Are We Finally Turning in the Corner with Our Busted Education System?

It is has been a while since I last wrote about education.  Mainly because I was getting sick of talking doom and gloom and I made a pact with myself that until I saw signs of the very slow wheels of the education system bureaucracy and complacency to shift would I refrain from making any further comments. 

The tiny miracles of unconventional wisdom by a far too few has now caught the attention of some key people of influence in the technology world where they find it within themselves to put their money where their mouth is and supporting initiatives such as Altschools.  

Collaborative learning, enabled with technology is making a difference and Mark Zuckerberg led a $100 million funding round to get this up and running.  I love to hear that AltSchool avoids terms like teachers, schools and classrooms and instead uses terms like educators, learning labs and studios.  Refreshing as it sounds, it is only in the US and it is expensive but with the unexplained popularity of private schools, if i had the money, I would be spending here!  Unless parents have a choice to invest in a new system and not for a bunch of teachers teaching the same curriculum as public schools! 

Enough from me, read this for yourself.

 

Our Vision on Education

 

At the heart of human development is education and learning by experience.  Lighting the spark of human curiosity within children.  It’s unfortunate that in the majority of cases, the education system fails to achieve this.  Teaching is creative and not simply acting as a medium to transmit information to students.  Teaching does not necessarily mean students are actually learning.    We know that education must scale to be delivered as efficiently and cost effectively as possible but we need to discover news ways to still achieve this but not force children and adults to conform to an education process that does not enable or release human creativity.

Through TMG’s active involvement with the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA) and specifically the Education Special Interest Group (SIG) we are passionate not only about broad education but to also ensure that we can attract students to the vibrant ICT industry.  But the reality is, this is not happening.  Australia (although some may not realize this) will be relying on innovation, creativity and smart people in order to compete in the global community more than ever.  Our manufacturing and even farming sectors are struggling to remain competitive.  Not enough is being done to invest in research and development and by developing and commercializing innovation.  Some of our best minds prefer to live overseas in countries where innovation is rightfully rewarded and encouraged.

Education must foster creativity and not conform to standardisation.  You want to see someone who actually gets this?  Check out Ken Robinson on this great TED talk.  This will convince you!!

 

 In similar vein, We believe passionately believe in learning concepts such as those being delivered by theKhan Academy who have a key goal of changing education all together.  There is a need for classroom and human interaction in the learning process.  A process of teacher student collaboration and contextualizing education.  Making it relevant!

This video of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who was shot in the head for promoting education for girls speaking at the United Nations.  This extraordinary video demonstrates courage for standing up for not only educational rights for girls but demonstrates what unwavering courage is able to achieve.  It is truly inspiring.

 

MG is always on the look out for creative and talented people that have a passion to learn and experience the best the ICT industry has to offer.  If you have recently graduated or even if you have a natural talent for technology and importantly are a good communicator, we want to hear from you.  Drop us a line at info@tmg100.com 

Education Must Align to Industry

 

In this my third rant about the Education system, I shift my focus from teaching methods (or more to the point – the ineffectiveness of how we transfer knowledge into the mind sponges of our youth K – 12) to how industry can play an important role.

The future of our nation depends on children having their collective minds introduced to growth industries where they can be exposed to alternative career choices and in areas where they will maximize their chances of actually getting a job! Yes, this has to happen way before University or higher ed studies.

Nothing beats the power of industry wanting to get involved and our Prime Minister Tony Abbott has seen this in action on his trip to the US where he witnessed an IBM backed corporate school in New York.  What makes me hopeful (and even a tad excited) is reading in the Australian Financial Review (13 June 2014) that the federal assistant Education Minister Sussan Ley agrees that Australia needs to create stronger links between education and industry.

But, like with most good ideas that may actually have some merit, there are people in this world who will resist without even wanting to find out more as Angelo Gavrielatos – President of the Australian Education Union (AEU), in his wisdom, has managed to do.

Let’s pour cold water of this and get everyone nervous by stating that corporations can’t shape the curriculum due to the risk that our children will get a narrow education! What people need to realize is that we have a problem right now in that we have such an archaic and fiercely protective education system, that is so resistant to change, that apart from a few exceptions, still fails on its key responsibilities.  That is, to introduce and nurture our children to new and innovative teaching experiences and information (refer to my earlier blogs: My Rant Part I and Part II) – the things that may actually open up new horizons and ideas.

Sure, I belong to the ICT industry and I have experienced first hand some of the resistance met by Associations similar to those like the AEU where quite frankly, they should know better.  What has this caused?  Well, as much as I would like to think that teachers, teaching methods or more to the point the curriculum would be to blame for a shortage of skills in our industry, the fact remains that many career guidance counselors today do not come from a sciences or math background nor are they across the latest trends in a broad range of industries.  We can’t expect them to be.  Teachers have enough on their plate and many have all good intentions and love to teach but are working within the confides of a flawed education system (globally).

Parents, who are the biggest influencers in the career choices their children make, will look for guidance in schools.  So that doesn’t give me any confidence that things will change any time soon – at least for ICT.

A fellow industry colleague, Paul Cooper stated to me:  “that there’s amazing talent here that is being shut down at present for a hunkering down mentality rather than seeking new opportunities through adversity (such as the inevitable decline in manufacturing)”.  I couldn’t have put it better myself.

History has proven time and time again that innovation occurs in times of adversity!  Well we’re here and the time is now to try something different.

Furthermore, what’s the harm in trialing how active corporate involvement could work in schools, evaluating it, then make a clear assessment based on the evidence?

