As part of a course entitled ‘The Future of Education’, I’ve been asked to create a reflective blog. The course is run by the University of London’s Institute of Education on the Coursera MOOC platform. For six weeks, we will be asked to reflect on different aspects of education and I will record my thoughts in this blog. The course involves reading various texts and watching videos extracts on the subject of education as well as participating in online discussions.
I work for a private language school in Barcelona, Spain so my reflections will in part be based on my experience in this field. As an academic manager, I do relatively little direct teaching but one of my main responsibilities is defining our organisation’s our educational approach and I am also responsible for teachers’ professional development. This means that the future of education and approaches to teaching and learning are of particular interest to me.
I am also a father of a five year old boy and a three year old girl and so I have a special personal interest in the future of education. Like all parents, I want the best for my children and hope for them to develop into confident and happy adults, and my wife and I believe that the type of education they are exposed to may be key to that. Both of my children are currently enrolled at a small school whose focus is on providing a respectful education which prioritises the children’s emotional and social development as well as providing meaningful learning opportunities.
I’ve taken two courses in Coursera and I found them both enjoyable and engaging. Although they were completely different topics (emotional intelligence and the history of the Internet), I came away feeling I’d learnt something new and that my perspective had been altered in some way. With the history of the Internet course, I learnt more factual and technical knowledge whereas with the emotional intelligence course, I learnt more about being and living with others. In both courses, I also learnt more about how to learn; they both required the participants to listen to and interpret new information, and engage with and reflect upon it through discussion.
I’ve found the combination of video talks and interviews, articles and research papers and online discussions works well for me. With this course, I would expect that this approach will provide a similarly fulfilling learning experience. However, as an educator and parent, I also hope to get new perspectives on a subject which is important to me.
It seems that attitudes to education are changing quickly, particularly in Spain, where I live. In the video, Eleanor suggests that education often tends to be authoritarian in approach, and I would agree fully. However, I am aware of a large number of progressive educational projects in Barcelona alone. As my children are enrolled in one, I am fairly convinced of the value of a more holistic approach to education but I would like to be as fully informed as possible.
With that in mind, I would hope to get a better understanding of the following out of this course:
- what constitutes learning and why some traditional notions of learning may need to be challenged (and which are of value)
- how parents and educators can facilitate the most positive learning experience for their children and students
- how educational policy and organisations might look in not too distant future
My own views about the future of education are rather mixed. My feeling is that the traditional teacher led classrooms are somewhat outdated now. Their focus on academic success and failure to develop emotional and social skills seems misguided especially in a world which is changing so fast. For example, while we read about students achieving record grades in exams, at the same time record numbers of young people are self harming. This is set against a backdrop of rapid automation which means many jobs will soon be obsolete.
Therefore, a more progressive approach to teaching and learning seems necessary in order to equip people to deal with the challenges of modern life. This would involve helping learners to develop not only intellectually but emotionally and as social beings.