If you’re struggling with raising a family, you don’t have much time for anything. Been there done that. And the situation is now complicated by an invisible “thing” that is changing the way we live. On the education front, there is some good news coming from Professor Sanjay Sarma who is head of Open Learning at MIT.
If you want to listen to the CBC radio program with Bob McDonald where he interviews Mr. Sarma regarding his new book entitled: Grasp, simply go to CBC radio’s website and search in the archives for their Quirks and Quarks program posted: January 8, 2021 at 4:37 PM ET.
In the interview, one of the first questions asked is:
What do you think is the most fundamental thing that we’ve gotten wrong with how we’ve been teaching in the past?
The answer in part goes like this:
We’ve got into lecture mode, which is very one way. And the professor can wag a finger at the student and say, if you haven’t learned, it’s because you aren’t paying attention. Our education system is based on this one way, thou shalt memorize and recite, and that’s not right.
He goes on to speak about curiosity and comparing it with physical hunger. He says that curiosity is the hunger of the brain. And that is so true. If we as humans are curious about something, we will learn. It's in our nature.
Professor Sarma gives some good examples of what needs to be done. He also criticizes the fact that currently:
It’s the worst of both worlds, we’re neither doing proper online [learning], nor are we doing what we should have done in the classroom to begin with.
The reason for this is that the time spent on Zoom needs to be more focused. He suggests the questions and discussions that happen there be used to activate the natural desire for various avenues of exploration. It makes sense that students are then equipped with that driving force of curiosity that is the fuel to help them on their way. The relatively brief initial period on Zoom is just the beginning of the exercise.
After that, the students can be assisted in developing strategies and traveling via computer (or physically when it's applicable) to various resources where they can apply their work.
The extremely important thing here is that students be allowed to engage with one another. As Sarma stated:
It’s easy to tune out in front of a screen with fifty faces on it.
So then, if we leave that “old school” lecture mode, we can enter into a new one. If the lecturer doesn’t lecture then what exactly do they do? They facilitate. That is where we are headed. And it’s a good direction. Only we will need to be able to put poorer families on the same even playing field. This, our governments need to place as a high priority; since, if families spend all their money and resources and time just paying the rent, they have nothing left over to be involved in their children's lives.
Proper home living conditions must exist for children to learn. There are many challenging questions that must be asked as we carry forward into the future. One of the big ones is of equity. How can we give all of our children the tools they need to grow as individuals? How can we help them to live in a happy healthy world where the objective is not money, but a good life, sustainability and human kindness? If we, collectively, understand that we can and are ready to make that paradigm shift, we most certainly will.