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Saturday, 5 January 2013

Tracking Trends in Education

As someone who not only teaches in a cutting-edge school but also reads alot of education-related books and blogs, I have noticed major ways in which the education field is changing. Here is a list of changes that I have noticed over the last decade -- both in my own experiences at a range of schools and in my encounters with books, blogs, and other education materials. The list applies mostly to Western schools/International Schools, although Asian school systems (particularly Singapore's) seem increasingly influenced by these trends as well.  Some of these trends, I think, make sense; others upset me and make me worry that we're throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


What's Out:
- Handwriting; Cursive is no longer taught in many American and International schools
- Formal instruction in grammar and punctuation (taught on an "as you need it" basis, if it's taught at all.)
- Shared texts that are studied and analyzed by an entire class, followed by papers and assessments.

What's In:
- Lots of creative "self-expression" and autobiographical writing
- Word processing, digital literacy, and blogs
-Writer's workshops where kids peer-edit each others work
- Independent reading and "reader's workshops"; more time for kids to read in class, and less reading assigned for homework.
- Kids read at their own level and their own pace (as opposed to all kids reading the same text).
- "Visual literacy" - analyzing you-tube videos, movie clips, and photographs


What's Out:
- Standard Algorithms
- Individual practice of foundational math concepts until mastery is attained.
- Paper and pen math (worksheets and workbooks)

What's In:
- Kids should invent their own methods to solve problems
- Kids should find multiple ways of solving the same problem
- Kids should work in groups
- Exposure to concepts but no expectation of mastery
-Computer games as a teaching tool
- Increased use of technology: calculators, computers, i-pads etc.


What's Out:
- Memorization of core content knowledge that will be assessed on a test
- Textbooks

What's In:
- Discussions and projects that use primary sources
- Personal and creative responses/journals and reflections.


What's Out:
- Discipline and Focus
- Time in Nature
- Humility
- Depth of knowledge  on a subject/teaching to mastery
- Teacher centered classroom (The teacher is no longer the revered "expert" or the "sage on the stage.")
- Any kind of lecture-based direct instruction (unless it happens in a video that kids can watch).

What's In:
- Flipping the classroom (kids watch video-lectures at home independently and then engage in projects/discussions at school a  la Salman Khan and the Khan Academy. I just finished Kahn's book -- very interesting.)
- Peer-editing, peer-teaching, peer-everything: Kids teach themselves and each other with the aid of technology (who needs teachers these days?)
- Multitasking
- Lots of screen time
- Technological proficiency
- Abundant confidence (arrogance?) and entitlement  amongst kids; schools do everything they can to empower kids 
- Greater breadth of knowledge, but far less depth (Kids today get more "exposure" but less depth; the goal is to give kids a taste of lots of things without pushing them to "master" anything.)
- Learner centered classroom (The kids do most of the work, and the teacher plays the role of a "guide on the side" or a "facilitator.")