This is the end?

The conference “Shaping the Future 4” organized by our colleagues from Mindcet in Tel Aviv provided stimulating thoughts on the future of education.

Could we envisage the future of education without teachers? Rose Luckin raised the conflictive issue of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education. Will AI eventually substitute teachers? Is this the end of education?

Her latest publication ”Intelligence Unleashed” cowritten with Wayne Holmes identifies instead several scenarios under which teachers’ expertise will be strengthened thanks to AI. In a nutshell, AI should help “developing teacher expertise, addressing teacher retention, and providing respite where teacher shortages are acute”. Even more importantly, AI should help understand the learners better.

Rose and Wayne address a crucial topic: teachers’ time. Time shortage comes always as the first item to explain teachers’ resistance to change. AI could help overcome time shortage by for instance reducing time needed for grading or time needed to identify the adequate learning resources. More time should enable teachers to teach better, pay more individual attention to learners. AI could help freeing up teachers from daily bureaucratic constraints to help them concentrate on teaching. When writing this piece, I realize how absurd it may seem to think of teachers doing anything else than teaching… But this is the reality!

Captura de pantalla 2017-04-16 a las 19.38.32

Freeing up the teachers is only part of the debate on innovation in education. Turning education into a continuous conversation is even more challenging.

David Weinberger insists on the growing role of knowledge networks. In a recent MOOC he reminded us of the importance of conversation as an innovative learning model. The network model enables learner to engage fruitfully in network conversation, instead for instance of learning together as part of a collaborative model. As networks question the meaning of knowledge, learners are challenged to acquire new skills of problem solving and critical thinking.

Learning will therefore experiment a drastic change departing the private sphere towards the public one and resulting in a gigantic network where we are all learners and teachers.

Opening up the classroom will mean for all teachers and students joining public conversations that will ultimately make everyone smarter.

Is this the end of education or a new beginning?

School is boring!

School is boring!

How often have we heard this sentence!  Googling the expression will give more than 60 million results.

Most education “innovators” start with the same statement “school is boring” and end up with the same conclusion ” let’s change it”.

But our innovators arrive late. Let’s look back in history for a moment.

For centuries, brillant educators have introduced innovative methods and practices based on a simple conviction: school shouldn’t be boring!

Saint Augustine in the fourth century defined education as “a process of posing problems and seeking answers through conversation”.

The Saint Augustine Taken to School by Saint Monica. by Niccolò di Pietro 1413-15

The Saint Augustine Taken to School by Saint Monica. by Niccolò di Pietro 1413-15

After him, Swedish educator Ellen Key, German education reformer Kurt Hahn, Italian paediatrician Maria Montessori, Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, French educator, Célestin Freinet, British visionary A.S. Neil, Catalan anarchist Francisco Ferrer y Guardia, American psychologist John Dewey, Brazilian educator Paulo Freire all envisaged education as a dialogue, flowing from learner to teachers and back.

Their ideas and methods are however still considered as marginal and categorized as  “alternative” as no other words seem to fit them.

We are prompt nowadays to celebrate any innovation in education, advocate for education entrepreneurship but we forget the truly disruptive nature of innovation, i.e. restore freedom to learn and freedom to teach as a central component of any education system.

Students and teachers require after all two basic “rights” to do their jobs right: engage into continuous dialogue and be free to learn and teach.

All education innovators should help strengthening these basic rights.

 

Good teaching is truly magical

Good teaching is truly magical

Magic in the classroom happens thanks to the teachers, the true magicians! Edtech entrepreneurs have often a hard time understanding that it is not enough to tell how boring learning is to provoke changes. Changes must be built out of consensus between all parties involved. One intangible feature of the learning process remains the classroom. Design may be more or less creative. Accessibility and connectivity may vary. But the classroom remains the center of attraction for students, teachers and parents.

What can we do to make the classroom a better place to teach and learn? How can we help the teacher pay attention to a (too) large group of students, maintain the group cohesion and at the same time make his or her teaching as personalized as possible to take care of the classroom diversity? How can we help the teachers do better his or her work (and not take his or her place!).

Some innovative tools have been designed to do just this: help teachers teach better. It sounds too simple to be true.

