, I think there is danger in disposing of previous methods, just because a new and shiny one is entering the scene.
Provocation 2 was titled: “How will children acquire their language and skills?” Dr. Mitra encouraged us all to think back to our primary school education. What do we remember? What did we forget? Who was influential in our learning? Do we actually remember what we learned? This was pretty difficult as I’m pretty sure the brain tries to bury middle school memories in the depths of our subconscious in an effort to keep us from collapsing under the weight of embarrassment and shame those awkward years produced. However, for all the discomfort that marked those years, I think the foundation was built for essential skills to come.
This naturally brought us around to a conversation about the role of teachers. What type of relationship should students have with teachers? Friends? Mentors? Facilitators? Round and round it went. In my opinion teachers are a hybrid of friend, mentor and social worker. Teachers should be facilitating the development of a whole child. So many kids come to school from broken homes, without their basic needs being met. They come hungry, cold, tired, angry. Then they’re expected to sit in a desk and learn. That is an unrealistic expectation. Before learning can truly occur, I think students need to feel safe, cared for, and comfortable.
So in answer to this provocation, I think teachers (who I agree could be this hybrid of FPG noted above) as well as parents and communities are the primary sources for a child to learn and acquire the skills necessary to be successful in adulthood.
As we move into the next class and begin to contemplate how we would create our own primary school, I’m looking forward to discussing the various roles of teachers and technology in the classroom. I believe both should play a large role in the learning environments of the future. My only hope is that we don’t throw out all aspects of traditional learning in the hopes that a new, fully technology based solution would be better; benefits are seen on both sides and I look forward to working out how to pull from the best of both worlds.