I’m preparing to do a bit of whithering on tertiary education next week at a strategy retreat or some such for a university – and wanted to ask Troppodillians for any sources they think I should consult. I want to bang my drum about the ways in which education at all levels (with an obvious focus on the tertiary sector) should be changing far more than they are. Some of the things I want to say include:
- The internet and particularly web 2.0 should be revolutionising education in so many ways. Indeed in principle, one might have expected web 2.0 to have had a more dramatic effect on education than it’s had on news and entertainment, and yet in these cases a revolution is clearly underway with huge economic and cultural implications whereas in education it’s amazing how much things remain the same as they ever were.
- this is true at all levels of education though obviously the kinds of opportunities available at the various levels of education differ very markedly.
- I’ve commented before on Troppo on how amazingly static the curriculum in schools has been. We’ve had lots of rearrangement of the cultural deck chairs, and an amount of aboriginal studies that drives some kids completely nuts (though I expect the problem is in the quality of the teaching). The web has been absorbed as a new, better, lower cost way to do simple research for assignments and so on, but the new possibilities have done virtually nothing to reshape the maths curriculum for instance. And when I was at high school in the early 1970s we actually did some computer programming. I’ve not seen my kids do any. And yet they could be out there building mashups on Google maps, or apps on iPhones and doing all sorts of exciting things.
- Teaching methods are also changing at a surprisingly slow rate. It seems so obvious that lectures should be both taped and lavished with some serious resources so that, for instance there might be a wealth of really good lectures that people can pull down at any university, with the university’s value add being in how they engage students with each other and with tutors. This is what’s happening in the Khan academy which is only at school level, so given that one of the problems cited with doing away with live lectures is the need to motivate students, if you can motivate them in high school with videos, you should be able to do it in universities. Ultimately this could be outsourced so that one would have a few providers of lectures which were given by people who were very good at it, with resources to generate multimedia of various kinds to illustrate what was being taught and so on.
- Then there’s the open science story and how slowly the tertiary sector seems to be making its way in that direction – helped on by mercantilist IP laws, the incentive system for academics and stuff like that. Michael Neilsen speaks about the way in which ‘open source’ means of doing science have sometimes worked miraculously – but that’s where they’re a clearly focused attempt to produce a publishable paper – so they tie into the incentive system. When it’s more open ended, it doesn’t work so well. (I suspect this isn’t only the incentive system at work – it’s also the case that crowdsourcing usually works better when a shared objective is clear to all).
- One of the ironies is that so much public money goes into education and yet it’s then used in ways that actively frustrate the natural way in which it could be build into public goods.
So verily oh Troppodillians I say unto you
- What things do you think I should read to fill me in on these points and
- What other points might be made
- Do you agree or disagree with these points, and if so why?