Our meeting topic this week is the education system. This is a topic that was brought up in several meetings last quarter, so we’ve dedicated an entire conversation to it. Education is a very broad topic, so there are a lot of different facets that can be covered and several directions this conversation can go. As such, I thought it might be a good idea to break up this topic into a few different posts.
Learning Styles Myth
While looking up how new technology is impacting education, I often came across the idea that students who have different “learning styles” would be served by these new techniques. But after a little bit of research, I found that there isn’t much evidence that customizing education to fit a student’s preference increases their learning of the material. Students do have a preference to visual, audio or kinesthetic learning, but they don’t retain the information any better, and they may in fact benefit from learning in a way that is less preferable.
(Aside: Future teachers may be interested in a paper published in Frontiers in Psychology “Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers.”)
Technology in the Classroom
This seems to be treated as a recent trend, but in reality, new technology has always had a role in education. I remember my favorite part of the week in elementary school was going to the computer lab and playing educational games like Oregon Trail, Math Blaster, Number Munchers, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?, SuperSolvers Outnumbered. The 90s, man. Wait, what were we talking about?
But yes, it seems that there is evidence that introducing technology into the classroom can have a positive impact on learning.
Just a few days ago, University of the People, a tuition-free online school received accreditation to grant degrees to graduates. There is also several colleges and universities that have posted full course materials online for free, including MIT OpenCourseWare, Harvard, and several others.
There are also startups like Udacity that are specifically geared towards providing specific training to high demand jobs. The courses are paid for by companies that are looking to hire people with specific qualifications, but they are free to people willing to learn.
Not to mention Coursera, Academic Earth, Khan Academy and so many others. It makes me start to wonder why exactly I’m spending so much money for the privilege of being in an overcrowded lecture hall.
If nothing else, it raises the question of how much a university education is an intellectual pursuit or a quest for a degree.
So I hope this series was helpful in identifying some ways this topic can be discussed. However, it is not any kind of agenda of what we will necessarily talk about. Whoever shows up gets to decide how the meetings go.