Let’s corrupt the youth!


They were right after all. We are seeing a comeback (were they ever really gone anywhere?) of some of the old theories about learning and how teachers should conduct their lessons. Edtech is making possible the practical application of the Socratic method, of Paulo Freire’s pedagogy, of Vygostky’s studies and experiments. All the other pedagogues who have advocated more direct involvement and participation from the students in their own learning are being vindicated and having their theories confirmed and validated.

Some of the methodologies we see in use today are becoming possible because of the realization of individualized learning. It boils down to a student facing her app alone in her bedroom to start with. And from there we can exploit the use of questions (Socrates) to lead that student further and further on the path to the right answer, or, even better, to her own answer in the case of a more abstract problem (such as moral, ethical or political issues); we can personalize teaching to make the context more relevant for each of the students, and therefore resonate with them (Paulo Freire); and we can flip our lessons, having students reconvene in class afterwards to cooperate in solving problems (Vygotsky), after having spent time alone in their homes doing research, reading, watching TEDs or other relevant videos on YouTube.

The Death of Socrates. Rosa, Salvator.

The Death of Socrates. Rosa, Salvator.

We have always known that personalization, cooperation and inductive approaches worked fine.  They have the power of grabbing the students’ interest and attention, keeping the findings longer in their memory. We’re clever teachers after all, we do our homework as well, we went to college and were fascinated by Plato and his dialogues, we felt invigorated by the potential and possibilities of the pedagogy of Freire; and we could easily see that pairing off weaker students with strong ones who would pull them along zones of proximal development made total sense.

But we lacked the means to make it happen. How to apply these exciting methods to classes of more than 30 students (or even more sometimes)? How can a single teacher dedicate enough time to the needs of individual students in these conditions? How much time is there outside the class for teachers to mark essays and homework, to create interesting lessons, to prepare the long  – and possibly very boring (for the students) – lecture to present on the following day?

The good news is things are changing. More and more, the new technology being created will allow us to go back to the masters and make the most of their wise insights and theories. Few teachers doubt that learning is up to the student. It’s their direct responsibility. Teachers are important channels and organizers of the different methods students will have to use actively themselves on their way to discoveries.

Let’s not be afraid of using apps, audience response systems, flipped classrooms and LMSs  in our schools to recreate the necessary conditions to hand learning back to where it belongs: the students! Socrates was sentenced to death for doing exactly that. They called it “corrupting the youth” back then. Well, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we are not in Kansas any more”. Let’s corrupt them!

NOTE: You might want to check out our eBooks available  from AMAZON.COM: 

TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MATISSE.    Click here for more info: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1kP

TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: PICASSO.    Click here for more info: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lA

Au revoir,

Jorge Sette.

What are your questions about the future of education?


This is going to be an unusual post. We won’t be giving you any solutions, only problems and issues to consider. All of us who work in the field of education, either as teachers, school owners, publishers or booksellers are worried about the future of our business, or should I say, our mission. From the get-go, I would like to state my position regarding education, so it’s clear and can inform the vocabulary I might use throughout this post. I think of education as a business. Not just like any other business, but a very special and interesting one, as it is the source of human development and betterment. However, in a capitalist society, education is regulated by the same principles of supply and demand of all other businesses.

My objective in this post is simply to raise five of the questions I’m sure most of you share with me. I propose we start searching possible answers, reading up on the topics, and begin a debate on each of these issues. You are more than welcome to use this space (my blog LINGUAGEM) to share your views and ideas on the points listed below. My questions concern these following points:

The School of Athens (detail) by Raphael, 1509

The School of Athens (detail) by Raphael, 1509

1. Teachers. My first question is, of course, will we have a job in the future? As teachers, and other professionals of the education business – publishers, school owners and booksellers – I anticipate the answer will be yes (fortunately), but our jobs will change a lot. More and more the ball will be on our clients’ court (students and parents) and, as a consequence, we will have to adapt and try to reach them directly and on their own terms if we want to survive as professionals. They will have a strong say on everything regarding education: the kind of teacher they prefer, the methodology, the learning materials they will use, and how they wish to purchase them.

2. Methodology. What will be the most popular and preferred way of learning? We have always known learners have different leaning styles and are stronger and weaker at different forms of intelligence. One solution fits all will not do. Therefore, I suspect, we will see a lot of blended learning, with great variation on the percentage of online learning versus classroom lessons. Also, how much of this online learning will be self-learning or involve a tutor or teacher helping them out outside the classroom? In what situations will inductive/deductive approaches work best? The importance of learning pace is also another point to be considered: will these students require more individual lessons or profit more from a group learning environment? How much of the class will need to be flipped, when students deal with the theoretical points at home on their own and then come to class to solve practical problems, discuss doubts or simply apply what they learned in a more controlled environment.

 3. Learning Materials. I’m pretty sure print materials are on the way out, as ebooks can offer all the advantages of print ones, and a lot more. If we already prefer to read novels on the Kindle, what to say of the possibilities inbuilt in a multimedia biology or history educational kit, which will allow them to watch a living cell divide itself or a dramatized episode taken place during the Renaissance played out as a video clip at the click of a mouse. Gaming, in addition, will make learning a lot more active and interesting, stimulating parts of the brain a lecture could never achieve to do. However, there is plenty of room for variation within online learning. We need to consider, for example, the best length of video clips to make retention more effective; should each 5-min footage be stopped and followed by a short quiz? What works best: animations or reals actors? Could a simple replication online of an old-fashioned blackboard with a teacher writing on it and explaining the teaching point work? The latter is exactly what Khan Academy does: except that the teacher is exceptionally good and the classes work like magic! Have you ever had trouble with algebra or trig? Try the modules on Khan and you will enjoy the beauty and magic of concepts that seemed arid and boring when you were in high school.

4. Schools/Colleges. What kind of changes will brick-and-mortar schools have to go through to compete with online learning? Blending is the first thing that comes to mind. But if teachers won’t be lecturing and classes are really going to be flipped, what other kinds of special services could schools and colleges provide to attract and retain clients? It’s really exciting to think about this. The moment we understand better how our brains absorb and/or create knowledge, we may need to hire psychologists, speech therapists and neurologists as part of our regular staff to help our learners out and differentiate our schools from the competition.

5. Metrics. Adaptive learning. How are we going to measure and adapt our teaching to the specific needs of students? What international scales, tests and certifications can be created to align consistently the different approaches across different institutions and regions?

These are all very big questions and require a lot of studying and research before we can come up with the right answers. Besides, the process is really dynamic and won’t stop. It will continue evolving and throwing new lights on education and the learning process. These are really exciting times we live in if we are in the field of education.

My recommendation is start reading up and updating yourself as much as you can on what is going on in the field and start experimenting with new forms of teaching, writing, reading, producing and selling learning materials right now. We don’t want you to have to struggle to catch up.The future of education has already started.

I guess this is all for today. Don’t forget to share your views and make your comments about those topics as you leave this page. We’ll be delighted to read them.

Note: you might want to check out our new book TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART: MATISSE   available  from AMAZON.COM as an ebook.  Click here for more info: 

http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1kP

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.