If industry is prepared to take some responsibility and make investments in education then this should be embraced with both hands.    I can’t think of what could be more narrow minded thinking than retaining the status quo  where creativity and free spirited imagination is being stifled because our current education system can’t scale or manage it any other way!

I have seen little evidence where children  are encouraged to think outside the square in terms of the possibilities of new vocations that may not even exist today, which could be fostered in a collaborative learning environment, assisted by technology, that will embrace unbridled enthusiasm and creative thinking.

It’s encouraging to see that some schools are taking a lead role but this needs to be a whole of education initiative in order to maximize the accessibility of innovative approaches to all!

More has to be done and by getting active involvement from the people representing industries who are prepared to roll their sleeves up and who hopefully will be instrumental in employing our sons and daughters in the future.

The current system does not produce work ready individuals (both emotionally and intellectually) – all industry wants to do is to invest to fix the problem sooner rather than facing the problem when they’re ready to be employed which is all too late.

Let’s hope commonsense prevails and that we can people behind such an important initiative.

Education Disrupters - Exactly What Our Outdated, 300 Year Old Education System Needs!

 

7 June 2014: As I try to relax on the last long weekend for a while in Melbourne, I felt I had some unfinished business in my earlier blog about whether or not schools were consumers of technology or electronics.  I then came across a TED Ed blog on education and after seeing a rather nice Microsoft sponsored video called Two Educators, Two Different Visions, you can watch it here (it’s actually quite inspiring), it triggered me to find out a little more…..

 

We all have this natural ability to self discover, to accept all without judgement, have open mindedness, to experience all that is thrown at us and to instinctively learn from each other. We all did it… as children.  So as life evolves, our parents and their parents before them and in fact throughout life, they did what they believe is the right thing (as I have done too) and sent our children lovingly to school.  To be “educated”. To learn, to leverage natural talents, to interact, to collaborate, to thrive.  It doesn’t matter which school you send them to really but in all but a few cases, the opposite has been occurring and for far too long.

Sheer numbers of students mean that the current, relatively unchanged 300 year old, outdated and wonderfully constructed education system established by the British Empire delivers when it comes to scale.  However the problem is, is that it is no longer relevant and has not been relevant for quite some time.  It continues to do what it has effectively been doing since its inception and this the snuffing out the creativity and natural learning abilities of our children.  Often without anyone even realising it!  Ironically, some of us prefer to pay dearly for the privilege of sending out children to the best schools with often the same results (well maybe they have access to a better business network when they leave I guess).  But as Sugata Mitra so elegantly puts it, schools have become bureaucratic administrative machines producing identical people for a sytem that no longer exists.

So let Sugata explain more but have an open mind:

 

Schools could no longer control the onset of technology so they attempt to control (OK manage) how the technology is adopted by children and now I understand why.  They have to ensure technology does not disrupt the “tried and true” 300 year old education system – making sure children still learn the same way to produce the same results.  There is another institution that does this too – they’re called religions!  But that is a story for another day

Thankfully, my world is opening up to like minded individuals who are passionate about ensuring our children grow up to be creative, wonderfully disruptive and collaborative adults.

I will note who likes and comments on my blogs so I can reach out to you all to ensure we drive the change that is required.  Stay tuned for more.

Are Schools Consumers of Technology or Electronics?

May 2014: I had an interesting lunch today with a smart group of IT Professionals (all women) and we were discussing why, after countless and often fruitless efforts to encourage young people, particularly girls to consider a career in IT – why we are failing miserably.  Now before you moan about – oh no, not again about a career in IT, let me outline what I believe some of the issues may be.  I may offend some, but to be quite honest, I’m not overly concerned if I do and if it generates the slightest bit of debate then all the better.

For many schools, consuming ‘electronics’ and calling it ‘technology enabling’ their students would be stretch at best.  Schools are issuing iPads which are merely being used as an alternative delivery system.  This may lighten the load of my daughter’s school bag, save some trees perhaps, yet scrolling back and forward through a pdf text book is far from taking advantage of technology.  I am a constant witness to her frustratingly referring to “the back of the book” to check her answers.  I would argue that it is easier to flip between pages in a printed text book – after all, that’s all of us over 40s were doing when we were at school!

The ICT industry, as I have been involved with for over 25 years needs to shoulder some of the blame – with all the technology innovation going on, we can’t even develop truly intelligent reference and educational material.

Business systems manage to have see, learn and try functionality, so why not our schools?  Why pretend we are bringing technologies into schools when we’re not? In 2014, we are well passed pimped up PDF readers which do not actually enhance the learning experience any more then printed text books do! There are countless other examples.

So how are our children suppose to get excited about a career in technology? I am not sure.  But we are now transitioning out of a generation where many parents (who are still the single biggest influencers of the careers their children will undertake) were perhaps negatively impacted by technology – either losing their job as a result of technology, were frustrated with their IT Help Desk or they hear about all those jobs being outsourced overseas.

Many schools, be they public or private are making uninformed assumptions as to what a job in ICT is all about.  The industry has made several attempts to engage with the Principals Association, Career Guidance Counsellors, teachers and the like and many just don’t want to know. Why more schools don’t see that demonstrating how their adoption of technology is actually assisting in the learning experience and using that as a tangible and quantitative point of difference is beyond me.

Some may think that this is another of my exaggerated rants and I would loved to be proved wrong.  So bring it on, show me some great learning and education examples and let’s communicate this in the broader domain.   Who knows? Children may actually get excited about the real power technology can have on their learning experience beyond social media!

Fulvio Inserra

@fulv_mastermind