The purpose of the second session was to use SOLE methods to come up with a workable response to the provocation. Could this be described as “crowd sourced knowledge”? I use the word “workable” (as opposed to definitive) deliberately as there is no definitive answer to this question. It would be fair to say that everyone in the room agreed that there is no single (or correct) answer to this. The knowledge and skills that should be acquired by a 12 year old are very much dictated by the context and culture in which they live.
Breaking into smaller groups to discuss the provocation and develop a response to it allowed for a much more open and free flowing discussion and exchange of ideas that would have been possible by remaining as a single large group. It also allowed for different avenues to be explored by each group, directions which depended partly on the experience in this field of the individual members of each group. Everyone was recalling their own experiences of primary schooling and the things that they were expected to know by the age of 12. No matter what the cultural background of individual group members, all members of my group (and, I think, of the members of the class of a whole) agreed that reading, writing and basic numeracy would be essential. However, as Prof. Mitra pointed out, how do we know that reading and writing would not be made obsolete (or at least obsolescent) by advances in text recognition and speech software in the future? The simple answer is that we don’t. 200 years ago literacy for the masses was regarded in some quarters as dangerous to the State and to be actively discouraged in case the proles got ideas above their stations. Nowadays it is considered an essential skill. The point that I am trying to make here is that, by definition, the future is unpredictable but we have to start from somewhere.
One area that technology can make a positive difference is in the area of assessment. All groups were firmly of the opinion that the current high stakes testing regime favoured by just about every system in the world is broken and needs to be radically altered. There was some talk of self-assessment and peer-assessment, both potentially problematic in terms of quality control and assurance but there should be no such problem with continuous assessment. Allen Sunny in our group came up with the concept of “invisible continuous assessment” using technology to monitor activity and to store results thereby allowing for objectivity of assessment and hence validity. This does, however, have enormous issues of privacy, data protection and the value of that data in the wrong hands – these are all issues that would need to be addressed and solutions found before such a scheme could get beyond the drawing board and into the real world. And then there is the issue, as with all technology, what happens when it breaks………
An interesting afternoon – certainly challenging, and not just because of the new technology! Of course, for many people, using twitter is second nature but, as with all new things in our lives, using it for the first time presents numerous challenges. Personally, I found the use of twitter as a platform slowed down the interchange of ideas and opinions – there was just too much going on and, being a new user, even just reading other peoples tweets meant that many were left unread. Surely there must be a better platform for interaction? Certainly the idea of there being many more people in the conversation than were in the room must improve the conversation but only if the conversation can actually take place.
The provocation itself was interesting, stimulating and intellectually challenging as was the discussion. I think it hinges on the definitions of education, learning and schooling; recognising the differences and similarities and deciding which is the most important (which may well be different things to different people). What does a 12 year old need to know? Whatever the society in which s/he lives decides that s/he needs to know. Society is now too complex for all members of it to have an equal part in such decisions – the logistics alone are too mind-blowing. In most Western “democracies” citizens have handed that responsibility to a small number of individuals whom we choose to call politicians in the expectation that they will act in the best interests of the people. Unfortunately, the vast majority of politicians act in their own best interests or, at best, in the best interests of whichever political party they have signed up to in order to get themselves elected. Education is used as a political weapon rather than as a means of ensuring the development of an intelligent, informed and critical populous who have the confidence to challenge the political elite. It is in the best interests of the political elite to ensure that the “education” of the masses is sufficient to enable them to take a constructive role in the economic life of the state but insufficient for them to challenge that elite.
Assessment is simply the method of deciding whether the recipient of the delivered “knowledge” has “learned” what is required of them and can therefore move forward to the next stage in the process. The current system of assessment has developed into a series of high stakes examinations where success is measured in terms of points scored in standardized settings (exams) marked by standardized markers. School has ceased to be about the joy of exploring this world and more about retaining and regurgitating a set of pre-approved “facts” (the curriculum) that students have been told they need to know. I doubt that anyone involved in education would disagree that there must be a better way but no one, as yet, appears to have found it. Like democracy, it is the worst system, apart from all the other ones.