Some progress last year.

You know, this past couple of months I’ve been trying to tell these kids that the world is suddenly speeding up and there’s just not much time to waste pretending that 5 years from now, the world is going to look the same like it was 5 years ago. I’ve been trying to show them how to move beyond basic use of computer and look at the potential in 21st Century learning.It’s not all in vain. A couple of students went to buy laptops. I’m thinking 1 or 2 more will be getting a laptop by the end of the year.

One of my best students, an 11 year old boy, was a whiz at his Lenovo and already had quite a few posts from 2 weeks ago when I first taught him how to start a wordpress blog. He’s asking questions like how to customize it, where to go if he wants to do this or that, what’s this and that for, etc.

Last week, I started by showing what a wiki is and how I’m using a wiki for lessons. He went through the whole lesson by himself and instead of keying in questions, asked me verbally. (Of course, I made myself available to him,) After that was done, I asked him, “OK, what do you want to do next?” He said, “I want to learn about Pyramids.”

See, a few months ago while doing a levelled reader, he was fascinated by the rituals of mummification and the mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Had he not had a chance to be exposed to quality reading materials (which I obtained overseas) he wouldn’t have realized that he showed quite a gift for both history and physics. Because of his grounding in reading (I’ve been teaching him since before he entered primary school) and critical thinking, he could now decide which YouTube videos were credible, which weren’t. I showed him how to find, validate information, how to assess the quality of videos based on the source, ratings, comments and how to confirm the source, etc, etc.

Each time I look at 2 of these boys, I am amazed at their reading and cognitive maturity. In school, they are very average students and they go to the same Chinese-school ritual the rest of my older students go to. But they exhibited such strong self-directedness and critical thinking on top of a developed language instinct where they are able to “pick up” new words they hear and sift them from the rest of the rapid speech that’s going on to ask, “What does….mean?”

Anyway, one topic was connected to another and we even discussed Microsoft’s Intelligent Interface technology, etc, etc. It was organic, it was meaningful, and it was engaging. Learning was dynamic, interactive and the topics were diverse and relevant to the learner.

This is whole language development at its Element. I’m sure that within months, I would be able to seed his learning to such an extent that by the time he is 12, he would outperform, both in technological skills, language and complex cognitive skills, people twice his age.

The funny thing about Intangible Knowledge is that it cannot be learned from books and you never know when a window for learning one thing is going to close and how important that lost opportunity was going to be for your future learning.

I truly believe that parents are a child’s first teacher; if you simply do not have parents who are properly informed and forward-looking, there’s nothing an outsourced educator can achieve  with the learner.

So, remember this the next time you don’t treat what I teach about future learning and technology with a sense of urgency : The funny thing about Intangible Knowledge is that it cannot be learned from books and you never know when a window for learning one thing is going to close and how important that lost opportunity was going to be to open the next window for your future learning. You never know when you have passed by an opportunity that would’ve led to an opportunity until it becomes a habit where your brain does not pick up important threads anymore.

That’s the price students pay for cramming “book knowledge” for exams. As time goes by, the burden of carrying that knowledge around is going to weigh you down while others will simply rise above you. What is the goal of education anyway? And what is the goal of pursuing ESL? Is the goal of education to prepare you to be more the same of those teachers and students who have gone through the education system before you? Or is the goal of education to prepare you for the future?

Here’s a quote by Jean Piaget : The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done; men who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify, and not accept, everything they are offered.

But let’s  be honest, the students I teach don’t want to be capable of doing new things. None have even showed me the books they were supposed to go back and complete. I had told them, “OK, looks like you can manage this book on your own….go back and do it and ask me what you don’t know. I’ll upload the answers during the December holidays.”  They still expect me to tell them which page to open, which pages to do. They never even challenged themselves to go through the whole book on their own, create new questions from it or engage the class in their opinion of what they’ve learned. They carry these books to class EVERY WEEK which really proves the point of educators of how students have “book knowledge that is heavy to carry around” but not knowledge they know how to use.

Some students may think I have very high expectations of them but I would like you to take a look around the world and find me one school, one university that can produce competitive students where the teachers had low expectations of the learners.

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Filed under Context : the thoughts behind the blog., ESL in Asia, Future of Education

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