General interest and philanthropy media platform GOOD produced a short documentary on the future of learning which features some top innovators in the educational technology space. The documentary provides a hodge-podge of viewpoints about revamping education with the objective of anticipating the kind of world students inherit. Check out some of the highlights below and be sure to set aside 12 minutes to watch this documentary.
Ntiedo “NT” Etuk
Etuk is CEO of DimensionU (formerly Tabula Digita), a suite of games focusing on core K-12 subjects. He opens the documentary by claiming the popular educational models of today don’t inspire motivation in students. But students, he says, have the tendency to motivate themselves. The documentary references the motivating power of video games in an educational context. Etuk points out that when introduced to new games, children practice a try/fail/try/fail behavior, playing the game for longer and longer time periods until they achieve mastery. He believes this kind of self-motivated interactive model has a place in education.
Khan points out his videos can be used individually or in the classroom and encourages students to work at their own pace. He also cautions teachers against using the latest technology simply in addition to the current educational model without putting forth effort to change it. Educators must fundamentally change the content and the delivery system in order to make the best use of technology in the classroom. “If the content is truly fascinating, it should be reflected in the energy and voice of the deliverer and it should be obvious to the student,” he said. “They shouldn’t have to have a rap song about a parabola to get excited about it.”
Perhaps the most compelling of the speakers in the documentary is Calcutta-born Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University who delivers some of the documentary’s most intriguing viewpoints. He offers a theory that arithmetic as it is commonly taught today is an obsolete skill left over from the Victorian era when sameness and conformity were the objectives of education. He likens the current method of teaching arithmetic to the now-extinct instruction of how to ride a horse, swing a sword or shoot a rifle in battle. “These are now sports,” he says. “In 2061, will arithmetic become a sport?”
Mitra is best known for his 1999 “Hole in the Wall” experiment, in which a computer was placed in a slum in India for children to discover. Mitra observed children learning independently with the computer, proving that kids could be taught by computers very easily without any formal training. Today, he points out that “the absence of the teacher in the presence of the internet can become a pedagogical tool.”
He caps off the documentary by looking toward the future. The year will be 2031 when a present-day five-year-old reaches adulthood. “Can any teacher say that they are preparing that child for 2031, for an unknown world?” he asks. He points out that teachers must deliver a modified curriculum which focuses on skills that anticipate the kind of world children of today will face. Reading comprehension, he points out, is the most critical skill that can be taught to a generation of students who will read and obtain information from screens for the rest of their lives.
Mitra examines the mechanism inside our adult minds that allow us to retrieve and judge information on our own. “How early in a child’s life can we put that in there? If we can do it early, then we will have armed that child against doctrine,” he says, cautioning against the codification of beliefs or a body of conformist teachings. “I think our job as educators, our biggest job in today’s information-saturated world is to give the child an armor against doctrine, just as in another generation we used to teach the child how to fight with a sword and how to ride a horse.”