Monday, November 7, 2011

Reforming schools for the Knowledge Age

├śrestad College (Denmark)
Current public schools are based on an industrial model of schooling: Standardisation and conveyor-belt analogy.

For example:
-Students are grouped by birth-year; Bells and periods; Sitting in rows; Separate isolated subjects; Fixed time to finish a certain grade; Individual standardised testing.

We need to re-think the current schooling paradigm to create a post-industrial school model. We need schools for the Knowledge Age that focus on technology-enhanced project-based collaborative learning. We need schools that support students to learn how they learn best, monitor their own learning progress, and are driven to become life-long learners. 

For example, as an alternative to grouping students by age, they could be group by their performance level, early birds/night owls (morning school/ evening school), work individually/ in small or large groups (depends on context and personal preference).

Research found evidence that industrial-age schooling reduced creative (and divergent) thinking (as students are conditioned for "there-is-only-one-right-answer" thinking).

See this fascinating animation that illustrates the inspiring TED talk by Sir Ken Robinson:

A number of model schools world-wide lead the way towards a post-industrialist way of learning:
A few examples:
-High Tech High school in San Diego (USA)
-Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney (Australia)
-Reggio Emilio schools (Italy)

Companies like innovative offer support for reformers to model their schools after successful models.

Education research aims to gain a more complex picture of learning through the field of the "learning sciences". The learning sciences pursue an interdisciplinary approach to further scientific understanding of learning and to implement innovative learning environments. The bi-annual conference ICLS brings togethers researchers from across the world who study learning as a complex multi-layered system.

This video shows some interesting novel physical and virtual learning environments:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Words as vessels for thought

Words can be described as "vessels for thoughts". Our vocabulary affects the ways in which we are able to conceptualize the world around us. Or in other words, without a word for something we cannot think about something.

This linguistic relativity is expressed in the Sapir-Worf hypothesis that says that language influences (or determines) our thoughts.

An example can be found in the book of Genesis in the bible: In the beginning, the earth was without form and void. Only after God spoke the word, plants and animals took form.

Another example can be found in George Orwell's novel 1984: The government works on Newspeak, a language reform that removes all words related to freedom or rebellion from people's vocabulary - and therefore removing people's ability to think about concept such as freedom or rebellion.

Inventing new words allows us to think about new concepts. For example, medical researchers create new names for a set of symptoms. Giving these symptoms a name allows pharmaceutical companies to start research groups, and patients to form special interest groups.

The number of words in English has grown from 50,000 to 60,000 words in Old English to about a million today (source).

The RSAnimate video below illustrates a talk by psychologist Steven Pinker about language as a window into human nature.