A 21C Teacher in a 20C School

I teach to the exam. There, I’ve said it!  After all, doesn’t everyone smile when the student gets an A grade? Isn’t graduating what’s life’s all about?
.
But what does A mean?
It means that when given:

  1. An exam date;
  2. A fixed list of topics and themes;
  3. Last minute, panicked revision;
  4. A table and paper in a large silent hall;  ..the student can perform! Wow!

Thank God, life outside schools and every workplace is both silent, organised in straight rows and has no technology beyond the pencil! Thank God working life only means working alone within fixed boundaries. ….Oh that’s right, it’s not. And many of these A grade students prove to be useless when given any creative challenge in a real workplace scenario, something universities and employers complain about. Fortunately most develop many skills outside school that allow them to cope.

Solution: Make the exam the side-project

One joy of working in this crappy system of 20th Century factory education is that now with the Internet and video I can record each of my full-year courses’ exam lessons into about 4 hours! Yes, 4 hours and yes, it’s the full course of teaching! See this for details.

The direct teaching of the exam is now outside the classroom. I can ask them to complete an amount of the course by a certain date and check this with traditional assessment while they spend all the class time working on a related project of their choosing and design. If there’s a practical element to the course then all projects and time can be based on this practical work, within the context of a real-world scenario.

These projects can be long, the whole year for all I care! They can also work in groups if it suits. As long as the project is engaging for the student and they take real ownership over it. They should also set their own check points to monitor their own progress. Ownership, creativity and variety is what the iPad does best. Hopefully the project connects directly with the outside world directly. I like to pitch the possibility of making money in any area using the internet. For example, any student can publish a book for free.

Examples: (Off the top of my head)

  1. Biology: Produce a set of videos covering the relevant experiments to compile in an ebook to sell online.
  2. Geography: Film a documentary on the local geography for the school to use.
  3. Computing: Make $million with your first iPad app!!! (I heard the “Pocket Whip” app was making $30,000 a week and it doesn’t do much!)
  4. Mathematics: Learn how to produce a website of embedded web-based Maths tools that your peers need for the course you’re all doing.
  5. English: Publish a short story on Amazon that contains the same themes as X.

Conclusion

The important thing is that they are engaged in your subject and see the exam as an unfortunate extra rather than the whole reason for school. If they need to learn how to do something during their project, they find it themselves on the internet  (this is what they should do, it’s what we do!) or if the teacher can help then great, as the teacher now has time to work one-to-one!

2 comments on “A 21C Teacher in a 20C School

  1. Great ideas here. I teach music to the exams, too because you have to to a large extent but I always spend time trying to get my students to play for fun and to write their own stuff, as well. I always tell them that they will never be musicians if they only practise what I tell them to. They have to want to play music so much that they are willing to try on their own. I encourage creativity and experimentation, even with music that is too hard. They might not manage it perfectly but they will learn a lot in trying. The same goes with IT or anything that you want to excel in and pursue as a career.

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