Reimagining Education

Academic, Social Studies, Technology

Illinois Central College

Nancy Heuer-Evans

3/19/2012

Reimagining Education

It is the will to learn that has brought humanity where it is today. The advancements in technology and lifestyle are, in part, the result of humanity’s drive to satisfy curiosity and solve problems. But more important is our ability to stand on the “shoulders of giants” when it comes to knowledge. That is, we begin our search for knowledge from the point at which our predecessors have left off. We are fed the knowledge of our predecessors typically from educational institutions, after which we can be ready to venture into the uncharted area of unknown knowledge and applications. But we continually need to ensure that we are optimizing the education experience and efficiency. Can the conventional way of educating our students be revised and improved? Is there a better method than to simply have the instructors present a mostly monologue lecture and then have students attempt exercises alone? I believe there is a much more efficient way to educate humanity and that we have reached a point in which we are able to establish a reform to the conventional way of education. This reform suggests that we have students listen to lectures at home and do “homework” exercises in class with the teacher’s guidance. Let us explore why this approach can be a more effective in educating humanity.

An effective reform or alternate solution should, by definition, attempt to solve problems present with current establishment without introducing new, equivalent, problems. Indeed, there are problems with the current system of education in which the instructor typically gives one-way lectures and requires students to mostly attempt the exercises alone. This approach poses some notable problems. The first type of problem arises with the tendency that students are likely to be less engaged during lectures. The Urban Review reports that “a majority of classrooms do not hold students’ attention…[and]a majority of sampled classrooms were rated as ‘‘very unlikely’’ to engage their students in mathematics learning” (2). Studies in Higher Education, defines student engagement as “the time, energy and resources spent on activities designed to enhance learning at university…The ‘engaged’ student is one who is a ‘deep’ learner, seeking to develop his/her knowledge, reflecting on the facts and details presented in the lecture related to their own experiences and ‘the big picture’” (762). Hence, it is apparent that student engagement, which is quite important for a rich learning experience, is lacking during lectures.

The second type problem with the current way of education arises with students’ reaction to homework. The fact that most exercises are assigned to be done out of class raises some notable issues. According to “Student Prospective on Homework”, surveys from high school students show that only 30 percent of students commit to doing homework regularly. The survey results highlight some of the top reasons for failing to commit to homework regularly. Namely, students find homework hard to understand or complete, are unable to understand instructions correctly, or they are unable to find the homework meaningful and see how the exercise applies to lesson learned in class (351).

Regardless of the problems identified above, the current method of educating has been the established system for a very long time. There is a very good reason for that. The primary reason lies in the fact that institutions and instructors have limited resources. A teacher can only do so much. There is not enough time to present the lectures while taking every single question from individual students, and then actually be there for each student to guide them with their homework exercises. Expecting this was beyond reality; that is, until now. In the last few decades, we have exponentially advanced in computing and wireless technology. This enables us to establish a new reform on how students are educated. This reform, which asks for lectures to be assigned at home and exercises to be done in class, solves many, if not most, of the problems identified earlier.

With the huge advancement on cloud computing technology, it is now possible to stream high quality videos from anywhere and at any time. This enables students to watch educational lectures and tutorials from anywhere. Salman Khan runs an online educational service called “Khan Academy”. With millions of video views and active interactions daily, the service merits its own success. According to Mr. Khan, students from all over the world have written to express gratitude and explain the benefits they enjoy from the service. Mr. Khan started the service only to help his cousins with their educational materials. He posted the academic tutorials on YouTube so his cousins could watch the lectures and learn the material. To his surprise, Khan’s cousins explained that lectures in video form offer some key benefit over lectures and tutorials in person. These include being able to rewind the presentation for clarification of concepts. With video lectures, one can even go back and review any old materials they have learned months or years earlier and forgotten. All of these could be done without wasting the “instructor’s” time. In effect, having lectures in form of video solves the problem of limited time an instructor may have (Khan). The student can go back and watch the material as many time as he/she wishes, something that could not be done before. But this introduces an even more interesting opportunity.

Because lectures can now be in video form, students do not have to be in class to listen to live lectures. But more importantly, according to Tom Merritt from “Tech News Today”, having prerecorded lectures means that instructors can now save huge amounts of time that they would be spending giving the same lectures to various classes year after year. That typical 50 minutes of class no longer needs to be spent in giving lectures. Those 50 minutes can now be used for an interactive learning experience. Now, teachers can assign lectures for homework and do “homework” exercises in class (Merritt, et al.) This means that teachers can now be there to guide students with homework problems and have discussions from course materials that the students did not fully understand from the assigned lecture. This eliminates many of the complaints students bring up about homework, such as difficulty in understanding problems or concepts. With the new model, teachers will be readily available should a student get stuck on particular problems.

