Organic Education

Education is a word thrown around a lot. It is the stereotypical answer from beauty pageant contestants, a common topic among amateur philosophers on twitter, a key inflection point between incumbent politicians and is the cornerstone of every single parent’s roadmap for their children. It is so entrenched in our society, that it is easy to blindly accept its methods and its framework that has served us so well in the past. Why fix something that ain’t broke right?

Perhaps what we didn’t count on however, was that the next generation would not learn in the same way that previous ones did. This, I think, is the key issue in addressing the traditional educational paradigm and plotting the future. Please know from the start, this post is not intended to give a foolproof, step by step solution to any of the issues apparent in education today. Nor does it align 100% with my personal views, because to be honest – I am still undecided. I simply want to share some innovative ideas and opinions that I have come across in the hope that it might inspire more open-minded interaction and curiosity.

The Impact of Tablet Computers

Naturally, technology will play an invaluable part in the educational model of the future. We see it already today, with syllabuses slowly moving online, and with children becoming completely computer-literate at an increasingly young age. A few weeks ago I came across an example of exactly this, when I watched a 3 year old getting to grips with an iPad. She was totally in control of what she was doing, she knew how to swipe across the screen to wake it up, how to navigate the various folders to find her game of choice and she continued to engage with the device for a good hour. She was entranced by the touch screen, the music and what looked like a very intricate game for a 3 year old! It struck me then that, most likely, my children and grandchildren will never use an actual keyboard in their lives.  That to me, was mind-blowing!! Just as the typewriter became obsolete for my parents, keyboards in general will become obsolete for me. Technology is changing the foundation of how we learn, and it must continue to be drafted into schools and universities – because that is how this new generation relates. It is crucial that we do not cling to what has worked for us in the past because in the process, we risk losing that generation whose future depends on it.

Khan Academy

I came across the Khan Academy while reading an edition of TIME magazine. I found it extremely interesting and went to have a look at their website.  The website includes hundreds of thousands of short online lectures on various topics delivered in the style of a Learning Channel on TV. As good as those lessons were, what intrigued me more was the founder, Salman Khan’s ideas for education in the future. Traditionally, students would go to class where teachers would teach the section for that day, before giving the students various questions to do on their own as homework – testing what they had learnt during that day. Salman Khan believes that this is a waste of precious interaction time between students and the teacher. He suggests that the lecturing should be done at the student’s home outside of school hours (for example, through his video lectures online) and the actual work should be done at school under the supervision of the teacher. Thus, the students have access to the teacher when they come across problems and can spend more one on one time with the teacher, mastering the various concepts. The theory does have some flaws, but the fact I’m trying to get across is that we need to question the traditional way of doing things at school. Who says ‘homework’ should be done at home? These are the kind of questions that have been avoided in the past, but need to be addressed if we are going to build a successful educational model for the future.

Education must be organic.  It must evolve, adapt and continue to improve on itself.  However, for a long period now - it has remained stagnant and complacent.  Drastic reform is needed. Deciding how we go about that is an undoubtedly gargantuan task. However, for the moment I think I would settle for the expansion of our thinking and the widening of our scope – let’s have a look at the unconventional, the untested, the downright crazy. Because perhaps that’s exactly where the gem lies.

I want  to leave you with a video from Sir Ken Robinson, a man I have a great deal of respect for.  I believe what he says, speaks for itself...