Education : The more it changes, the more it’s the same thing (part 1)

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By adubuquoy@image7.fr June 29, 2023

Back in the fourth century Saint Augustine defined education as “a process of posing problems and seeking answers through conversation”

As we are immersed in the COVID-19 crisis, we realize that education remains more than ever the art of posing the right questions.

Let me compare education to bricolage. In the words of Seymour Papert, “bricolage is a way to learn and solve problems by trying, testing, playing around”. Since the beginning of this major crisis, teachers have learned to take risks, change their practices and innovate in the classroom.

A lot has been written about teachers’ (lack of) motivation before this crisis. For a moment, we believed that all this was about using the right technology. But learning is not about technology. More than ever, learning has to do with the way we we live together, we engage into conversation together.

This echoes Martha Nussbaum’s work in her book Not for profit about global citizenship. For her, the global problems we need to solve question our capacity to come together and cooperate in ways we have not before. When schools reopen, it will be up to the whole education community to develop new strategies to make students global citizens.

What did we learn during the two months of the containment? A lot of questions came to our mind: How to continue teaching “as before”? How to do it without a physical place common to the teacher and his students but with the same protagonists? How to respond to an exceptional situation with the same quality? With what skills, what training, what goals?

Physical space had disappeared; Students came back home; Heads of schools had become invisible; Parents had become more visible; Time had lengthened: the day no longer had clear boundaries between work and leisure.

But the teacher remains the only one in charge of his class; Classroom assistance remains mandatory; All children have the right to be in class; A class has a schedule; Class hours allow children to acquire knowledge and skills by following a well established curriculum

We also know that schools are very difficult to substitute as a physical space.

 

Reality is stubborn.

After 10 weeks of closure, we realize that:

– Schools means also daily basic care

– School closures deepen education inequalities

– Connecting with children outside school is a key problem

 

The digital revolution was not ready in school.

We certainly have the technical means to turn our schools digital. We can give a distance learning course by videoconference to students staying at home. We can use a virtual class which reproduces the functioning of the class with a shared screen and a chat tool for the pupils.

But none of these solutions has been thought of as a replacement for physical school. In fact, nothing was as ready as we thought. Nothing has ever been thought of on a large scale so that children no longer have to go to school.

Less is more

Today with digital, you have to learn to do less, better, shorter.

Learning does not consist in seeing your students in full screen. Imagine a teacher 50 centimeters away from each of his students, feeling their breath, blowing in their face!

Learning is first and foremost the art of distance, the art of knowing how to use pedagogical supports wisely and to animate the discussion on subjects that require a specific approach and address challenging issues!

In a visioconference, the teacher scrolls through a powerpoint presentation – prepared in advance – by moving from one slide to another according to the time allotted for the lesson. It is therefore an imported pedagogy.

The particularity of a lesson on the contrary is that it is part of a dynamic process. Students need to know more at the end than at the beginning. They all go from point a to point b. We must therefore ensure that this progression takes place.

(to be followed)

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