While visiting my old friend Larry Loganbill in Moloaa on Kauai the conversation naturally turns to education. Now retired from Kamehameha Schools in Honolulu where he made educational films and watched their early education programs grow, Larry keeps up his garrulous advocacy of better curriculum and educational opportunities for Hawaiians. Hang out with Larry for a few days and you’ll learn about how education is changing, especially on the Garden Isle.
Larry tells me that many high schools kids on the North Shore no longer attend public school and sure enough he introduces me to such a young student up in Hanalei who is home for the summer after spending her first year at College. Rather than sending their kids to poor schools further down on the Eastern Shore, the kids are online completing high school. They plug in, do schoolwork, meet in groups organized by parents to discuss their work and surf, of course, when they have a break. According to Larry, the approach works: Kids aren’t bored like they are in the schools (he’s taught at some of them after retirement at Kamehameha) and they can leave the island afterward to go to college (either UH on Oahu or schools on the mainland).
After teaching an online “MOOC” (Massive Online Open Source Course) this past summer I’m beginning to think this may not be a bad idea for many students. A new role for College instructors (and others) may be to “assemble” interesting and engaging material for online consumption (iconic media in the form of video, photography, tables, graphs, audio) as well as text and then “stay in the middle” as Socratic styled teachers who ask questions, generate discussions, encourage critical thinking.
Even residential colleges could benefit from such an approach. Let students consume content outside of the classroom, then gather for small group discussions and even in-class writing. The “Show” part can be done asynchronously while the “Tell” part can happen in class or in small groups. Of course this is different from the “stand and deliver” approaches to teaching that have held students captive (literally) for a couple of centuries, but perhaps it’s time to let go of the chalkboard and “go with” rather than “go against” some of the good things that technology has to offer. Why wouldn’t we try this?