Transition from “I can not do it” to “I can do it” is training
Transition from “I do not understand it” to “I understand it” is thinking
The most dangerous weapon of mass destruction is a bad education
A good education is a result of hard work of students, teachers, parents, principals, facilities, scientists and all of the society together
Life is a Game in/with Models
A Game is a Model of Life
A Model is a Game, which looks like Life
When moved in the US I started to looking for the describing of the main prospective transition in the US system of education. I found there are tons of pages on why the system of education must be changed. But so far I have not found the short text which clearly shows what problems/negatives must be solved and the ways to do that. The same situation I have observed in Russia. When teachers kept asking me what did they had to change in their work and why, I kept saying, that first of all they had to form their own philosophy of education. “The own philosophy” dose not mean the new one; “the own” means “I stand on that, and I do not care do you like it or not”. This “personal” philosophy is becoming to be the basis of the subsequent analysis of the own teaching practice and, as a consequence, the project/design of the necessary changes in the practice. As an example of such a “personal” philosophy I offered my philosophy of education (and the corresponded actions in my teaching practice). “You can use my philosophy” I was saying “or you can build your own, it is your choice. But without your own philosophy of education you will not became a really successful teacher.”
The below is the main parts of my philosophical vision.
I have a strong believing on the importance of education for the success of a society. The simple example. The US has won “a race of weapons” and “a race of technologies”, however, if the US loose “a race of education” the country will loose the present dominating position in the World.
It is obviously that in the third millennium leadership in education is the basic condition of leadership in technologies. The world becomes more complex and difficult. People should solve more complicated problems, and use more information to make decisions.
Therefore, we can hear often, that students should receive a mach more larger amount of knowledge. However, an amount of information is not the most important thing to make a complex and complicated decision. Rather, a correct using of the information is the most important one. A person should be able to analyze any received information, build a variety of chains of reasoning and evaluate the probability and the possible consequences of conclusions. In other words, a contemporary person must be able to think (especially, to reflect). Therefore, the main teachers’ goal and problem is to teach students to think and to make (to create!) conclusions (decisions!).
A brain is the physiological basis of thinking. Hence, to achieve the goal, to solve the main educational problem we should know about the influence of training methods on the functioning of a student’s brain. I will use an analogy. Let us assume that students have been doing for years one type of physical exercises only, which are squats. Then in the end of education, they can squat many times without any difficulties. However, all the other muscles which are not involved in squats would be highly underdeveloped. Students would not be able to proceed any other exercises. A brain works the same way. If for years the majority of school lessons were based on memorizing and reproduction, other kinds of intellectual activities would be difficult for students to make. I believe that any subject should work first as a tool for “brainbuilding”, and only then as a tool for “knowledgebuilding”. The evidence of the good “brainbuilding” work made during school years is a developed problem solving skills.
One of the most efficient remedies to develop the problem-solving skills (hence, a tool for “brainbuilding”) is a creating of a sequence of educational problem-solving situations. Here, I mean specific situation when the student realizes that he or she cannot finish the task/problem (or even start it). Within traditional approaches, a teacher has two possible options: a) a teacher concludes that the student's work is incorrect and gives the student a low mark. b) a teacher reveals the solution to the student, thus replacing the student’s thinking and not giving to him/her a chance to come to an independent solution. If the process of student's reasoning is interrupted, the creative process is stopped. In this situation, studying the subject turns exclusively into memorizing (“squats”).
I divide teachers roughly into two types. The first set contents “introducers”. If I were an “introducer”, I would be concerned only about extracting my knowledge from my memory and presenting the ones to my students, plus about giving some illustrations.
Imagine, for example, that I teach a class how to play basketball. “It is a ball. You may bounce it from the floor; you can use your left hand or the right hand to bounce the ball. You may throw it out in a basket (not your basket!), or you can throw it up to each other. Who wants to touch the ball? Do not kick it! Perfect. I think my job is done. Have a good game.”
I belong to the second set of teachers, which I call “coachers” (not as I have just described before). My responsibility as “a coach” is to help every student to become capable of “to play mathematics/physics”. After making the curriculum I always make the set of task/problems, which students should definitely be able to solve of after the completing the whole course. I know how much time is required for an average (Russian) student to master this set of problems, hence, sometimes I should correct my teaching plan according to an amount of lessons and an approximated time that could be spent by students on their homework.
