Student-centric teaching

Children start out keen to learn but existing education curriculum is often too placid and alienating for them. Schools would do better to consider their pupils’ interests and let them use those interests to learn.

Children today are interested in computer games. They program their parents’ video recorders, share and download music from the Internet and participate in online chats. Immersed in this digital world, they have developed a different way of thinking and a different way of dealing with people and with information compared to previous generations. They have grown up interacting with media rather than having it broadcast to them. By using the same technology at school, pupils expect a model of teaching that is similarly interactive. They want to learn by doing and exploring.

If a teacher is just going to stand at the front of the class and spoon-feed mass-produced lessons, then education authorities may as well enlist the top teachers in the country to web broadcast their lectures to schools, and perhaps simply place a teacher’s assistant in each classroom. Students would learn from the best and governments would make enormous savings on teacher salaries. This is starting to happen in some places by default.

The Eden project in Ontario started out as a closed system designed for students who couldn’t attend school for various traditional reasons such as because they were home bound. What started out as a distance education initiative (Eden stands for Electronic Distance Education Network) has become an Internet-based e-learning system offering full-credit high-school courses, including chemistry, math and English.

Launched by the Simcoe County Board of Education, the courses are now used in seven school districts by about 100 schools serving 11,000 students. The system allows every student who takes chemistry lessons, for example, to be linked electronically with one chemistry teacher and all other chemistry students, regardless of location.

Schemes such as the Eden project are helping to fuel a North American trend for home-based education where children are not enrolled in any school but instead their parents take responsibility for their education. Home schooling traditionally occurred because parents want to ensure a religious education or because they are dissatisfied with the ability of the public school system to deal with a child’s special needs.

With e-learning and a wealth of online support materials at their disposal, many parents now belief they can give their children a better education than can any teacher. Forced to compete with the Internet, connected learning communities, parents, and, ultimately, the whole world, the traditional schoolteacher is decreasingly seen as a source of knowledge.

*Article extracted from ‘eGov: e-Business Strategies for Government’ by Douglas Holmes, published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, ISBN: 1-85788-278-4. US $29.95. To order,