Past Lessons for Education #28 #cong16

By Hassan Dabbagh.

Hassan Dabbagh Snr is one of the most intelligent men I know, I'm not saying that because he's my grandfather. When he speaks people listen, I mean really listen. 

Originally from Palestine he learned that education, hard work and honesty are by far the most important things a young man could have in his arsenal.  He was An educator in his early years only to retire years letter as the Ambassador of Kuwait. His story is one I've tried to put down on paper but the sheer gargantuan task scares me to even think about it. 

So why am I telling you about him, well it's simple, everything OR at least the most important -in my eyes-  I have learned about education and learning doesn't come from books but comes from him, he would always push towards education he believed in the power of education, not just go to college get a good job raise a family although it has to be said he believed on that too but he believed in the power of education to change.  He would seldom have a discussion without fully understanding both sides of the story...... I asked him about the issues in the middle east recently and he told me that he's started reading up on the tribal histories and relationships from years ago in order to understand what is happening today, some of us would be content by reading the paper or watching the news and develope our opinion from that but not him. 

As an educational technologist I find myself at the forefront of NEW and shiney tech in the classroom.  I work in schools all over the country mostly fixing whats broken OR at least attempting to but what I really love doing is training, I work with teachers mostly but I also find myself organising workshops for student as well, everything from Collaborative learning to how to code using scratch can be on the agenda. 

Working with younger students is great, I will never get tired to of hearing "wow!!!!" OR "that was COOOL!!" when they do something right or a project comes to life but I really love working with Teachers, the "WOW Effect" is just pleasing but when you see it happening to teachers you see a bit more.  It’s like they can straightway find a way to use this new "thing" you've shown them.  Teachers understand the need for training and CPD, they understand the need to push forward that is evident to me by the amount of teachers I've worked with who will say to me after a session "I can't wait to go in and try that on the next day I'm in”.  I also understand that some things just don't work.

So why does "industry" consider education to be stuck in a rut? I was recently asked by an industry leader when I was looking for a grant about how I planned on make money?  They also wanted to know why I would want to get into the education sector?  It hasn't changed its ways in years and it's not about to change any time soon.  My favorite comment was .... " you should create an App!!!!”.  So it dawned on me, industry expect me to sell a box and make a margin then sell more boxes for more margins but what I'm offering can't be sold in a box or at least I can't figure it out.  I’m at loss as what to do next, although I believe in training teachers, because it's them that will educate the students who will do on to change the world.  I also realise now... after 5 years... that technology isn't necessarily the answer we need to look at learning and our attitudes to learning. I think we need to look back at education and learning, I think we need to reinvent the classroom there is a little bit of this happening as we speak with the likes of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Course) and online learning in general but I think we need more.

Albert Einstein said " I don't Teach, I create the environment for learning" and that's what I want to do.  I want to create an environment for learning.  I see the role of the teacher changing.  Let’s take a few seconds to look at how the classroom came to be.  Religion has had a huge part to play in the way the classroom looks today.  How else would the word of the church be passed on ...... I realise this is a very simplistic view but my point is this, the teacher was often the village elder or someone with great life experience OR even a priest or holy man spreading the word of God.  But what about today.  Students have so much information at their fingertips that the teacher is no longer the Gatekeeper of the information.  The teacher is there to guide the student through the labyrinth of information out there.  The teacher is now the facilitator.  I was once asked " does the internet and FREE online learning mean the teacher is no longer needed?”.  My answer to that is simply "hell NO”.  The role of the teacher is changing.  Learning is no longer confined to the classroom.  The days of chalk and talk gone.  There is no way the teacher can manage the flow of information the learner has access to, which was the case for so long.  I read this fact a while back and it blew me away: 

  • The Library of congress has more than 3.6 million recordings, 14 million photographs, 5.5 million maps.
  • Instagram has 60 Million images upload everyday!!
  • Youtube has 60 hours of video are uploaded every minute, or one hour of video is uploaded to YouTube every second.

As the role of the teacher changes so should the classroom evolve as well.  I love the idea of an environment for learning and my main reason for this is because I was that student that loved learning but hated school.  I loved learning new things but failed dramatically in every exam I did, but when it came to anything hands on I picked up without effort.  I loved the museum seeing history, listening to recordings of famous speeches etc etc I loved it all.... I loved when we were told stories in primary school.  Once I was told the story once, it stuck! If I was to read a story it didn't??  If I did an experiment it remained locked away in my head.  However if I read about it it didn't.  I'm saying this because I fell through the cracks .... it wasn't schools fault, it wasn't the systems fault, however, I firmly believe today if I had learning environment rather than a classroom I would be a much different person.  I also believe that I am the person I am today because of my past so I have no regrets. 

So what's this learning environment?  Its whatever the teacher needs it to be.  Whatever makes the subject more engaging.  It’s a class outside under a tree.  It’s a 360Degree image of an attic to show the learners about what makes up the joints and how they are put together.  A learning environment is a virtual reality tour of stonehenge, if the learning can't make it.  A learning environment is anywhere you need it to be.  Thanks to the internet and let's not forget mother nature it can be anywhere.  Maybe it's something I'm missing but we're already halfway there with libraries in every town the learning environment or learning space can be an extension of them.

SO ............where am I going to start??? NOT THE FIRST NOTION!! maybe this is the first step. a simple blog post.


© Eoin Kennedy 2017 eoin at congregation dot ie