Wednesday 26 January 2011

Education in the Google age ...

Over the past few days I've been looking for a work experience placement for my 14 year old son.  He wanted to go to a solicitors office, but then again, that's what school and home (i.e., me and his mother) suggested, though we might protest accusations of railroading.

At around this time I was also mulling over my woeful opinion of the UK's education system - my thoughts resonating with many of the notions raised by Jarvis (2010) in his TED talk and online book chapter (2009).  Jarvis notes that the American education system stamps out uniform kids from a uniform curriculum: " ... our education system is built for an industrial age ... " ... not a Google age.  I think education should be about learning how to learn, not content.  Our education system has evolved to serve itself NOT our kids: consider testing, who benefits testing what kids know?  Surly we should be finding out what kids DON'T know!

So I was considering taking Matthew to my office, sticking him in front of a PC with a fast internet connection, and facilitating a starting point - a student inspired starting point akin to Jarvis's (2010) student centered approach.  I wanted to see what a bright, resourceful, digitally literate and driven contemporary school kid could achieve with little more than that available to the street children that were Mitra's subjects (2010).

I expect Matthew to find resources like Michael Sandel's videos around ethical law issues ( - and hoped that my experiment would be useful for his future learning ... and perhaps provide some insight (for me and perhaps the team I work with) into the future of education.  I am mindful of the enourmous waste of resources as thousands if not millions of educators create and deliver very similar learning episodes to children, and ignore both the existance of probably hundreds of similar resources available via a quick search on Google, and the ability to share content they are proud of with colleagues across the globe.  If both of these activities were adopted as good practice, then that which educators are well prepared for can be delivered traditionally, whilst topics that they are less confident with could be delivered by someone selected from hundreds of resources, selecting from those that have bubbled to the surface through merit.  The idea is illustrated with Jarvis's catchy phrase:
"Do what you do best, and link to the rest ..."
The first difficulty I envisaged was actually extracting a curriculum, and area of study from Matthew, Jarvis's (2010) 'Starting Point'.  Having been used to our spoon feeding system of education, I was concerned that  taking responsibility for your his own learning, to the extent of picking an area of study, would be problematic.

Next, I envisaged myself and others interfering, steering, advising Matthew on what to look at and how to do it.  Given that I wanted to see how a student might cope on their own, such help would need to be at least seriously curtailed, if not completely eliminated - whilst at the same time keeping Matthew 'on side' (given that he would be surrounded by people who probably knew many of the answers to his pressing questions).

To chart progress I would demand a blog, and in the first instance strongly suggest at least two posts each day, but more shorter posts if that best fits the activities.  Such a blog may be the beginning of a portfolio - something that I, like Jarvis, believe will become  increasingly important over the next decade or so.

Perhaps I'll do this anyway - waste a week of his summer break (WASTE?  Surly not!?).


Mitra, S. (2009). Hole in the Wall Project. ( accessed 27-1-2011
Jarvis, J (2010) TEDxNYED - Jeff Jarvis - 03/06/10 watched 27-1-2011.
Jarvis, J (2009) Hacking education: Google U downloaded 27-1-11

1 comment:

Tillymint said...

You need to give Matthew complex problem to solve, like Sugata Mitra's research suggests.
I will come back later when I have thought of one :))