How innovative systems in education impact the learning experience

February 25, 2018

New and innovative educational systems are needed to lead the next generation to success.

How innovative systems in education impact the learning experience

Despite differences in country, culture and language, panelists who gathered at the 2017 Quality of Life Conference student panel were all able to agree on one key point: current education systems around the globe have become outdated and ineffective, and therefore, a major shift in the way education is delivered is necessary to keep up with the rapid changes of the 21st century.

Quality of Life conference panelHowever, problems with outdated teaching methods, over-involved parents, and a lack of response from political and educational leaders has brought the public education system to a standstill, and students are no longer developing the practical skills and knowledge necessary to successfully navigate the future.

Rather than focusing solely on theory as has been traditionally practiced, then, schools need to begin providing environments that cater to experiential learning and independent studying to empower students to take charge of their own education.

Esther Wojcikci, an educator, journalist and IT & OER consultant from the United States, believes that the future of education is through educators beginning to act more as facilitators than lecturers, thereby allowing students to take control of their own education and passions.

Porai Beaven Gwendere, a student at the University of Edinburgh and recent graduate of the African Leadership University in southern Africa, also agreed that students should be enabled to take control of their own education, and further discussed how experiences such as creating a student-run enterprise could help students learn valuable skills on a much deeper level.

While all panelists discussed reasons as to why education needed to be changed, president of Tezuka Architects Takaharu Tezuka provided one potential classroom method that could improve education immensely by bringing students into a more natural environment to better facilitate learning.

Lastly, founder of mobile app NewSchool Philippine Dolbeau discussed how her success as a student and entrepreneur was due to one forward-thinking teacher who used innovative, student-empowering teaching methods to effectively teach her students how to succeed in business in today’s world.

Whether it is through technology, new teaching methods or a restructuring of the entire education system, one thing is certain: quality of life in today’s school systems is severely lacking, and new and innovative educational systems are needed to lead the next generation to success.

Key takeaways

The way education is delivered needs to be changed.

The majority of educationA student studying follows a top-down approach.Traditionally, school systems around the world have followed a top-down approach with teachers lecturing on materials and students being tested on their ability to memorize information. With new technologies such as computers, mobile phones and the Internet, however, students now have more access to information than ever before.

As such, the role of teachers as lecturers is rapidly becoming less necessary, and the ability for educators to facilitate learning through the use of tools such as the Internet is becoming a much more effective option.

Nonetheless, teachers still continue to under-utilize these tools and teaching methods remain outdated.

Students need to be empowered in their learning. Rather than educators teaching students what they need to learn, a new system of educators guiding students in gathering knowledge in their own time and providing more experiential and practical learning needs to be put into place to empower students.

Even if students are given power to guide their own learning in the classroom a mere 20% of the time, the use of independent learning can help students gain more knowledge relevant to their interests and passions.

“The things that you remember from school are the things that you have done—the things you memorize tend to be almost completely forgotten within three years.”

Esther Wojcicki

Leadership programs can help students gain relevant, real-world experience. The African Leadership University is one such leadership program aimed at giving students real-world experience. The African Leadership University was founded on the basis of solving economic problems throughout Africa by using different forms of teaching to engage students in more meaningful ways.

Students are first taught entrepreneurial leadership skills such as how to write a business proposal, writing and rhetoric skills, how to communicate effectively and African studies; then, students are taught practical skills by creating student-run enterprises throughout campus. The combination of practical knowledge and experience ultimately helps students learn entrepreneurship from the bottom-up, leading to many successful students who can use their skills to lead the African continent.

Universities are slowly catching up. Porai Beaven Gwendere, a graduate of the African Leadership University, now attends the University of Edinburgh as a mechanical engineering student with aims to eventually revamp the agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. He details how while traditionally students were forced to go to class to be able to take notes on the lecture, the university now uploads lectures electronically, giving students more flexibility and freedom to pursue other interests simultaneously—such as how Gwendere is able to attend Sodexo’s Quality of Life conference.

Students studyingWith focus on real-world experience, students can be successful. Forward-thinking teachers can cultivate success in students. Philippine Dolbeau, 18-year-old founder of educational startup NewSchool, is one such example of how successful teaching breeds successful students.

After creating an imaginary startup for an economics class project—an experience she attributes as lifechanging thanks to the forward-thinking ideas of her economics teacher — she went on to win a start-up contest with her idea, and was eventually contacted by Apple UK to develop the application into a real business.

NewSchool was created to bring education into the 21st century. Dolbeau’s app, NewSchool, was initially created as a reaction to the tragedy of a young boy’s death after he was forgotten on a school bus—a tragedy that, surprisingly, was blamed on teachers for not calling authorities when the boy did not show up to school. The app has been designed to connect teachers directly to call registers in class as well as provide educators with lessons on how to teach more effectively.

The classroom environment needs to be changed to improve student quality of life.  Quiet, unnatural environments are detrimental to student health. Architect Takaharu Tezuka provocatively argues that in natural environments, the human brain is subject to constant background noise and when put into unnaturally silent environments, it will begin to disconnect from its surroundings and focus more on the noises that the body makes instead —which can account for up to 80-90 decibels — and that it is this disconnect that ultimately leads to disorders such as autism.

In classrooms in particular, the focus on mediated silence, fixed seating and lack of sunlight and air all lead to this disconnect from the environment, and therefore are detrimental not only to student learning, but to their overall wellbeing and health.

The reorganization of classroom architecture is critical to improving student quality of life. In Tezuka’s new and innovative kindergarten classroom model, focus on natural elements is crucial. First, there is no fixed furniture or walls between classrooms, allowing for more open space and flexibility in seating; second, the majority of windows remain open throughout the day —regardless of weather — and students are encouraged to participate in class with no shoes on; and third, classroom colours are based off of natural colours, such as timber or white. This is done because, as Tezuka argues, the natural environment allows students to connect with the real world and relax their minds, regardless of temperature or other small — but natural—nuisances.

The entire community needs to change its mindset. Whether it is teachers, students, parents, the school board or politicians, the entire educational community needs to be restructured in a way that promotes innovative, self-paced, independent, and practical learning that allows students to become empowered in their own education.

First, teachers need to begin giving up some amount of power to students in order to stimulate their independent learning; second, students need to be retaught how to learn on their own rather than remaining solely independent on lectures and tests for learning; third, parents need to allow students to take control of their own education and passions; and fourth, all people involved need to advocate for change in educational policies to their politicians, as they are the ones who can ultimately bring about the changes so desperately needed in the education system.

Article adapted from the report Embracing Tomorrow's Needs, Exploring New Solutions Findings from the Quality of Life conference London.

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