Why this is the best time to be an educator?
This year Teachers Day 2015, took place on Krishna Janmashtami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, the greatest teacher of all times.
On this occasion, we organised an event which showcased some new and innovative aspects of teaching-learning.
To an observer whose sights are on the developing technological horizon of Big Data, the Internet of Things, Robotics, Drones and enhanced Machine Intelligence competing with humans, it is clear that as we enter the 2nd half of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century, the next 5 to 10 years are likely to emerge as a new Renaissance in education.
We now realise that the Teacher is far more important than the expert practitioner because an expert can demonstrate his or her skill in context, but it is the Teacher that creates an expert practitioner out of an initially ignorant or incompetent person. Education has to be learner centric and knowledge is mutually created by the teacher and learner. In fact, Science the most glorious of human endeavours flourishes because it is a community of Scientists that drives it, and not a hierarchy of bureaucrats and politicians.
We must prepare to move from the ‘art of teaching’ to ‘the Science of learning’, and just as the microscope, telescope and other instruments aided Scientific progress by providing data to be put into contexts, patterns and insights, it is the Computer, Internet and allied technologies that will drive this transition from a qualitative uncertain authority based model to a data driven one that allows every learner to learn.
The potential of mobile and handheld learning in education is now accepted by the UNESCO which is organising annual Mobile Learning weeks. And for the 2015 Mobile Learning week the focus was on ‘educating the girl child’. With the accessibility of Mobile phones and the MHRD initiatives through the CIET, NCERT of all their books in English, Hindi and Urdu being available for free on mobile devices, a new era in education is upon us.
Amazon is shortly launching $50 tablets, and Reliance plans to offer Smartphones with built in Apps at about Rs 2500/-, bringing these devices in the hands of almost every learner.
The pedagogy of mobile education and adoption of Heutagogy, managing the learning of self-directed life long learners will become one of the important competencies of the new age teacher.
Two important strands in this scheme are : ‘ Teaching-learning with Mobiles and Handhelds’ and ‘ Educational Innovation’, especially disruptive innovation.
We had a number of presentations describing models and experiences of a very diverse nature.
One video presentation was a complete replacement of the traditional lecture, and was presented as a narrative sharing a range of experiments and experiences. In another one, the presenter gave an introduction to the video that he would play, and asked the audience to think of experiences that they could relate to while watching the video. This was followed up by a discussion on the comments raiding from the audience.
There were several presentations with PowerPoint slides to support the talk, and there were interventions which were entirely speaker thoughts.
There was also considerable deliberations on innovation, especially disruptive innovation. Not only were the general principles of disruptive education propounded and distinctions drawn with Blue Ocean Strategy, a roadmap for possible disruptions in education, with entrepreneurial education being a distinct possibility.
QAI, a private awarding body registered in the UK shared the following innovative ideas that were being developed by them:
1. Learning English to International standards: diagnostics and learning interventions
2. Acquiring accredited qualifications from MOOCs ( largely self-learning)
3. Creating individual learner profiles to help both self-learning and instructor led personalisation of learning
4. Badges for micro-credentialing of non-academic life-long learning
5. Training and certifying educators for blended delivery of International qualifications ( A levels, MOOCs and others) as Independent Educators
A very important outcome of the deliberations was the demonstration of a new model of blended teaching-learning of which the traditional classroom or distance learning are special cases.
We call this emergent model ‘ The Augmented Classroom Lecture’ which performs a space shift, device shift and time-shift of the traditional classroom lecture.
It incorporates the ideas of ‘flipped learning’, mastery learning and personalisation of the learning experience. Attention was drawn to the significance and importance of ‘social learning ‘ a component that gets significantly enhanced with technology and the size of the learning cohort.
Teachers were at some point in history respected as much as Gods, and teaching was a ‘calling’. In the industrially dominated era, they were often treated as ‘machines’ to produce trained humans who could carry out those functions in factories that could not be carried out by machines. Thus ‘ learning outcomes ‘ assembly line production and quality control processes became dominant.
As we contemplated on the future and specifically of the role of educators and learning, a few insights emerged.
