I never met Steve jobs but, like millions in this world, always had the pleasure and privilege to listen and learn from him. Steve defined an era, a culture and a style that many of us will cherish for years to come. There are number of things Steve has taught me, few of them are:
Always Challenge the Status quo: If you don’t see things right, try to fix it. If you can’t, try harder (Apple’s comeback)
Believe in your products and that you can change the world with persistence (Pixar, iPod, iPhone, iPad)
User Experience and Design Matters: Make products, systems, things, processes that are easier to use and that they look good even though they are complex products (Simple designs of swipe, pinch, tap)
Create a brand that people love; Present with elegance: This is not just applicable to speeches and presentations, but is applicable in everything we do. For example, if you are cooking daily food, be a chef and decorate it. (Steve’s presentations)
I am not saying I have nailed all these things. These are things I will cherish from iSteve!
I always wonder how should teaching evolve in this new decade. The processes, methods, techniques that our teachers used when we were kids in school might need a facelift for this new digital age. The times have changed and our teaching methods should also change with time. Today’s “digital kid” is far more connected to the world than we were. He has far more access to resources (the WWW) and gadgets (“Superphones”) than we had. So I ask to myself, if I were to rebuild and architect the new education and teaching system, what would I do?
Teaching where there is no right answer When I was in school, I remember, the kid who raises the hand first or tells the correct answer to teacher’s question, wins. Teacher delivers lectures, students are expected to read and often remember the answers/outcomes and teacher then tests the students on the topic. There is always one right answer to the question. If the student answers that question, he passes. If he does not, he fails. I think, teaching should be such where there is no right answer. All the answers are right. For example, If I was teaching history or geography, I would ask my students to design an infographic that discusses the culture, currency, values, achievements, leaders of that country or have them record a small video with timeline or write an essay, or enact a drama or create a movie. Invest in time so that they become more creative. By doing this, there is no one right answer. There is no fear.
Teaching where there is no grading by teachers (Student’s decide themselves and realize) I rememeber when I was in school (back in India), getting grades, getting into a good school, getting merit-based scholarships were rattling in my mind. I was afraid of the competition. Fear was driving me instead of passion. Teachers graded the exams and students compare themselves among their friends and feel miserable, if they get less grades. Following the above example, in the new education and teaching system, I would let student decide which infographic was better than other one by letting them analyze among themselves. Failure through realization is best form of learning. Unless they realize what they have done wrong, they will not learn. By doing this, students themselves realize and understand why the the other student’s infographic (art, design, color etc) was better than their own and they will learn to be better next time. Using the collective power of students and their votes, opinions to ”grade” other students, we not only teach them power of the ”crowds” but also encourage creativity. I believe it will also foster innovation.
Teaching to help students find their own passion One of the fundamental pillars of the new education system, IMO, should be help students find their passion. Passion is something you believe in. Passion gives you internal energy to excel. Passion should be driving factor of what students want to do and not what market is demanding or even parental/peer pressure. If you find passion, success will automatically follow. But sometimes, students don’t know what their passion is or what they like to do. Hence the new teaching and education system should invest in helping kids find their passion and also help them believe in what they love to do. For example, exposing the kid for 1 month to different environments like art, engineering, politics, medical fields and measuring the excitement. Highly recommend reading The Element: How finding passion changes everything. Passions change over time. Hence we have to also teach students to believe in their new passion.
Teaching with minimal textbooks and exams
When I was a kid, we were given few textbooks for a subject/course and we knew that exam is going to have questions from that textbook. Hence we mugged up every single page and paragraph of the textbook not clearly understanding its goal. The goal and purpose of having a textbook is to provide a timeline, guideline and schedule along with information to learn a particular topic holistically. Exams that designed and confined to the Textbooks are not a great way to learn a topic. For example, if I am teaching a topic on say Applied Physics or Math, I would like use a textbook so it helps me cover all the relevant topic of Physics and Math. But the exams, if at all I agree to the concepts of exams, will be outside of the bounds of textbook and something more real-world like measuring friction between tire and road. Exams are not the only way to test students. There are nice innovative ways like seeing them perform in project that involves Math.
Teaching with more Projects and Experiments than lectures
Over time, I have grown to understand that the best way to learn a particular technology or a topic is to do a small experimental project with a small goal. For example, if I am learning to code in Java, I will not listen to a lecture or start with Chapter No. 1 of Java for Dummies book. Instead, I will think of small project, and surf the internet for tutorials and dive right in to what I want to get built. Same goes with any topic in the world. If I want to learn about global warming, I will work on creating a small video about causes of global warming. When you involve kids in a project and encourage them to learn a particular topic, they not only learn that topic but also learn teamwork and how to collaborate. Teaching is a byproduct of project. Experimental goal-based projects give you a mission and deadline that will drive enthusiasm. Students may not learn the all aspects of the topic but they will learn “How to learn”, which is very important.
Learning to be more fun and playful
Projects, Games, Contests, Experiments make teaching and learning more fun. Teachers in the new education system should be more creative and should spend time on designing innovative games and projects for students instead of rating and grading exams. Leverage Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Myspace and adopting the newest and latest techno-phenomenon that is popular among the kids to teach them about a topic. Using the latest tools and gadgets to our advantage, we can make learning fun. We can teach a topic over a video conferencing session or have an iPad game that teaches them about Calculus.
I agree these ideas might not be feasible today or might not be applicable to every level from Kindergarten to 12th grade and beyond. But, I strongly believe these ideas will make teaching and learning more fun. What do you think?