During doing my research I have been looking for tools, which can help students to overcome any educational problem solving situation. An educational problem solving experience leads to construction up the general problem solving skills, which are necessary for a life success.
I found some texts on “learning with understanding”. From my teaching practice I can confirm that learning with understanding is much more efficient tool than learning with just memorizing. But there is only one real evidence of understanding of a subject, it is demonstrated solid skills to solve complicated subject problems. So, learning with understanding is the same as learning with “brainbuilding”.
An overcoming of mis-un-non-understanding and a developing of the high level of understanding of a subject is connected very closely with a development of the critical (or creative, or inventive, or lateral, or theoretical, or divergent) thinking. I am absolutely sure, that if the teacher wants to develop students’ thinking skills, hence he/she should develop the students’ understanding of the subject (and vice versa). And if scientists wants to research how to teach students to think, hence scientists should research how students learn to understand mathematics/ physics.
Also, I am strong believer in a crucial role of technologies in development of education.
Let's carry out a mental experiment. Let us assume, hypothetically, that we created a group of the best designers/inventors of car wheels and gave them out everything that they have asked for to do their job. Then we have separately formed a group of the best designers of car engines. Plus, we have independently formed a group of the best car body designers, etc. All the groups have invented the best wheels in the world, the best engine in the world, the best auto body in the world, etc. Now ask yourself, what will turn out, if we tried to put all these best auto parts together? The obvious answer is nothing! They will not match to each other.
Absolutely the same situation we can observe now in education. Someone writes fine textbooks for middle school students. Other persons independently write a collection of problems for the high school students. A third person creates an electronic encyclopedia for students at the college level, and etc. Each didactic tool can be helpful for students of a certain grade, but they do not match to each other, they do not make a big change in the results of education.
But the real problem is that there dose not exist yet any tool to combine, to cooperate all the creative works.
Let’s do some reasoning. What had made united all the scientists, engineers, generals and all the staff of Manhattan Project? If you said “The mutual goal”, it would be too broad. For example such a goal as “Making a new high destructive weapon” could only separate people because every body has the own idea on “high destructive weapon”. But the goal “Making a U-bomb” had made people united. Because the goal was an absolutely specific object, which everybody could touch. Analogically, “Making a good education” is not the uniting goal. But “Making a certain good new educational tool” could be the one. The efficiency of the result would depend on the specificity of the goal/tool chosen to create.
I think, the most effective tool for developing an entire system of education is On-Line Open School. The goal is creating of WEB-site (or the combination of Internet, TV and paper published tools) by using the one EVERYBODY (potentially, as a horizon) could be able get an education from a scratch to the level enough to pass SAT-I (at least).
I am sure that just creating of the Internet based educational complex will allow raising the quality of education on the next level at least as an example of an affective educational institution. Such an educational complex should include the full curriculum of a subject from an initial level of studying up to graduate level, and also a full set of electronic textbooks, sets of tasks/problems, training and testing computer programs and other didactical tools which are necessary to help any student to master a subject (in ideal situation – without any help of a teacher; which is probably impossible, however can be keeping in a mind as a horizon of research). One of the most interesting problems, which should be solved to create such an educational complex, is modeling of mental processes, which are “boiling” in a student’s head during a problem solving situation.
Today, there are no textbooks or computer based training tools, which could compete with teachers in their efficiency (all computer based tools are just an aid for teachers). The main reason of the fact that even a just graduated teacher can teach better than the most developed electronic tool is that every human being has one crucial ability that any electronic tool has not yet. This is the ability to be adjusted on each concrete student, i.e. the ability to organize the work on mastering a subject according to prior student’s knowledge and ignorance. If a computer based educational systems, that can adjust on students, would be created, we would receive the electronic self-instruction manual, which can be used as an alternative for many contemporary teachers, as far as the translation and evaluation of knowledge are only concerned (but at least it would allow teachers to direct their efforts to achieving more important pedagogical goals, other than mere translation of the information).
I found a lot of publication on new philosophy of education (in both Russia and the US). I think that for now we have good educational theories enough for constructing really new education and for building a really efficient learning tools. But still too many authors want to be an Albert Einstein of Education, and too few of them want to become an educational Tomas Edison.