This photo shows how industry trains their employees in small groups with powerpoint presentations or pre-set lectures. This technique does not work with the student of 2018 because that student has been playing with handheld electronic games and the world of cartoon fantasy is more real than reality itself. If we allow our students to become programmed to kill Nazis or monsters everyday for satisfaction than we missed the point.
Consider the ultimate goal of school or education, getting a job. The final word is JOB. If we do not train students how to read, summarize and put information to use then we have failed our students. If we cannot get them to add up numbers to determine if a spreadsheet of expenses is correct then we will not be helping the accounting profession or financial managers. If we do not allow a student to research a project they are interested in and come to conclusions about what they learned, then we missed the point about job training and getting jobs. Learning to think creatively is one thing public education does not do. Learning in public and private schools is more about rote memory than creative thinking. Students are taught that their are rules and if you do not follow the rules, you will not be able to come to a reasonable conclusion. The truth is creative thinkers go outside the box to come up with ideas from their life experiences which may or may not come from a classroom and a motivating teacher.
Imagine that you just finished 12 years of elementary and high school training and four years of College training and when you graduate you are suited for nothing in the real job world. How did craftsmen learn in the Middle Ages? They had trainees or assistants that would follow them around and learn on the job how to do plumbing or build a house or treat leather for a coat. Apprentices learned while doing. In this day and age we teach theory or rote facts, not how to think under different situations. Let’s face it if you fail college you can become an apprentice in the building trades union or the plumbing union or electrical union and learn the actual hands on skills, not theory and make more money than a college student.
So where have we gone wrong in teaching? Well it is a combination of the fact that teachers have to be motivators, or coaches to encourage students to want to learn more. Teachers have to get a student to become enthusiastic about a subject so much so that the student will go beyond what he or she learned in the classroom. A good teacher is always one or more steps ahead of his or her students. If that teacher falls behind the times in technology or modern approaches then the teacher becomes the student and the student becomes the teacher.
I cannot begin to count how many times in College and Universities when I was an instructional technologist that I got to observe Professors that could not use a computer beyond e-mail. I saw Medical doctors lecturing with powerpoint slide shows they bought from a textbook company, rather than develop their own slides. When Teachers or Professors lecture from a podium the facts go in one student’s ears and out the other. 60-70% of a Lecture is forgotten 30 minutes after a lecture. Reinforcement of a lecture means reading the material before the class, not after. This was the biggest complaint at NY College of Osteopathic Medicine and other Universities and colleges I worked at. Professors posted assignments on Blackboard in advance and expected the students to read the material before coming to class. Seldom did that happen. Students set priorities in their lives for studying, play, and rest. The bottom of the list is studying. Play is more important. Imagine if you could combine play with studying? It is possible and let me tell you how. Many Professors were afraid of laptop computers in the lecture halls or classrooms. But what if a professor told the students to bring the laptops to class??? Wow, imagine that? Then when the students arrive the Professor starts with the usual Powerpoint slide show until about the 5th slide. Then all of a sudden students are told to buddy up with another student and find the answer on the internet to a theoretical class problem. For instance in a medical school, the medical doctor teaching asks all the first year medical students to find as many nerve diseases as they can, jot them down and briefly the treatment. The professor alway tells the students they have fifteen minutes to complete the task and when they are done. All of the student groups will report on five of their answers. Now that is creative thinking. The students have to know how to research. They have to not waste time and come up with real examples. At the end of the class, the Professor asks all the student groups to send their results and names to him or her via blackboard or e-mail. Wow, another zinger, they have to be accountable for their work.
How about in Law school where a Law Professor gives a Law citation for all the students to look up on Westlaw which they have access to and find out if that decision was every overturned or not by Shepardardizing for appeals? Thinking and solving problems are more important than memorizing law cases throughout the history of the USA.
Once upon a time students in high schools could take printshop, woodshed, metal shop and auto shop as an elective to learn practical skills. Those classes are long gone in secondary schools because of the over-emphasis of going to College where you will learn everything you need to know. Wrong! Students often learn more from each other than in the classroom. Perhaps setting a learning environment is more important than large lecture halls?
Learning on line has come of age. It is cheaper for high schools and colleges to put a course online than to have to pay a full-time or part-time instructor. The modified method is the instructor meets with the students the first class and the last class when they come in for a final exam to pass the course. Somehow we have skipped over the motivation of the student by the teacher. Have you ever tried to motivate someone over e-mail? Not possible to say the least. When you remove the human element you put all the effort on the student to learn and learn well. Not all students can do this. Many Universities require their professors to have open office hours to be available to help students in need. The problem is the line to get to the Professor is weeks long and the student flounders while waiting.
Project learning, hands on learning, real life training are the most meaningful for teaching students today. Technology opens the door to the outside world, so let the real world into the classroom. Having students perform projects gets them used to the corporate world where they have to work in groups to solve big problems. If you want to be a plumber and be rich, then you have to know how to work with pipes and soldering and wielding of pipes, not theory. If you want to be a bio-engineer than you have to have labs and training with microscopes and real samples to come up with real solutions. Teachers only lead or facilitate learning to get students to absorb information they can use.