Sir Ken Robinson, in this video, mentions that in some parts of United States 60% of children drop out of high school. He was ridiculing the No Child Left Behind Act whose problem stems from its highly decontextualized, one-standardized-test-fits-all approach to education. Like he talks in the video, millions are left behind and those that stay are not learning effectively. This video by Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) could well be used to summarize the effect of such a learning environment:
One way to curb such a problem would be to encourage a personalized, autonomous, contextualized, practice-based learning environment somewhat similar to the tenants that I discussed in my previous post. Recently in a Hacker News discussion, I had posted an idea for a similar learning environment:
We should look at how we can improve the ROI for education.
Millions across the world, especially in developing countries, drop out of school because they (and/or their guardians) see no benefit from long-term investment in education. Others who somehow manage to stay in formal institutions are exposed to decontextualized education that they cannot realize their full potential.
There will be many different solutions to it. One of them could be a large-scale, technology-immersed learning system that teaches a broad range of topics to students through a vocation. The vocation could be decided based on the learner’s interest and the local resources. For example, in northern Nepal, children walk through perilous snow-covered hills and mountains to recover Yarsagumba (“Himalayan viagra”), a fungus with aphrodisiac and medicinal value. Instead, the kids can be educated progressively in details about different aspects surrounding Yarsagumba – mountain climbing, biological systems, business, marketing (where they could sell the collected Yarsagumba), greenhouse and high-tech farming systems, technology, etc. – without disturbing their Yarsamgumba collecting activity.
This is a simple example. Since a diverse topics are being taught and practiced, learners would not be restricted in the same vocation.
As conveyed in the above message, for me, an effective learning environment would encompass a highly contextualized learning with active learners actively participating in the learning process and ultimately creating artifacts. Michael Wesch, in his article, mentions that a significant problem in education arises because students struggle to find meaning and significance in their education. A good example of this is a science class that Cesar Harada ran in Hong Kong where he used his students interests and real-life problems to drive students motivation and improve the learning experience:
The hope is that through a contextualized learning experience, such as the example I mentioned above and the one Cesar Herada talked about, we would make learners exclaim, with the joy of new-found knowledge, “Oh, that’s so significant!”