The Purpose of Education – a two-sided perspective #purposedu

I have now been a mother for close to three years – my son is a bundle of joy and energy and he also drives me crazy at times :).

On the other hand, I have been an educator for more than 14 years now, with the last three working with pre-service teachers at the Faculty of Education, University of Malta.

Up until 3 years ago, my views on Education were pretty much simple. I used to say, kids deserve good Education – and then I used to stop there. I do think that I used to do my bit – I always believed in an educational design that places the learner at the focus of teaching.

However now I say, kids DESERVE good EDUCATION – and I don’t stop there! Suddenly there is much more passion in my phrase, my voice has gotten louder and I panic at the thought of what I can do – what I must do – to give my son the type of Education that can make him a better person.

Because ultimately, that is what I believe the Purpose of Education is to make people better persons. Now this is easier said than done. Up until a few years ago, a better person meant a person with bits of paper called certificates. A person with certificates was better because he earned respect from others.

In today’s world, a million certificates won’t make a difference. What makes a difference in today’s world is if you manage to create something that can somehow, in one way or another, help others. I am not really talking about the global good of the world – that is fine – but what is really needed in today’s world are people who can solve problems before they even crop up. We need people who think…people who use their brains… people who are creative… people who challenge the status quo around them…people who challenge the way Education is being done – better people!

I don’t want my son to grow up in the same Educational system that I went through. I really dislike people saying “It worked for me you know…why shouldn’t it work for the youngsters!” – DUH – could it be that it won’t work because the world has changed?? could it be that in the 1980’s and early 1990’s, especially in Malta, the best job a woman (especially) could aspire to was that of either working at a bank as a clerk, or as a teacher (with all due respect) as the working hours coincided perfectly with family responsibilities? Could it be that NOW this is different, and that people need to be empowered to believe, that they can do anything which they are really set on?

Now, as a mother, I want my son to get an Education that makes him believe in himself and makes him appreciate what he can do for the others.

As an educator, now, I want an Education worth fighting for, worth believing in – because collectively we need to help others become better people.

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Lecturer in Malta bans laptops in classrooms…the story…my thoughts.

So this morning we had this story being reported in the local newspaper: ‘Lecturer bans personal computers from classes: Student blames distraction on ‘excruciatingly boring’ lecture‘ – after a short while the University issued an update: University encourages use of technology!

Well from an academic perspective I feel it’s rather embarrassing for us as academics at Higher Education, that we’re still propagating this kind of teaching – that we’re the fountain of knowledge – and hence students “can not” learn unless they sit back in a seat and listen for a couple of hours at a stretch. It seems that many share this kind of “vision” (??!!) for teaching – and we’re talking about Higher Education, whatever that means.

I feel one of my greater battles is to break through this kind of mentality.

From a researcher’s perspective, on the other hand, I find this attitude from other academics quite interesting to observe. On the one hand, many people – I mean colleagues – talk about the levels which our students need to achieve or the levels of ‘critical thinking’ that our society demands. At this point, if we listen to some of the greatest speakers of today like Ken Robinson, John Seely Brown, Jane McGonigal…we often hear about how our society has changed and is still changing and about how we need to have people out there in the workforce who are able to solve problems before they even come up.

And yet, on the other hand, we keep on hearing about stories such as this one, where at Higher Education, we still have academics who teach as though they think that without them people will not learn, or that they will provide learners with all solutions. My opinion at this point is this… whether we accept it or not, people’s access to information today is widespread – what people want to learn they will, what people don’t find any necessity of learning, they will not learn. It is useless making our learners sit in front of us, even if they are literally ‘cadavers’ sitting through a lecture, listening passively.

We can never stop people from getting lost in ‘neverland’. Does this mean that we can all pack up and leave? Certainly not. My proposed solution? Let’s get our learners’ brains to work, let us get them to actively participate in whatever we would like them to achieve – let’s get them to solve problems. Let us stop talking. Let us start acting. My two cents? Students are right to get bored if academics do not stop talking. Maybe we, as academics, should revisit the way we teach, and start, instead, addressing the needs of the world.

Digital Learning Futures – a great address by Prof Steve Wheeler

It has been some time now that I have been following Professor Steve Wheeler’s work in learning technologies and Educational technologies. Today I have stumbled across one of his most recent addresses. I think that no more comments are needed from my end.

Digital learning futuresSteve Wheeler, Associate Professor of Learning Technology, Plymouth University

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