Future Possibilities for Education

Tijmen van Gurp & Mark Kwikkers – This document discusses our vision on design in educational  models and tools; a domain that has always been very influential in the development of society. Yet, the money available for innovation has always been minimal.

 

Vision:

Because kids are the future, we need to prepare them for the ever changing world of tomorrow. (Randall, 2011) They are digitized, very good at dealing with digital media and spend a lot of on-screen time. (Stoll, 2006) At the same time, schools are struggling with the introduction of media in the educational system. Computers are introduced into schools but the applications are far behind compared to the exciting, stimulating and challenging games that are corporately produced. The challenge for schools was stated quite clearly by Jack Welch, the CEO of General Electric when he said, “If the rate of change inside an institution is less than the rate of change outside, the end is in sight.”

Educational Models

The current educational model can be labeled as industrialized and aimed at the production of ‘good workers’ rather than ‘creative thinkers’ (Robinson, 2006).  Gidley (2007) calls this present wave of education the “Formal Schooling” which stretches from the early 1800’s to the year 2000. Before this wave of education there was the Informal Education which was practiced through family enculuration, home schooling, elite tutoring, and private religious schooling. 

A trend that can be seen is that there is a lack of time, and thus attention, for the individual student. All students have to follow a lecture by the teacher who has to give his presentation a one-size-fits-all structure because he has to target it at the broadest audience possible. However, by doing this he loses most of the students because the story is either too slow or too fast. Teachers should be able to offer their students tailored lessons in order to keep them stimulated and focused. In the end there needs to be a standard in knowledge and skill that is reached by the student.  Moreover, apart from the basic reading and writing skills there are also needs for kids to develop themselves in the three C areas: Communication, Collaboration, and Creative problem solving. (Thornburg, 1997)

Standardization in basic education is needed up to a certain level to monitor progress and safeguard quality. Methods of reaching the required level of skill and knowledge in certain subjects may and need to be revised. 

Meaning Shift

Concluding from the previous paragraph, it can be seen that what the educational field needs to experience is a shift in meaning for schools. A shift where they stop being places where all children get the same pre-fabricated education which turns them into ‘identical products’ of the system. Instead, schools must become places where children are, apart from a basic curriculum,  also stimulated to discover their own competencies and talents, and are facilitated to develop these. The curriculum should facilitate this extra divergence in the building of knowledge and skills, without it having to cost additional time for students and teachers. 

First movements

There have already been some first explorations by scientists and entrepreneurs towards different educational models that utilize technology to improve the quality of education. This is done not by using the computer as a testing machine or calculator, but by utilizing the multi-modal nature of the computer to keep kids interested in subject matter and tailoring every lesson exactly to the needs of the student.

Khan academy recognizes the potential of video lessons and their efforts have penetrated the classroom as the teachers are now assigning the lectures for homework and are able to guide the ‘homework assignments’ while students are doing them, in the classroom. The interesting aspect of this use of technology is that because the teachers are less strained with repetitive activities such as grading and lecturing, they are able to have more personal interactions with the children, tailoring to their specific needs. This way the technology is put to work to humanize the classroom once again. Another interesting aspect is that the multi-sensorial input of the video offers a richer, less energy-consuming learning-experience than the traditional reading of  books. The third benefit of video lessons is the fact that the students can pause, repeat, or slow down the lecturer in his presentation so the lesson is delivered to every student in exactly the right pace. 

The importance of a social learning space

Whereas digital media can offer a solution for explaining new material to children, it is imperative that they do not learn from home but are taught in a school. The school experience is much richer than just the knowledge that is transferred. Children will build a lot of social skills in school, such as communicating and collaborating. (Won, 1999)

Apart from Khan Academy there are several other scientific communities and movements that have set up video lessons on websites, these movements are collectively called the Open Learning Movement. Frey (2007) states that more scientific institutes and researchers should create courseware for students instead of papers to pass their knowledge to the world in a different way. Only a small percentage of the knowledge that is gained is being transferred through courseware to the future generations.  

Mission:

We strive to create an educational model that exploits technology to humanize the classroom, taking the time consuming activities such as lecturing, and then transforming these to activities that are tailored to students. 

We want a shift from teaching to learning (Frey, 2007) where the learning experience is also taken outside of the classroom and crossed over to different media and technologies such as electric newspapers, cell phones, MP3 players etc. 

Physical Development

Apart from the technological innovations that are making their way into the classroom, a lot of effort also needs to be put into the innovation of physical games and playful strategies that teach children to explore, challenge and develop on a social and tangible level. However, this is not the focus of this document. 

We propose for academics to partly focus on the transfer of knowledge to future generations as well as the writing of papers for the academic world. By doing this we will greatly increase the quality of the matter that is being taught and increase the amount of knowledge that is transferred to future generations.

Strategy

Value Proposition

We want to offer an integrated learning-system to schools that uses technology to give teachers more breathing room. The system will be composed existing components and have a high usability grade for both teachers and students. The system will utilize online video lessons (not lectures) that can be watched in the classroom or at home, and will automatically monitor students’ progress in the lectures. Also the correcting of tests can be done by the system as the tests are also made digitally.

The students can watch the videos at their own pace and don’t have to hesitate to repeat, pause, or slow down the lecture if needed. The teacher will fulfill both a digital and physical coaching role, monitoring the video progress and tutoring those in need in person. The time that the teacher saves from the lecturing and grading can be invested in one on one interactions with the slower students and the preparation of additional exercises, tailoring them to the faster students. 

Our Tactics

We want to start up a consulting agency in the design and education field. We will offer advice to schools who want to innovate but are unsure about the exact ways to do so.We strive to explore and exploit existing technologies in order to maximize their potential in the classroom. We will advise schools on new equipment, configure tailored technology packages for schools complete with software and content. We will teach educators about the easy-to-use interfaces on the technologies and show them the first set of possibilities with the system. This basic understanding and skill in using the system will trigger teachers to look within their own experiences and expertise’s to combine new and old media and knowledge into a dynamic and compelling learning experience for the students. In addition to guiding the introduction of new technologies in schools we will also closely cooperate with teachers to gain feedback on the systems that are used. Taking this information into account we are able to offer advice to the manufacturing companies on how to improve their current products and expand their. 

Our Skills

Our strategic value as designers in this field is that we bridge the gap between educational psychologists, teachers, educationists, software- and hardware engineers because we speak all of their languages. Due to a lack of integration of multidisciplinary experts, the current technologies that are developed for education are lacking in usability, meaning, and elegance. We as Industrial Designers from the Eindhoven University of Technology can apply the design process as well as the Design Thinking technique to these situations whilst taking all aspects and stakeholders into account, as well as keeping an eye on the business models that are applied. Taking an extra step back to get a birds eye view of the problem and see the bigger picture, we don’t necessarily create products to thrive in the existing system but assess and the situation on a higher level to look for opportunities to also give new meaning to products or systems in the educational system. 

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