By Frank Lucisano
Education is a topic held close to most people’s hearts. Ask anyone about their views on education and, although they may be wide and varied, most are passionate about their opinions on what should and should not be taught. Some think that school can be a waste of time; others would do anything to go back and learn more.
Teaching for Tomorrow
What is usually agreed upon is that education is about passing on knowledge and skills, from one person to another, for benefit and use at a later time. This helps enrich students’ lives and also the community and world around them. So, knowing that, educators can ask the question, “Is the current format and system of education processes delivering those results? Are educators teaching for tomorrow, or are they teaching for today? Or worse still, for yesterday?”
Here is something to ponder. Are schools currently teaching students to handwrite? Obviously, the answer would be yes and rightly so. It is an absolutely essential skill and being literate is part of the social construct. However, are schools teaching students to touch-type? Currently, in most cases the answer is no. Now go back to the original goal of education; to pass on knowledge and skills for benefit and use at a later time. Does the average child communicate (and will communicate in the future) through written or typed language more often? Why is writing taught so early, but typing is not taught until well into high school (if at all)? The reason is simply that there is an outdated and inadequately revised curriculum in place that is designed to teach for a world that has since moved on. Perhaps it is time to sit down and re-think what skills the next generation of students need to be equipped with for their lives to be as productive as possible.
Fortunately, many schools are now embracing changes and implementing new programs within their schools. Are readers’ schools one of these? If not, why not? Education should not be about comfortable, easy-to-deliver information. It is hard work, ever changing and just too important to not put every bit of effort into.
Teach a Man to Fish…
Everyone knows the old saying, ‘Give a man a fish, he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, he eats for a lifetime’. Education should have this focus and not be centred on specific skills that might not provide benefits at a later date. There is a wealth of data and information at society’s fingertips and students should have a strong focus on learning how to research and parse this information rather than trying to boost their memories. Perhaps one part of a reviewed assessment strategy should also therefore be to make students focused on research skills rather than who has the greatest recall skill.
Why are most examinations not open book? Why cannot students take their computers into a test? In real-world situations, are people rarely so cut off from information that they cannot ask a question on how to do something? The first thing most people do when they need to learn something is head over to Google.com. This is the real world today and presumably the world today’s students will live in tomorrow. To be clear, this is not a recommendation for leaving the old system completely. There are obvious benefits and time of necessity to memory-based learning and retention of knowledge. However, students should be learning for the real world they live in and assessed based on how their lives will be lived. Exams should be made open book, with computers at hand, but also more difficult but relevant by asking something so wildly specific to test students’ understanding of working out what it is exactly they are looking for. They will need to assess where they may find that information and lastly, and perhaps most importantly, to assess the quality and validity of what they find. Is this not the most efficient and useful skill for someone to acquire for nearly every facet of their future lives? Why are educators still forcing students to memorise pages and pages of information that often end up either useless or out of date? Education is about empowerment, so why not give students research skills?
Computers — a Tool to be Exploited
This can all be achieved by learning how to master the use of a computer. A computer can be an amazing research hub. With the world’s knowledge searchable via many search engines, there is little excuse to not know basic facts about the world. Educators should upskill their students to be able to fully utilise this tool by effectively using this method of communication and teach them how to type to do that efficiently. As educators, inspire students to learn and dream about what is achievable.
This is where learning computer science can be more than just about learning to code. Many advocates of code face rebuttal by saying “not everyone can be (or wants to be) a programmer”. Precisely, but computer science and ICT education can be about so much more. It is about a wide and far ranging suite of knowledge, applications and topics. It is about well thought out processes and is based squarely around logic and problem solving. And therein is the key – problem solving. Computer science teaches students to identify the problem, outline the goal and research the solution, which is exactly what educators all want their students to be able to do in their lives. Regardless if it relates to academic pursuits, careers, family life or society and culture, learning how to efficiently identify with this framework of problem solving can only be beneficial. By showing them that the computer is a tool and not just a glorified portable TV, educators can equip students with the ability to harness that power. If a person has a problem – research it. Individually or collaboratively, with education centred on research, the benefits are enormous.
Perhaps if the education system and processes are slightly refined, educators can give students the skills and knowledge to build a better world for themselves and society for tomorrow.
Frank Lucisano is the CEO and founder of ScopeIT Education, which focuses on furthering the available curriculum for Australian and international students with comprehensive and structured syllabus that is aligned to the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards (NSW) to help schools deliver 21st century education to their students.