What’s old is new again!

Doug Johnson has been reflecting on the slow speed of change in the arena of education and particularly educational technology. I was mulling this over as I picked up John Dewey’s Experience and Education. Over the past two years whenever I pick up Dewey, I am surprised and chagrined at the relevance of his words. Listen…

On the ‘traditional’ stance taken with education

“The subject-matter of education consists of bodies of information and of skills that have been worked out in the past; therefore, the chief business of the school is to transmit them to the new gneration. In the past, there have also been developed standards and rules of conduct; moral training consists in forming habit of action in conformity with these rules and standards. Finally, the general pattern of school organization consistutes the school as a kind of organization marked off from other insitutions.” “The traditional scheme is, in essence, one of imposition from above and outside”.

We are still here. We still have so much decided from outside and above. I’ve heard that in Sweden, they have one of the highest literacy rates in the world. There have beeen some comparisons between the Swedish system and the Canadian one. One of the differences is in the freedom of teachers to set their own direction. There is also more Fine Arts and free play. Adult education and on-going improvement of critical thinking and creative pursuits are actively encouraged through government programming. New immigrants are given Swedish language training for as long as they want it! In Canada new immigrants get 9 months!

On progressive education (the one for which he would advocate)

“We reject the knowledge of the past as the end of education and thereby only emphasize its importance as a means. How shall the young become acquainted with the past in such a way that the acquaintance is a potent agent in appreciation of the living present?”

Dewey advocates for an educational experience which is based on immediate community needs and strengths, which develops creative thinking and the possibility for further growth. This question of using the knowledge and understanding of the past to become a potent agent in the living present sets a marvellous standard. One which can not stand in the way of technological intergration into the curriculum. “Living present”!

On change

“After the artificial and complex is once institutionally established and ingrained in custom and routine, it is easier to walk in the paths that have been beaten than it is, after taking a new point of view, to work out what is practically involved in the new point of view.”

Change is difficult. It is easier to fight it than live with it. So Doug, we advocate for changes out there and then we were our tails off as close to home as we can.

Stephen Downes highlighted a story which may brighten your day.


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