Thursday, 20 January 2011

Education 3.0

The majority of teaching in this world is still very much based on the same principles as the beginning of last century: One teacher in the front of the classroom telling kids what they need to do/ learn (often by rote): mind numbing, repetitive and dull. This form of assembly line teaching is inefficient, and has not kept up with technology and theory. What is worse, it wastes the talents of so many promising kids. Sir Ken Robinson in this TED talk1, gives a great account what is wrong with ‘modern’ day teaching. Kids are not little machines with preconditioned responses. They are individuals and should be taught in a way tuned to their needs, their forms of intelligence, and their developing minds. Howard Gardner2,3 has implied as much in his books on the various forms of intelligence.
Fortunately some change can be seen in curricula such as the IPC4, and the PYP5, and also in the training of new teachers. And kids, parents and teachers are enthusiastic about the positive changes they see. But it is not enough. These positive developments are at the primary level. When these kids come to the secondary it is often back to the old grind. A lot of potential that was developed in their primary years, is lost.
What we need, is a revolution in education: Education 3.0. The bulk of teaching, or as I’d rather say, enabling learning to take place, should be done on an individual basis. One teacher with one student, or may be two. Of course there should be social interactions and working in groups but that can be organised during physical education, drama, and music lessons. What we also should leave behind is the rigid structure of physical age tied to school years. Kids undergo differential development but schools force them to be either behind, or far in front. That can lead to boredom, recalcitrance or other forms of socially unacceptable behaviour. Why not allow a kid to be in French1, Math3 and English2? Why not allow them to sit their exams for one subject and still have another year to go form another.
With the help of virtual learning environments, modern communication methods, and other forms of blended learning it should be possible to have more individual teaching combined with a limited number of group sessions. It need not be more expensive than traditional teaching.

Kind regards,

Peter Hoeben 

2 Howard Gardner, Five Minds for the Future
Howard Gardner, Intelligence Reframed: Multiple Intelligences for the 21st Century

Monday, 17 January 2011

‘Cocaine (all around my brain)’

Who doesn’t know this JJ Cale song? Eric Clapton and others have performed it as well, and it is often mooted as an anti-drug song. The link between music and pleasure seems an obvious notion to many people. A recent publication in Nature Neurogenetics1 by researchers at the McGill University in Montreal, Canada has given this notion some scientific backing. They detected elevated dopamine2 levels in the brains of people listening to their favourite music. In some cases their dopamine level was 21% above normal. So JJ Cale knew it all along: music is like cocaine, it can raise your dopamine levels.

Music and pleasure: how does this stack up from an evolutionary point of view? It has been shown that dopamine levels increase in male birds when they sing to attract female birds3. That makes sense if you want to get as many descendants as possible and to keep your genes ‘alive’. But what about the human situation? Did Romeo get a kick out of serenading Juliet? Do we get tickled by singing in a choir or a sing-along at a concert? What advantage does it give humans to sing (well)? Giving pleasure to others and yourself may have some cultural benefits but in a Darwinian sense? What does it do for the survival of the species? I am certain that it has a valid evolutionary explanation. So, if you know of any enlightening research in this field please mail me (or sing it time). Thanks.



3 Singing To Females Makes Male Birds’ Brains Happy. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 6, 2008, from­/releases/2008/10/081003122545.htm

Peter Hoeben

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Good day reader, L.S.,

Once a week I will post a comment on this blog, with a maximum of 400 words, about topics such as education, science, philosophy, literature, food or any other topic that I think would be of general interest.

Today’s topic is about deceleration, slowing down. When Carlo Petrini started his slow food movement in 1986, it sparked a range of similar movements (see also: ). Whatever might have attracted you to these ‘slow movements’ there are good biological reasons for slowing down. Only 30 to 40 years ago the average human was exposed to less data per second than today. The difference is that we are more exposed to auditory and textual input, often interlaced with loads of visual data. The complexity and data rate have increased exponentially. Yet during that time our brains have not evolved to keep up with the near constant data stream that keeps our neurons firing. Information overload can be a problem. Whether we are managers, teachers, politicians, journalists or students, we are supposed to (re)act sensibly, make wise decisions. So here is my suggestion, in addition to the existing slow movements why not start a slow decision movement? There should be a direct relation between the importance of a decision and its gestation time. The more people are affected, the more money is involved, the longer the process should be. It is a good idea to let major decisions rest for at least 24 hours. It will help you to slow down your life; it will help you to focus, to become more of a uni-tasker.

Kind regards,

Peter Hoeben