In his free e-book ‘Stop Stealing Dreams‘ Seth Godin talks about how the toy manufacturer Lego tried to save their brand. From the box of little plastic blocks, they created specialised boxes so that children could create a Fire Engine, a Star Wars character, a car park. He makes the point that this, in some ways, is exactly what is wrong with our education system. Instead of the chaotic adventure of creating something from a bunch of bricks, using imagination to develop crazy looking things, we now need a map to get to somewhere and we already know what it looks like. A bit depressing , isn’t it?
There is a better way though. It just takes a bit of imagination and the will to change, the will to believe that change is possible.
What would happen if we created a series of online resources which kids could access from home and watch again and again? What would happen if we created a series of online lectures which the kids could access again and again? The technology exists in YouTube, TED, Khan Academy but we can create our own through ‘Explain Everything’, ‘Show Me’ and others. We could flip the classroom in a way which could change school forever. We could switch on a generation of learners to REALLY prepare them for the real world.
But there is a problem isn’t there? Access. There is already a class divide between the kids who still don’t have online access at home and those who do; a divide between those who can and those who, because of negative experiences at school due to things being blocked – phones being banned, hardware being out of date – link online learning to school and that’s always been a bad thing. Even when we try to create something new for them online – Glow, Edmodo, Class Dojo, whatever – they often have such trouble accessing it that they don’t see the point. Instant access to information means exactly that. If they can’t access it as quickly as they can on their phones then to is a joke to them. So the students who do have access don’t use it for school.
As an English teacher I am already imagining in a world where I do more of this:
As I create more of these for every point I want to teach in the novel, I am creating a permanent, online series of mini-lectures which my students can watch as many times as it takes until they get it. I can save myself a hell of a lot of time repeating myself by using them every year – no more wasting time over resources creation- and I can create a real homework scenario where students can prepare for a class where we can focus on skills and real life learning instead of listening to me lecture.
This is not a ridiculous pipe dream. The technology not only already exists but it is already being used in an effective way. Check out udacity.com and Khan Academy. If our governments are serious about improving our education system, if our Governments want our children to develop those skills which ‘business’ says they lack – and for which they castigate teachers – then universal broadband with tablets for every student must be the aim. Let’s make levelling the playing field our number one priority. Sure, some may abuse that but teaching responsibility both online and off must be a key aim in a child’s education. We cannot keep holding everyone back because of the bad behaviour of the few. We have the resources to change our world forever. We have the resources to change all of our children’s futures forever. But do our political masters have the will?