I’m getting really frustrated of all the debates in education being corrupted with black and white thinking. We won’t get anywhere if we don’t stop, think and most of all listen.
Example 1: tablets (or ICT in general) in schools.
Black: ICT makes pupils numb, dumb and square eyed. They will never play again and won’t know how clay feels…
White: Clay? Clay? Yes, clay! Our schoolsystem makes use of claytablets! Nothing has changed in the past year! It’s a museum!
Grey: ICT is important, it’s there, we work with it. We need to teach children how they can make use of ICT, and we need to know how ICT can help them learn. A lot of schools are already experimenting with ICT. Let them share their experiences, so we can all learn. We need to know more about what works and when. Poorly designed pilots will only result in more black and white. We need valid pilots, resulting in knowledge on when, how, what and a parade of learning material. Perhaps some things simply can’t be replaced by ICT, and surely ICT won’t be used all the time. And, most important, ICT should be a means, not a goal. This takes time and everyone needs help. It is important to work on all levels, macro, meso and micro, let’s find out together!
Example 2: testing (especially in Kindergarten).
Black: Testing is a sin! It’s child abuse! You can’t test a child, for there is no good way to test a child! Why don’t you trust the teachers?
White: Testing should be done as much as possible. There is only one valid test, and that is the written, norm or age-based one. You can also measure teacher or school quality with this test.
Grey: It’s important to follow a childs development. This can be done in several ways. Norm or age-based testing is one of them. Criterion-based testing another. Observations by teachers yet another. If we make use (in an organized, well deliberated way) of a collection of tests, where not all test measure the same, but all test together provide a clear picture of a child’s development on various aspects, then we can actually get to personalized education. Giving a child what is necessary at that moment. How do I observe a child, and how do I know which behavior shows which level of development, some teachers may ask. Others may wonder how to go about criterion-based testing. This takes time and everyone needs help. It is important to work on all levels, macro, meso and micro, let’s find out together!
Example 3: ‘talent development’
Black: You’re as good as the level of the course where you reach the lowest level. You have to take ALL your courses at the same level, and we’ll take that lowest as a point of reference.
White: Oh wow, you’re so creative! You really have a unique learning style! You are allowed to do what you want, the current system sucks anyway. And just for trying, we’ll make sure you get a diploma on this level, even though you do not actually qualify for this level!
Grey: A student should be able to work on his own level, continuously. Level based grouping instead of age-based. Do we need all new schools for this? Can this be done in the current system? How can we make sure that every child can be educated at his own level? If schools don’t see how, are there any other options like homeschooling. Combined with a well deliberated way of testing (using a collection of tests) and making use of possibilities of ICT, we can make it happen. This takes time and everyone needs help. It is important to work on all levels, macro, meso and micro, let’s find out together!