Wow here it is, haven’t done a blog for ages and when I do its an attack…
Learning can be the most difficult thing to do or the easiest. It depends on many factors, high on the list would be, the individual and the subject to be learnt for example, is the individual keen to learn this specific subject, is it being driven into them or is it that the individual is desperate to have the knowledge of a specific subject, yes many factors.
However, for me I feel there is a gap in the education system that slows up the learning process for younger learners. Working in a forward thinking proactive university I can see the current treads and approaches to learning. Also being involved in a variety of external learning groups, professional related bodies and projects hopefully gives me amble knowledge and insight in to how we hope to effect change and learning practices.
Having recently attended the CASS symposium (at LondonMet) and various sessions involving our own CELT colleagues, namely Sandra Sinfield and Tom Burns I feel enriched with the knowledge that we are exploring all areas of interesting and active learning for our students at this university level.
However my recent experience with the secondary school process is the opposite. Some of the schools I have visited have wonderful facilities and up to date technology to support the learning and teaching. However I found most of the students (generally between the ages of 13-16) to be bored and showing a lack of interest in the way the subject was being thrown at them.
However the successful ones, and probably the ones with most home support manage to get through this system relatively unscathed and venture to university where we then have to re-educate our young hopefuls. We then put into place learning activities where students are expected to work on their own, in groups or in pairs, share their work, collaborate and come up with new ideas and concepts instead of just being told what to do. We use their imagination and thought processes to drive some of our concepts of learning and teaching. They become more fulfilled, more productive, more active and more, as a result, ready for work and have what their future employers desire.
Some students I speak to are surprised that I ask them to reinterpret or repurpose an activity or design their own. Having other students to evaluate their work is a concept new to most. However in a primary school this is done on a daily basis, young children say what they think about what they are doing and what others around them are doing – it allows them to express themselves and learn from others around them. This starts them on the way to think critically and eventually a way in which they start to advance their creative thinking, something we so desperately try to promote at our universities.
It’s a shame this seems to be an area we stifle and subdue during the early teenage years at secondary school. Learn on your own, sit an exam on your own etc seems such an out-dated approach. But we do get the boxes ticked and someone in government somewhere can put together an articulated diagram or graph together that can be manipulated to suit their desired statistics.
Chris O'Reilly is an Educational Technologist and freelance advisor for online educational learning material and development.