Having homework exercises done in class with student and teacher interactions has a very positive impact on student engagement in the classroom, in contrast to the lack of engagement during one-way lectures. Studies in Higher Educations found that “Developing a course curriculum that engages students requires a shift away from the lecture-based delivery model to a more interactive and student-centred mode ofteaching. A conventional, teacher-centred course might involve the transmission of concepts required for the syllabus, or the transmission of knowledge from the lecturer, with few opportunities for student interaction and little regard for students’ existing knowledge of a topic. However, an engaging curriculum would focus on the students’ understanding of the subject matter with a vision to help the students develop those views” (763). The Urban Review also reports that “during group work, students spoke more among themselves about academic issues and reported positive feelings about the class…[and they] felt that they were learning something new, while the perceived difficulty of the tasks was not compromised” (35). These studies do make it apparent that a more interactive classroom allows for more student engagement. However, there are a few issues that have been raised with the new reform.

With any change, both pros and cons must be evaluated. There have been some issues that have been brought up, including one that I believe is worth mentioning. The news panel from “Tech News Today” points out that lectures being assigned as homework could mean that some students will likely not watch the assigned lectures and fall behind in materials. In live classroom lectures, students usually have to sit through the lecture, which will no longer be the case should prerecorded lectures be assigned (Merritt, et al.). There is a logical answer to this problem, however. At a TED Conference, Salman Khan presented an interactive online software that monitors a student’s progress, including which lecture videos the students have watched. This enables instructors actually see if the student is committed to the assigned lectures (Khan). Furthermore, Tom Merritt from “Tech News Today” argues that there is only so much the system can help a student. The student should make the initiative as well. Even in the current system, students are falling behind due to lack of motivation or seriousness. (Merritt, et al.) In fact, students may become more motivated with a more interactive classroom, with only having to watch a video for “homework”.

The advancement in technology has made possible a revolutionary way to enhance education. Suddenly teachers can now have lot more time and freedom to interact and engage with students rather than give monologue lectures. With the new method, new opportunities open as to how to achieve the ultimate goal that both students and teachers hold: to attain knowledge. Indeed, this new approach is still in its infancy, and this means that more new and creative teaching and learning methods will be discovered as we try to explore this uncharged area. Perhaps in 10 to 15 years, the educational system might be run in a way that is beyond our imaginations today. But for this to happen, we need to move forward. Technology is a tool, and we can use the tool to maximize efficiency. It is time to reimagine how we educate humanity and make it more effective with the new advances in technology we are enjoying.

Works Cited

Exeter, Daniel J., et al. “Student engagement in very large classes: the teachers’ perspective.” Studies in Higher Education. 7th ed. Vol. 35. N.p.: Taylor & Francis, 2010. 761-775. Academic Search Complete. Web. 13 Mar. 2012. <http://ehis.ebscohost.com.library.icc.edu/‌ehost/‌detail?vid=6&hid=101&sid=fac69ffb-1222-4cbc-8b85-ee07b79e6f43%40sessionmgr114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=54329717&gt;.

Khan, Salman. “Salman Khan: Let’s use video to reinvent education.” TED. YouTube. Web. 9 Mar. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/‌watch?v=nTFEUsudhfs&gt;.

Merritt, Tom, et al. “Tech News Today 455: The Heart Of LTE Is In Cleveland.” TWiT. San Francisco, CA . 12 Mar. 2012. TWiT. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <http://twit.tv/‌show/‌tech-news-today/‌455&gt;.

Uekawa, Kazuaki, Kathryn Borman, and Reginald Lee. “Student Engagement in U.S. Urban High School Mathematics and Science Classrooms: Findings on Social Organization, Race, and Ethnicity.” Urban Review. Vol. 39. N.p.: Springer Science & Business Media B.V., 2007. 1-43. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 Mar. 2012. <http://ehis.ebscohost.com.library.icc.edu/‌ehost/‌detail?vid=6&hid=101&sid=fac69ffb-1222-4cbc-8b85-ee07b79e6f43%40sessionmgr114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=24940294&gt;.

WILSON, JAN, and JOHN RHODES. “Student Prospective on Homework.” Education. 2nd ed. Vol. 131. N.p.: Project Innovation, Inc., 2010. 351-358. MasterFILE Premier. Web. 17 Mar. 2012. <http://ehis.ebscohost.com.library.icc.edu/‌ehost/‌detail?vid=11&hid=101&sid=fac69ffb-1222-4cbc-8b85-ee07b79e6f43%40sessionmgr114&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=f5h&AN=59347970&gt;.

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