In the foreseeable future, both the human populations and its longevity will be increasing significantly.
“Millennials will have over 13 jobs in their lifetime and the median time they will spend in a job will be three years … when they switch from one job to the next, the skills they will need in that next job will usually be something they not only don’t know but in many cases didn’t even exist when they went to school,” Professor Koller, co-founder of Coursera said in Melbourne recently.
The formal education system, is no longer equipped to cope with the emerging challenges, and the big opportunity is for educators to emerge from the background and take centre stage in addressing the challenges.
It is constrained by a tradition of preparing clergy for the church or academics for the academia, and is not readily able to respond to other challenges of learning.
Even in the classical space of learning and research there are many examples of non-recognition of talent or brilliance. For instance John Gurdon was while at Eton considered completely unsuitable for learning Science ( in fact his report card said that this would be a ridiculous idea, and a waste of time of all concerned) would later win a Nobel Prize in Medicine.
The biggest anomaly is that while we teach a number of subjects, we still do not teach learning. Nor do we have a proper system of assessment, and no examination Board declares the error margins inherent in the design of their systems.
It is said that the Internet changes everything, and accessing the Internet through the mobile, even more so. There is a movement in the developed world that ‘ sitting is the new smoking’ which basically draws attention to the fact that sitting at desks ( whether at the office or at School or College) beyond brief periods for rest is significantly harmful, comparable to the harmful effects of smoking.
So we need of have new learning spaces outside the classroom where learners can move around and explore. With handheld devices for content flow, and assessment spending time in the real world rather than in the cloistered existence of academia may be the way.
It is often said that ‘Ignorantia juris non excusat (Latin for “ignoranceof the law excuses no one”). But in real life ” ignorance is no excuse”.
So learn, all that you can learn. You never know when not knowing something can be a problem.
The role of the educator is to remove ignorance. Sometimes the learner may know what he needs to learn. But more often in the mode of Socratic questioning, the educator takes the learner through the 4 stages of unknown incompetence,
known incompetence, known competence and finally unknown competence. And learning happens in several ways from multiple sources. There is a Buddhist saying that ‘when the learner is ready, the teacher will appear’.
And the role of the educator as subject matter expert is secondary to the role of creating conditions in which learning happens. For this the future educator has to blend nature, technology, data and human and machine intelligence to ensure that every learner is able to achieve his desired learning goals.
As a follow up to the event, we are launching several innovative programs with the following broad objectives : to make every learner a better learner, to make every educator a RockStar teacher, to help every parent become a smart and enlightened parent, to facilitate learning opportunities for the second half of life and continuing professional updates throughout life.
The first in this series is a ‘Diabetic Literacy’ program with the title ” Learning to Live a Quality Life with Diabetes”.
India is hurtling away to reach the 100 million diabetics mark by the year 2030.
As of today, the number of diabetics in India is estimated to be about 40 million, about 3% of the population.
Unlike many other medical conditions, most people believe that ‘diabetic literacy’ is an important and integral element of the overall management of diabetes.
The pioneering American diabetologist Dr Elliott Proctor Joslin said ‘ The diabetic who knows the most, will live the longest’. Of course he or she will have to translate that knowledge into action and behavioural change.
The main point is that education as a cure or remedy for ignorance is the new reality, and is equally applicable to health, justice, relationships and nation and world building.
With millions on screens on which educators can be viewed both synchronously and asynchronously, we should not be surprised if a decade from now ‘educators’ will become the new celebrities. Who can believe today that great actors at one time worked as salaried employees in theatre companies and film studios.
In a decade or so, salaried teachers at School or College will be a thing of the past and celebrity RockStar teachers and professors will have millions of learners from all over the world following them on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter.
A precursor to that is for example the Korean English Teacher Kim Ki-Hoon who earns around US$ 4 million a year, or Cha Kil-yong the Maths teacher who earns US$ 8 million a year.
Educators who shape minds ( not only young minds, but throughout the life-span as well) are therefore very important now, and it is indeed the best time to be an educator.