Take the example of Unio by Harness, an innovative teaching tool proposed by a startup in which P.A.U. Education has invested. Unio by Harness came out of a design thinking process with teachers. Some would say: what a strange idea to involve teachers in the innovation process!

Teachers require key supporting features to gain time, raise attention and concentrate on the most needed students. They want to be able to better plan their class, communicate the main contents in advance to the students, structure their teaching around activities they have designed themselves, control how their students learn but without imposing the learning pace, let group work develop and encourage peer learning.

This is exactly where technology can help and this is what Unio by Harness does. But technology is useless if not piloted by the teacher from the very beginning. The teacher has to decide which technology he or she wants to use, in a given context and for a given purpose.

Teachers that have chosen Unio by Harness are just pretending to do their job better. This is truly magical!

 

You have said “INNOVATE IN EDUCATION”?

Innovation in education is often seen as a commitment at improving the quality of education.

But what does it mean to educate?

To this essential question, the French geneticist and humanist Albert Jacquard answers “E-ducere” that is to say “to awaken the appetite, to create needs, to raise questions”. “Education must be lived as a commitment in the collective game where men and women – (Jacquard called them“lucid men”) – build themselves mutually.”

albert jacquard

This vision of education takes us far away from the classroom where it usually stays and brings new perspectives to innovators in education.

The challenge is to (re)think of education as a global solution to meet the following three objectives:

  • “Awakening the appetite” – thanks to communication and awareness-raising
  •  “Creating needs” – applying participatory methodology and design thinking
  •  “Raising questions” – with user-generated contents

Innovation in education in this context means much more than “anyone, anywhere, anytime”.

Education is a dialogue, an innovative form of communication that must favor the creative and constructive appropriation by ALL the inhabitants of the planet and above all by the younger generations of ALL the themes vital to our future.

Education relies in this new context on a “pedagogy of the question” and not on prefabricated answers or ready to use technology with pre-existing contents.

Education requires the participation of all in the construction of the common good.

Education is thus the means of sensitizing and provoking the participation of the greatest number on each of the subjects that condition the quality of our lives and our “living together”.

Education is therefore a tool of social transformation enabling individuals, starting with the youngest, to become aware of problems that are essential to them, to move forward with behavioral changes and to influence the behavior of the community in which they live.

Innovators in education have no other choice than to contribute to this social transformation. Are they aware of it?

The new magicians

Technology in the classroom could pretend to transform learning into an almost magical process connecting teachers and learners between them and to the knowledge they need.

The edtech entrepreneurs present themselves as the new magicians that push back the frontiers of learning, introduce new algorithms to predict how, what and when any person will be ready to learn.

They strengthen the importance of learning for life achievements and at the same time completely change its meaning. Learning for them is not only an aspirational concept but a core component of their business plan. Many of these new magicians just would like to transform learning into gold!

The GESA (coorganized by the israeli incubator Mindcet and the Open Education Challenge (created by P.A.U. Education) is the global stage where the new magicians from all around the world present their most recent tricks. One thousand applications from 70 countries and six continents offer the education analyst a vibrant panorama of the current state of the art in learning innovation.

freepick.com

freepick.com

Some applications have already a taste of “déjà vu”: taking 20 bites of contents, 50 bytes of technology and mixing them up… Others introduce augmented reality for learning purposes, creating a white rabbit that speaks like a teacher… They haven’t succeeded yet in transforming learning into gold and their startups are still struggling to define a viable business model.

Magic doesn’t work for all. But the best magicians have realized that it takes much more than magic to succeed. Their genuine ambition is to respond to real needs and serve real people living in real life. Their commitment is with the learners and the teachers and they are ready to postpone their money making dreams until they will have created genuine value and measured impact.

GESA finalists believe in the magic of words and crafts, of music, books and toys. They understand the social challenge that lies behind each learning innovation. They don’t establish a business model out of the blue but aim at connecting with the learners and make a difference for them.

The best education magicians don’t pretend to transform learning into gold. They simply believe in people’s aspirations to learn more and have a better life… They have understood that an edtech entrepreneur has to reconcile social aspirations and market opportunities.

They are prepared to bring evidences of their impact. This will be truly magical!

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