Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Students of the 21st Century

Thanks to Education Stimulation for pointing me at this thought provoking video about students, learning, and teaching in the 21st century.

I'm a little torn on what to do with this information. Having been attending the University now for ~12+ years (yikes, I know), I have definitely seen a paradigm shift even in that short span (short in terms of the world...not in terms of how long it's taken me to get my Bachelor's). Extend that duration to the hundred plus years that our general academic system has been in place, and it becomes readily apparent that there's a disconnect.

Many areas of studies can still be conducted in the same "tried and true" methods of a teacher at the front of the room leading a lecture or class discussion while assigning students to read textbooks and complete essays and other busywork to prove they grasp the concept being taught.

Unfortunately, as is alluded to in the video, the culture today has changed. Students don't want to pour for hours over a hundred pages in a textbook when they can skim the vital information from wikipedia, you tube or some site found with a quick google search. (Granted, this gets into the problem of verifying information found on the Web, but that's a different discussion).

Students may participate in an open discussion in class, but they might get just as much (or more) out of an online discussion held on a message board, blog or even over twitter. (And for another discussion, there have been studies that are showing that the "youth of today" is more comfortable communicating via virtual/online methods as opposed to face-to-face such as in a classroom)

Many/most of the degrees having to do with science or technology are found in an especially difficult position. The world of science and technology is changing so quickly that it's difficult to decide what to teach, let alone how to teach it. As a result, many curriculums are just sticking with the "standards" and then letting a few "capstone" classes focus on whatever's most relevant at the time Seniors prepare to graduate. Unfortunately, this means these students may spend 3/4 of their college life learning things that won't matter or will only matter peripherally to the careers they are seeking.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm a bit torn as to what to do with the knowledge that our education system is antiquated and less than relevant in many/most cases. I fully acknowledge that there's a disconnect. This disconnect results in students who are disengaged and less passionate about their studies. These same students may be VERY passionate about the topic they're studying...they just don't have a good way to funnel that passion and access the information that will help them succeed. In the end, that seems to be the heart of the do we present relevant information in a way that will be engaging to modern students and help them prepare for careers in a world that is changing faster and faster?


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