One of my challenges in this program is to be aware of academic distractions. I kept finding myself reflecting inward during class as a thought resonated with my own teaching practice. As we talked about the changing role of technology, what is learning and how is it evolving, I realized that it isn't the technology that limits learning rather it is the curriculum. The model that we are following is atequated and based on time when communication technologies were limited and therefore slowed down the learning/teaching pace. The education model needs to shift away from the need of memorization to that of gathering, assessing and implementing. The problem in education is so much bigger then I have ever thought. It lies in the idea that the central point of the classroom is the chalkboard--whether it has been replaced with a white or smart board, it is still based on the principle that the students gather around this hanging piece of technology, listen and react.
My education in Jamaica was very much routed in the more original model of the formal classroom. More than half of my social sciences classes, for instance, was spent copying copious amounts of notes from the board or from a teacher dictating. Textbooks were very scarce and expensive--it required a trip into town to purchase them as students have to supply their own books. Even for students who were lucky enough to own their books, they weren't using the same edition so notes were necessary to compensate for any discrepancies. I never really questioned this approach at the time, but in retrospect, I lost half of my year in each course due to the notebooks that I filled up. We were always being encouraged to hurry up so we learn what we were writing down. The curriculum that was covered had to be condensed and was more memory rather than learning focused. I'm starting to see that memorization is an extremely small part of learning. For instance, I know that Jamaica has one of the richest deposits of bauxite in the world and I think of this often when I drinking from a soda can. What I wished we had discussed further in geography class was why it would stain our clothes red?
A deeper understanding of a topic allows the learner the opportunity to connect knowledge and then apply it in different or new ways. In order for the current education system to be improved, we need to turn our backs on the chalkboard and move towards a more collaborative environment that will facilitate deeper exploration.