Education as a Science

Science is defined as “the intellectual and practical activity that encompasses the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”. Science relies on the accumulation of previously acquired knowledge. Scientists collaborate and learn from one another. They observe, test and experiment so that new knowledge can be obtained.

Now contrast that with Education. When it comes to Education, dogma trumps evidence and strongly held beliefs win over testing, experimentation and innovation. Whereas in Science they tinker, tweak and fix, in Education we prefer to say “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Science is defined as “the intellectual and practical activity that encompasses the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment”. Science relies on the accumulation of previously acquired knowledge. Scientists collaborate and learn from one another. They observe, test and experiment so that new knowledge can be obtained.

Now contrast that with Education. When it comes to Education, dogma trumps evidence and strongly held beliefs win over testing, experimentation and innovation. Whereas in Science they tinker, tweak and fix, in Education we prefer to say “if ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

Blinkered by the here and now

In our age, when men seem more than ever prone to confuse wisdom with knowledge, and knowledge with information, and try to solve problems of life in terms of engineering, there is coming into existence a new kind of provincialism, not of space, but of time; one for which history is merely the chronicle of human devices which served their turn and have been scrapped, one for which the world is the property solely of the living, a property in which the dead hold no shares.

In this passage, TS Eliot denounces what he termed temporal provincialism, a phenomenon by which we undervalue past experiences in favour of the present and the instant gratification it promises.

In our age, when men seem more than ever prone to confuse wisdom with knowledge, and knowledge with information, and try to solve problems of life in terms of engineering, there is coming into existence a new kind of provincialism, not of space, but of time; one for which history is merely the chronicle of human devices which served their turn and have been scrapped, one for which the world is the property solely of the living, a property in which the dead hold no shares.

In this passage, TS Eliot denounces what he termed temporal provincialism, a phenomenon by which we undervalue past experiences in favour of the present and the instant gratification it promises.

It is about the technology!

One hundred years ago, crossing the Atlantic took five days and travelling to the other side of the world took weeks, if not months. So, one hundred years ago, you could not have said to your friend in New York See you tonight or See you tomorrow to your friend in Sidney, because seeing them so soon just wasn’t possible.

But then came the technology and with it the ability to do the seemingly impossible.

One of our favourite adages in education has always been that technology is just a tool, that the technology doesn’t really matter and what matters is the teaching. But the technology does matter and it isn’t just a tool because, as history shows, technology has made possible the impossible time and again.

If we don’t place technology at the heart of our strategic planning and understand its transformational potential, then we’ll forever have to make do with the possible.

It’s not just about the teaching, it’s also about the technology. And let’s not forget that. Don’t you think?

One hundred years ago, crossing the Atlantic took five days and travelling to the other side of the world took weeks, if not months. So, one hundred years ago, you could not have said to your friend in New York See you tonight or See you tomorrow to your friend in Sidney, because seeing them so soon just wasn’t possible.

But then came the technology and with it the ability to do the seemingly impossible.

One of our favourite adages in education has always been that technology is just a tool, that the technology doesn’t really matter and what matters is the teaching. But the technology does matter and it isn’t just a tool because, as history shows, technology has made possible the impossible time and again.

If we don’t place technology at the heart of our strategic planning and understand its transformational potential, then we’ll forever have to make do with the possible.

It’s not just about the teaching, it’s also about the technology. And let’s not forget that. Don’t you think?

Knowing your Students

Over the past two years I have been making a case for the constructive use of online social networking tools in education. This is an area of study, however, that engenders strong opinions both against and in favour of the use of social media for teaching and learning. Those in favour generally focus on the perceived benefits of improved communication among members of the school community, whilst those against tend to focus on instances of inappropriate use to justify their stance.

My own opinion is that schools ought to embrace social networking not just as a means of communication, but rather as the catalyst to transform the way we teach and learn – so you can count me in the in favour camp. This opinion is shaped by both academic research and classroom practice, and it is this marrying up of research and practice that led me to ask myself a year ago how much I actually knew about my students’ use of online social networking tools.

It suddenly struck me that schools were producing rules and regulations governing the use of social media without really understanding what role, if any, social media played in the life of their students. It struck me that anyone who was in charge of strategic planning for teaching and learning – at classroom, faculty or school level – had the responsibility to make informed decisions regarding the use of social media as a teaching and learning tool.

Yet, despite lacking crucial information, teachers, schools, educational authorities and governments, by and large, continue to ignore the fact that those entering secondary education today do not remember a life before social media. There is only a handful of schools out there that are learning by using social media and adapting their user agreements and codes of conduct to reflect new realities, in which new technologies ensure that knowledge is no longer exclusively accessible within the school walls or imparted by a single person and that this knowledge can be accessed on demand by anyone, anywhere.

So, with this in mind and with the support of my school, a year ago I decided to inform myself and ask my students a few questions to try and understand their habits and attitudes towards social networking. You may be surprised at some of the findings. Here is what they had to say:

Over the past two years I have been making a case for the constructive use of online social networking tools in education. This is an area of study, however, that engenders strong opinions both against and in favour of the use of social media for teaching and learning. Those in favour generally focus on the perceived benefits of improved communication among members of the school community, whilst those against tend to focus on instances of inappropriate use to justify their stance.

My own opinion is that schools ought to embrace social networking not just as a means of communication, but rather as the catalyst to transform the way we teach and learn – so you can count me in the in favour camp. This opinion is shaped by both academic research and classroom practice, and it is this marrying up of research and practice that led me to ask myself a year ago how much I actually knew about my students’ use of online social networking tools.

It suddenly struck me that schools were producing rules and regulations governing the use of social media without really understanding what role, if any, social media played in the life of their students. It struck me that anyone who was in charge of strategic planning for teaching and learning – at classroom, faculty or school level – had the responsibility to make informed decisions regarding the use of social media as a teaching and learning tool.

Yet, despite lacking crucial information, teachers, schools, educational authorities and governments, by and large, continue to ignore the fact that those entering secondary education today do not remember a life before social media. There is only a handful of schools out there that are learning by using social media and adapting their user agreements and codes of conduct to reflect new realities, in which new technologies ensure that knowledge is no longer exclusively accessible within the school walls or imparted by a single person and that this knowledge can be accessed on demand by anyone, anywhere.

So, with this in mind and with the support of my school, a year ago I decided to inform myself and ask my students a few questions to try and understand their habits and attitudes towards social networking. You may be surprised at some of the findings. Here is what they had to say: