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Education Pecha-Kuchas

This is a PechaKucha session: Each presenter talks to 20 slides, each for 20 seconds, run on a timer.

NOTE: Live-blogging. Getting things wrong. Missing points. Omitting key information. Introducing artificial choppiness. Over-emphasizing small matters. Paraphrasing badly. Not running a spellpchecker. Mangling other people’s ideas and words. You are warned, people.

Patrick Newell begins. The Japanese educational system worked well post-war but now it is forcing children into doing mindless work to prepare themselves to enter an elementary school or higher school. The school system does the basics well. But they’re declining, in part because of the unions, aging boards of education, male-domination, and an inability to fire teachers. The power of the red marker: they’re so afraid to make mistakes. E.g., Japanese kids rank lower on spoken English than, say, Koreans, because they worry about making mistakes. Japan is torn between advancing into the globalized world and focusing on unity. Japan tends not to change, except in response to disaster. How does Japan move forward? Through inquiry, curiosity, getting past being exam-driven. Their economy demands that they be more creative. It has to go from focusing on the “sage on the stage” to empowering the learner. Neural science is confirming what we’ve always known: really being connected with all five senses helps us learn. Also, give students the digital tools, an end goal, and get out of the way. Japan needs to learn new means of assessment. Multiple intelligences: Japan could be strong in collective intelligence.

Dali Yang, prof of political science at U of Chicago and in Beijing. China has undergone massive changes in science and tech in the past 30 yrs. The number of college grads is going up steeply, starting in the new millennium. Chinese gov’t investment in sci and tech is becoming a much greater percentage of GDP, although lower than in the US. Citations and patents are also increasing rapidly; its share of patents has more than doubled. But the expansion of college grads has devalued the degree; many grads find it hard to get a job. This has invited growing interest by foreign companies,educators, and investors. Many western universities have low-intensity commitments in China. But some universities have full-fledged campuses in China. New models of collaboration are beginning to emerge: registered entities that offer a wide range of offerings, but not degrees. U of Chicago is in the business district of Beijing. In Beijing there are 750,000 college students. A symbol: U of Chicago is returning to China a raptor skeleton it had stolen from China. He talks about some initiatives, e.g., programs about copyright, political economy. Another symbol: The arts program. U of Chicago is quite committed to this and to expanding it. But, while college intake has increased, the number of Chinese children is declining; this has implications for the educational system.

Sridhar Rajgopalan asks why with all our progress, our educational systems are not getting better and better. The learning levels for the very poor are very low. Sridhar has tests that enable benchmarking that start conversations about whether students are really learning, rather than resting satisfied that more students are in school. There is mechanical learning, but not a lot of understanding. Sridhar’s group develops sheets for teachers to help them teach children basic ideas that they are missing. They also have in-school communication programs. Most important, it helps them analyze why the misconceptions happen. E.g., students think the largest angle is the one with the longest arms. “MindSpark” is a “personalized adapative learning tool.” “The real power of tools like these will come not from animation but intelligence.” Students who make different mistakes are guided through different thought processes. The aim is to provide personalized education at scale. Results: All children benefit, but the weakest students benefit the most. This is only on partially about tech. It’s mainly about the science of learning: How do students learn better. Interdisciplinary. It’s important to develop a body of systematic knowledge: When children are learning, these are the misconceptions, this is how to detect it, this is how to correct. .

Diego Sanchez de Leon, Head of Talent and Organization Performance at EALA Accenture. He sees the integration of work and learning. Learning will be continuous, on demand, just in time, integrated with work. Learning will be contextual, embedded in what we do every day. Individual leadership. This applies better to technological learning than to behavioral learning. We need to reach a balance between the two. This means more of a demand output. People need to have the mindset to learn. That means self-management, self-awareness, self-assessment. They need multi-channel blending and choice; e.g., some people like to listen to books when they drive, others don’t. Unit duration is going down: from weeks of learning down to seconds. That gives us a sense of continuous learning. Learning is collaborative, and we need to learn how to measure that. There will be more transparency of value of skills vs. cost. We need to get better at balancing rights and obligations. We may well see the same amount of spending spent on fewer people. We need to master multiple content resources. We need a common design method and tools for developing learning areas. The shift in investment will go to learning and experience and less to developing materials. Finally, we will reuse everything on the job for learning. The aim is to increase our assimilation capacity: our ability to do things.

Discussion: Chris Meyer, our host, asks: What did you respond to positively?

– Personalization, mass customization of ed via technology

– People assume that we need to get away from the factory model of education. Was the factory model so bad? It created mass literacy and numeracy, homogenous population. If you move away from it, you risk the base knowledge that makes innovation possible. We have seen rebellions against the factory modely since the beginning of the 20th century, which has led to huge failures among poorer children and has broadened inequality.
– I have a lot of evidence that the factory model leaves behind poor learners. Do you have evidence?
– Yes. In Britain. Private schools that have continued with traditional models have completely dominated the progressive schools that have emphasized individual learning. The history of 20th c England is the proof.
– During the industrial age, mass ed worked. We’re in a different context now. We’re in a different era.
– The rates of people going to college in the UK are flatlining because people are ill-served by the old model.
– Let’s stay out of the old trad vs. progressive ed debate. We’re in a new place. Mass edu is a type of instruction well-suited to some tasks, but there are times kids need another pedagogical style.
– Personalized is great, but we need to teach thousands of students
– We need a balance.
– As a Brit, I disagree with the causes of the failures of ed. Also, we need to contrast base knowledge with how to work things out. To what extent do we need to educate people with the base knowledge vs. the processing of that ed? Progressive teaching of traditional curriculum vs. transforming the curriculum because the subjects have changed.
– Fiscal austerity worldwide. Cuts to ed budgets. Even providing the basic needs is a challenge. But there are also special opportunities.
– Institutions focus on costs. I heard “free,” but free to whom? We are just reallocating costs.We have to convince decision makers that this is in the best interests of their constituents. Also, don’t ignore the “great number of feral people” out there. We need to civilize them.
– Times have changed. The nature of education and knowledge for our children is different, so ed has to be diff
– The basics are important. But the world has changed. This includes how you measure, especially for workers who are learning.
– Separate what we teach kids from how we teach them. Knowledge is being depreciated in ed. The teacher is not the only source, of course, but kids need to know algebra. What counts are not the techniques but the standards. So much has become “self-referential knowledge”: what does this mean to you, rather than mastering the skills.
– Hundreds of millions of people in the world are excluded from any kind of ed. Tech enables us to reach them. First let’s use what we have to deliver ed to those who have nothing. Also, looking at social networking: people are teaching each other. Why don’t we use it much more to bring it into education?
– The key thing is the individual learner.
– The factory model is not working in India. We need to build rigor into how we teach, and use the tech model too.
– How do you create excellent teachers. In the 19th c in France, they were educating great teachers. Now that’s gone downhill, especially in the lower grades. This is a problem.
– We’ve been working off of a scarcity model of knowledge. Instead of a push technology, we have students pulling knowledge to them. The goal of ed has to be some kind of balanced competency, but we’ve focused on the metrics of teaching rather than the metrics of learning. Also, we should have students at this event.
– 48% of US college grads never read a book again. Healthy human babies are incredible learning machines. We’re predisposed to learn throughout our lives. Students are learning every day although they may not find interesting what teachers are teaching.
– Many ideas people think are new are not. We’ve seen generations of experimentation. The amount of knowledge to acquire to enter the world is bigger than ever before. Self-direction has to be acquired. You have to learn to discipline yourself before you can be self-directed, and the factory model is required for this.

– How do you build collective intelligence?
Patrick Newell: Schools are about human interaction and collaboration. There’s as much value in that as in the content conveyed. Have students work within groups. Get the balance right between tech and human.
– [Note that I’m using a “-” to indicate a shift in speakers] Students are risk-takers. Edu systems are increasingly risk-averse.
– “Mass customization” is about modules, e.g., an algebra model. We need to be aware that there is some finite set of modules students need. We’re not talking about infinite number of ways of teaching something.

– We should be defining the user requirements.
Chris Meyer: We’re trying to understand: what does edu need to offer society going forward? How relevant is the history to this?

– If we listened to Diego’s presentation, we would rethink teaching.

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