This article is authored by Jeff Borden and was originally posted at WCET Frontiers.
What do Greeks, Vietnamese, Australians, and Americans have in common? The answer is no joke…
I travel a lot. For the past several years, I have accumulated over 200,000 miles per year, going around the world to speak about education reform, effective practices, education technology, learning analytics, and neo-millennial learning, to name a few. In fact, by my calculations I have spent over 15,000 hours in front of audiences over the past decade.
But lately, I have been socializing the concept of “Education 3.0.” I don’t know if I can say I coined the term or not – some other notable bloggers and leaders have been using it too – but in my estimation, if education was able to truly use the most effective, study driven practices from 1) neuroscience, 2) learning research, and 3) education technology, we could fix much of what is wrong with education at every level. As some of you know, my Research Center / Think Tank created a short-film (“School of Thought”), actually shooting in Hollywood last year. The premise for the 21 minute film was essentially a question: What could be, if Education 3.0 was actually implemented?
While I travel, I try very hard to keep my wits about me – I try to notice what education looks and feels like in other places. I not only deliver keynotes and workshops, but I also have lengthy conversations with educators at all levels and of all types. These insiders often give amazing feedback and insights regarding the state of education today. And while I am always humbled and inspired by the simple experience of traveling abroad (if you haven’t done so, add to your bucket list touring the Acropolis, swimming off at the beaches in Perth, or taking a motorcycle cab ride in Ho Chi Minh city…), I’m most fascinated by the similarities between educational issues we all seem to share.
Neuroscience: Apply What We Know about Learning
When in Vietnam I witnessed something I had seen in other Asian countries. I walked past classrooms (both K12 and Higher Ed) where students were asleep on pillows sold specifically for that context. Why? Because in many Asian cultures learning does not end when the school day is finished. Formal learning may happen over the course of 18 hours, every day. So, students will buy these specially designed pillows as well as quality recording devices and the teachers will lecture to the devices while some students sleep, others surf the web, etc. In Vietnam, my specific consulting was around the cultural implications of a lack of interactivity between the teacher and the students, but it was obvious that a paradigm from the USA is shared by many Asian cultures: time = Learning.
We know some interesting things about time and our brains. We know that waking up during a REM cycle can potentially impair a person’s cognitive ability, equivalent to being drunk. This impairment can last for several hours. Yet we still promote and/or require students to attend early classes. We have researchers like John Medina telling us that some learners (and some teachers!) should have all learning completed before noon, while others should not start until noon. Yet we do nothing to even test which students fall into which categories, let alone to act on it.
And we all know the trouble with the Carnegie Unit. You know, the 110 year old, industrial aged model that says spending X amount of time on a subject means it has been learned. Silly, right? Yet the rules, regulations, accreditations, and policies persist. Sure, Competency Based Education is trying to fight this notion, and is making some great headway, but there is a ton of enculturation and baggage to push through.
I heard some game manufacturers recently explain that they had a product which would guarantee students to learn math faster, retain it longer, and apply it better than any college Algebra course. Yet nobody would adopt it. Why? Because the teacher had to give up approximately 40% of their traditional teaching time (classroom time) and instructors wouldn’t do so. We know more about the brain than ever before. Without using neuroscience to inform practice, we’ll never reach Education 3.0
Learning Research: Apply What We Know about Teaching
The Greeks showed me much of what I consider the origins of my cultural heritage. To walk the paths and roads where great philosophers stood, where ideas like democracy were first debated, and where architectural beginnings happened was humbling! But I also heard from educators who are struggling with yet another common American problem – the lecture.
I get the allure of lectures. I do! I go around the world (essentially) lecturing. But keep in mind a few things. I’m lecturing on about 12-15 total hours of material that I’ve developed over 20 years because I only have 1 hour with which to make an argument or propose an idea. Yes, there are new pieces every time, but 90% of the lectures are polished and have gotten solid feedback. A GREAT lecture can be amazing and I try in my keynotes to deliver a great lecture.
But in my classes it’s a different story! I rarely lecture at all anymore. I have those students for 45 hours a term – I don’t need to cram anything into an hour. And I know that nobody can create 45 amazing lectures per term. In fact, after polling about 20,000 teachers and professors, the average number of great lecturers on campus seems to be 3 and the total number of great lectures any one person delivers seems to be 3.
So, despite years of research and confirmation that lecturing should be rare and surgical in its use, we still see evidence in polls like the National Survey of Student Engagement which suggests that ½ of a college student’s experiences in every class, every term is lecture. Despite the work of Dr. Eric Mazur, lecturer of the year at Harvard, who has proven that lecturing doesn’t work, many teachers still engage in the practice. Despite Richard Light’s Harvard Assessment Seminars, showing that student’s best experiences in college are the non-lecture based classes, we still over-use it to a fault. Without using learning research to inform practice, we’ll never reach Education 3.0.
Education Technology: Apply What We Know about Technologies
I was down under very recently. I spent some time in Melbourne training faculty with regard to effective use of education technology. The people in Australia are quite remarkable. They are simply the kindest culture of people (collectively) that I’ve experienced in my travels. But that kindness cannot mask the frustration by some faculty at the notion of being asked (forced?) to use ed tech.
In the states, we share this trouble. I have spent over a decade “e-vangelizing” the usage of education technology. I believe it is impossible to reach all students in meaningful ways without ed tech. History has shown us that education without technology cannot scale. Yet many educators still balk at the idea of infusing technology in the classroom and if they do, most still only substitute ed tech for non-technical activities. (Instead of paper test, they’ll use a computer test, etc.)
But as Puentedura points out nicely in his S.A.M.R. model of transformative use of ed tech, it is not until we actuallyModify and/or Redefine our activities, making use of the power, scalability, and connect-ability of these tools, that we start to see substantive, meaningful changes for our students. Until we use education technology to inform practice, we’ll never reach Education 3.0.
Let’s Strive for Education 3.0
I’m honored to have been asked to share some thoughts with the WCET community. It’s been a few years since I spoke at your conference and I hope to do so again soon! But as we all strive to fix our own corners of education, I really hope we’ll start to let the same important frameworks and research-driven practices inform those fixes. I hope we’ll all start to strive for and use Education 3.0. There is a lot at stake.
Good luck and good teaching my friends.
Dr. Jeff D Borden
Dr. Jeff Borden (@bordenj), Pearson’s VP of Instruction & Academic Strategy is a consultant, speaker, professor, comedian, and trainer, all while leading the Center for eLearning (an Academic research center and think tank). As a University faculty member of 18 years and past college administrator, Jeff has assisted faculty, administrators, executives, and even politicians in conceptualizing and designing eLearning programs globally. Jeff has testified before the U.S. Congress’ Education Committee, blogs for Wired Innovations, provides global keynote addresses, promotes research findings from the academic think tank he directs, and has been asked to help determine the “Academic Vision” for Pearson Higher Education. To read Jeff’s blog, follow the cMooc his research group is building, or get more information, check out:
To see the Short-Film “School of Thought” that Jeff wrote and produced: http://researchnetwork.pearson.com/sot