Last night the kids and I were across the street at another family’s house for dinner. Their kids are the same age as my daughter and son and often stay for dinner at our house. Last night after dinner we got to talking about the current state of education and how we can better educate our kids. Both the husband and wife have careers in the creative fields and are big supporters of STEM.
The conversation got me thinking about the role of parents in guiding their children in education but also how technology changes the game.
My wife and I religiously go to “Back to School Night” and attend every teacher conference. We are in routine contact with the teachers through email and we give our kids plenty of secondary education as well (Chinese and German language classes).
My daughter just started 6th grade and she was excited and nervous to finally go to a “big” school. We visited her school and met all her teachers during the Back to School Night a few weeks ago. Now she has to navigate the hallways to get to her classes and remember her locker combination. She has all the normal classes like French, Math, Science, Social Studies, and PE, but there are subtle and interesting differences than when I was in school.
Of course, I didn’t expect things to stay the same from when I was in 6th grade - I expected some technological enhancements - but what I didn’t expect was just how intertwined things got.
Her French teacher emails her twice a week with a link to online lesson plans. There she can access French-English word flashcards, listen to an mp3 sound out the French word, and take “quizzes” to gauge her progress. She has the standard math textbook but it stays home and is used for reference. Her math homework is done online and submitted to her teacher. She has three tries to get the answer right and then it records it.
She even has a Research class that meets once a week where the students learn how to use the Internet to research, evaluate, and properly reference material.
The funny thing about this? She doesn’t complain about doing her homework. She accesses her work online through her iPhone and does her homework. She takes to education enabled by technology like a fish to water.
What my daughter doesn’t realize is that her education is slowly becoming customized. While the average American complains about Common Core and how it doesn’t make sense to them. Now, entrepreneurs are figuring out ways to customize learning to each child.
Children and adults all learn at different paces and in different ways. Some people and children are visual learners, others auditory, and some learn by doing (tactile learning). Why, then, should the “one sized fits all” method of education be applied to all children?
While I’m not an education expert, I do believe that everyone can learn and have a rich education. The hard part is figuring out how each child learns and I believe the computer is the way forward.
Auditory learners can easily access podcasts or mp3’s to listen to. Computers are perfect ways for visual learners to access material, and tactile learners can just start writing code or building projects with a Raspberry Pi or Arduino.
Now, more than ever, online courses are available for free. You can access materials on Python Programming, Anthropology, Art, Humanities, Data Science, anything you can dream of. High School students can access these college courses and get a headstart on “higher learning.” Our High School offers online courses to its students that want to learn a particular course BUT wouldn’t be available because they couldn’t fill an entire classroom with students.
This is the key.
Education enabled by technology frees you from the constraints of filling up a classroom with students just to justify the course’s existence! Now you can have a class filled with students, each one of them learning something different specifically geared for them.
We truly live in amazing times.
A lot has happened since I first wrote this post. COVID19 has smashed its way through our lives and disrupted the public education system. We closed down schools in a fast way in March and went completely virtual. For some strange reason, there’s a race to open schools with a full-blown epidemic. I’m not holding my breath here but educating our youth MUST GO ON.
I plan on making a long update to this post soon but I recently learned of ‘microschooling’ using learning pods. I find this concept interesting because of its decentralized nature. Still much more research needs to be done on my end to come up with a conclusion.