Transitions In Our Education System

Transitions In Our Education System

In this week’s post for Lifelong Learning, founder Ron Slee takes a hard look at some of the transitions in our education system, and why we need those transitions now more than ever.

I come from a family of teachers. My grandmother was a teacher and my mother taught. We have been teachers for over one hundred years. My grandmother taught in a one room schoolhouse. Educators seemed to be all around me. My mother chose all of my teachers in grade school. She was the Vice Principal at the school, and I couldn’t get away with anything. But for some reason I always used to watch my teachers and how they worked. One thing a lot of us forget is that the “teacher” is typically the only person that we see at work when we are children. 

I remember one particular teacher of mine in High School. He taught high school boys health. A subject that really gets the attention of teenage boys, right? He did some amazing things to keep us engaged. He used facial expressions, he used his voice dramatically, he used body language. He used everything he could think about to keep our attention. It made quite an impression on me. Over my career and involvement in training and teaching one thing always has stood out to me. You have a responsibility to keep the attention and interest of your students, your audience. 

I also remember another teacher who had a Master’s Degree in English and he was teaching Mathematics. His first class with us is indelibly etched on my mind. He said, “if I can learn to teach you mathematics with an English education all of you will pass this class.” He meant it and he delivered. Everyone passed. Several of my classmates had trouble with Calculus and they had to spend countless hours work after the school day ended. This teacher never left them. He was committed to the success of this students. It was his life. 

Teachers are special people. They are more influential in the development of a child’s intelligence and knowledge than nearly everyone else. We start with parenting before a child goes to school. Then we transition from preschool to grade school, to middle school, to high school and then to more serious learning either in the technical world or the academic world. Both of those paths of development are beneficial to society. The goal of the education system, in my mind, is to create work ready people for the business world, not JUST expand knowledge and learning. This is true whether that person becomes a doctor or plumber. 

Ed Gordon, President of the Imperial Consulting Group, a man who has devoted his life to teaching and education and employee development, has written around twenty books. The one that got my attention was titled Future Jobs, Solving the Employment Skills Crisis. He has written a series of papers on Job Shock, which we have published as blogs. He has pointed out something very significant to me. The First Industrial Revolution required reforms to the education system to create math and literacy. Prior to that we were hunters and gatherers and farmers. We are now in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We have the same need to reform education. We need stronger analytical skills; we need better communications skills and better critical thinking skills. 

That means teaching will have to change once again. 

Teaching will have to transition to something different. We have to continue fulfilling the traditional role of preparing children to be able to enter the workforce. However, we are also now facing the need to create an adult reeducation program. No longer will the skills we obtain before the age of twenty-five be sufficient for our typical career. Science and Technology and Computerization and Artificial Intelligence and other advances will make our skills obsolete. The education system will have to be able to provide updated skills so that people will continue to be employable. 

This creates a wonderful challenge for us all involved in helping people learn. 

Traditional education has had a teacher in the front of the room. What I have called the “sage on the stage.” This model requires physical plant, a school, with classrooms and teachers and in some models with a teacher’s aide. This is an expensive model. Further this model clearly doesn’t work with the world that we live in today. We should not leave any person behind in the world. That means that we cannot stay with the current model. We need to move to the internet to bring learning to a much broader audience. In different geographies, Africa and Asia, where we don’t have the infrastructure, we have no choice but to seek out alternatives. 

We have examples and models available to us today. For instance, we have a very accomplished scientist who teaches at MIT. His name is Eric Lauder. Dr. Lauder also happens to be an amazing teacher. And there are others around the world. Dr. Lauder teaches a class at MIT called “The Secret of Life.” He has cameras in his classroom that record the class. This class then is put up on the internet and is available to anyone who has access to a computer and the internet. The same curriculum, the same homework, the same everything. This is an example where you have a subject matter expert who is an exceptional teacher, available to the world. Imagine that. 

Our classes at Learning Without Scars are complicated. Most of us who started into training on the internet started with a slide show that is the foundation of any class that you are putting on with a group of people in the room with you as students. The transition is then to try and have audio tracks tied into the slides to portray the messages you would have just as if you were in a classroom. That is a typical internet-based class. We do it differently. 

We would like to believe that our structure is a complete class. Required reading that is followed with a quiz to prove that you understood the reading material. Each class is built as a series of videos consisting of slides, and audio tracks and film clips, complete with close captioning, wrapped up with a quiz at the end. We have five to ten segments in each class. The transition is easy to go from one segment to the next. Each student receives an email upon the completion of each segment. One class I completed recently had twenty emails. Then we have a final assessment for the class. You must achieve an 80% score on the final assessment to pass the class. Then we ask each student to complete a survey, to help us continue to improve our products, and finally the certificate of achievement. The certificate includes the number of CEU’s that are earned in the class and apply as academic classes in other schools. (Our CEUs apply to other schools; technical schools, Junior Colleges, State Universities and private Universities.) Our subject specific classes now “feel” like a school program, no longer an internet-based slideshow. 

This is part of what we foresee as the transition on education. The arrival of the internet as a learning platform. Of course, there will be many iterative changes, but we have to make higher quality learning available across the world to anyone who is interested not just those that can afford it.      

The Time is Now.

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