Today I learned how to use the Mozilla Firefox browser plug-in called "Down Them All." It rocks. I downloaded all of the MIT video lectures for one course with a couple clicks on my mouse. Woot! Try it out.“There’s something curious about professors, in my experience. Not all of them, but typically, they live in their heads. They live up there, and slightly to one side. They’re disembodied, you know, in kind of a literal way. You know, they look upon their body as a form of transport for their heads….don’t they. It’s a way of getting their head to meetings.” – Sir Ken Robinson
As I started listening to the physics 8.02 lecture on my PC this morning, I was once again impressed with the idiocy of the current education system. As I listened to a professor talk about electrons, I wondered, "How the heck did we get the lecture format to be our primary method of educating minds?" Its like listening to paint dry. Its boring. Its un-engaging. Ugh. It's painful. I knew the stuff that he was lecturing on, but he was losing me in his flowery speech. He had a chalkboard, balloons, demonstrations, etc, but it was boring and did not explain the basic concepts of electricity at all. Electricty is an exciting subject, and he made it about as fun as picking weeds. No wonder I struggled all through college. College is boring and large lectures are very ineffective ways to educate people. I realize that a small segment of the population thrives in this type of learning atmosphere, but a majority doesn't.
I also don't understand why we teach principles over and over and over again. I figured the lecturer was rushing through the basics of electricity because it was a review for a lot of the kids. Why do we repeat it over and over again if we've already learned it? I think an effective method of teaching would be one in which the main idea sticks with you through time.
What would be your ultimate type of education or learning method? I would love the hands on teaching approach, with peer led work groups of 5-10 people, that help you work through problems and real life examples. Then a review via paper that reinforces the ideas that were learned, followed by a vocal review. Those who did not quiet grasp the concept would be split into another group that would be led by the peer with the knowledge to help the group gain the concepts and understand them. Those who did understand and master the subject would move on to another level of knowledge or be done for the day.
This system would have to be flexible enough to allow for students to be at different paces, but who cares? Those who catch on quickly finish the course sooner and move on. Those who don't catch on as quickly move slower, but still get to the same end point. It may take them longer, but they will have the same amount of knowledge in the end.
It would be a very fluid educational process. For example, rather than set class times in one hour format, there would be subject times...and all subjects would be covered by one group in between the hours of 8am to 12pm. The next day, there would be a new subject introduced, so those who were ready to move on could. Those who wanted to stay and explore yesterdays subject could as well. You can skip from subject to subject and concept to concept, but in the end, you will end up with the same mastery as everyone else.
The professor or teacher would be the supervisor and drop in on groups here and there to explain difficult concepts or give a demonstration. He would be there to answer questions and clarify important points.
I think we have the lecture format because it is the cheapest format to educate people. Teachers spend a lot of time doing other things in their daily lives other than planning their lectures. They don't have the time or money to plan out specialized experiments and hand on demonstrations. It is a true tragedy to waste our time and money on an educational system that is not effective at truly educating the minds of people.
TED talks are a perfect example of how lectures can be fun and engaging. They encourage creativity and excitement for knowledge. Imagine a TED talk followed by a bunch of hand on interactive experiments that are led by someone who has the knowledge to explain to your small group of 10 people how and why things are the way they are. Then a review, and then moving onto the next subject. I would be in educational heaven.