Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Has Thinking Gone Out of Style?

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

Words have become tricky these days! During the election the situation reached nearly intolerable levels, but, let’s face it, it’s a general epidemic. For example, in the months leading up to the election, if I looked at how bad things are and said I wanted to see a “change”, it was no longer considered a simple statement of fact. It became an excuse for others to attack. And I never even had to mention my political leanings! 

Why do so many words have a hidden agenda today? Why do people talk about a word as being a “code” for a whole set of ideas? 

Words have been usurped. Euphemisms have become coded messages that take on implications that were never intended. “Pro-life” is a classic example. Originally meaning “in favor of the value of human life” it has become a term that carries the hidden message that a woman, whether poor, raped, or otherwise traumatized, has no right to the value of her life or the life of her other children. In fact, it sometimes appears to carry the meaning that sex-education and knowledge about preventing unwanted pregnancies should be banned. I’m confused. 

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Together We Learn (Part II)

Sunday, January 21st, 2007

This article is the second in a series. The first article is: Together We Learn (Part I).

I was recently asked about the ‘new’ degree programs that are proliferating on line and elsewhere recently. As somebody who has been facilitating learning at the college level since 1973, as well as participating in a variety of non-traditional approaches to learning, I did have some thoughts on the subject. Here they are:

Together We Learn,
Each in His/Her Own Way

‘Non-traditional’ methods have always been around in education. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the reality is that people have always explored new ways to improve the speed at which we can absorb new ideas, and put them into practice. Good teachers of every grade level experiment nearly every day with new methods and materials in their classrooms. And they get daily experience with the unrelenting fact that each of their students has a different personal style.

History is full of examples of experimental education. Centuries ago, Socrates knew how to ask questions that inspired and provoked thought, but that was darn revolutionary to those more used to rote-memorization. On the other hand, Celtic bards developed a tradition of memorization and music that developed, preserved, and perpetuated their culture’s wisdom. For decades now, many university programs have given credit for ‘life studies.’ (i.e. The things you actually did at your job and other aspects of real life from which you learned.) So is there a ‘best’ way? Or is the bottom line combining all methods so that students can have options that best fit their individual styles?

Together We Learn (Part I)

Sunday, November 5th, 2006

Together We Learn,

Each in His/Her Own Way

Imagine designing a university that really helps the student learn. What do we need to consider in order to build such a vision? Three areas of focus immediately come to mind: the role of the faculty and their image, how we learn –our own individual styles, and whether we need to think about things learned alone or together with others, and how we apply what we learn. Traditionally, the model is simple: faculty knows the material, we learn by individually taking notes during lectures, and the only application really emphasized is that of being able to take a test and regurgitate what we heard. Is that all there is?

Such a traditional model has failed miserably, to the detriment of many a student, especially those who approach the halls of education with a mind that already thinks and a set of experiences unlike anyone else’s. For years we’ve known that children all have different learning styles; that they each use a different pattern of senses and maybe even different areas of the brain and body to assimilate the material being presented. Now the time has come to apply that knowledge to the area of university studies.

The process of education really exists as a series of events. First there is the activity itself, the experiencing of something new or something familiar from a new perspective. Second, there is the sharing of observations, which may include talking, publishing the written word, or even painting, singing, somehow doing what we learned, repeating the example but with our own stamp and elaboration. Third, there is the process of discussing and recognizing dynamics and patterns, and generalizing from these shared observations to develop new principles and insights. Finally there is the process of figuring out how to use these new concepts and insights, testing their applicability.

So what is the difference between traditional and facilitative instruction? Since the facilitator (sometimes called the ‘teacher’) is an individual in and of him or her self, he or she cannot ‘know’ everything about the material, nor can one imagine in advance what means the students will use to ‘learn’ it or even what questions the students might ask. Lecturing and taking notes will only use up the time of those whose minds process in other ways than hearing, writing, and memorizing.

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