In this WEEK in TECH episode 197 there was a pretty good discussion about education and the university system. In case you are not familiar with TWiT, it is a tech-based podcast with Leo Laporte (from the old Screen Savers show). If you want to listen to their discussion, it starts about half-way through the podcast. Here is what I find interesting – these are mostly tech-oriented people (there was one person in education) but they can clearly see some of the problems with the educational system. I think the following quote sums up their ideas pretty well (can’t recall which twit said it):
“College is a great place to spend 4 years and get older.“
Unfortunately, that is what many people get out of college – age. So, should we get rid of universities? I don’t think so, but we should not do things just to get and give grades. Grades are really kind of dumb. Students (and even some faculty) seem to focus on grades as the whole point of a college degree, but I don’t think so. Grades are really just a way to some how “certify” what students have done. They do a poor job even at this. Some faculty use grades as a motivation for learning, but this doesn’t really work either.
So, what do I think about university level education? How should it work? I really don’t know, but here are a few random thoughts.
- First, the university should be an environment for a community of learners. Even the faculty are learners – this is obvious when it comes to research. Research is a key component of a university, if done correctly. Research can contribute to student learning when they participate in research (actually, I think this is when they learn the most). Also, research contributes to the scientific community.
- Get rid of grades. I don’t know how, but do it.
- Eliminate any course that could be done by a robot. If the main purpose of the course is to memorize, regurgitate on a test and then forget, cancel it. A robot could do this much better.
- Stop with the obedience stuff. I see this a lot. Some faculty and students think college is all about doing what your are told. I don’t want to be an authority, let evidence and research be the authority. I welcome different types of thinking, you don’t have to answer a question the way I say to.
- Don’t use technology just to use it. Another thing I see a lot. Oh look! We put this stuff on BlackBoard, therefore we are using technology. The same goes for those stupid smart boards. Maybe they are cool, but do they improve learning?
Ok. That is enough. Really, I just wanted to mention the this WEEK in TECH episode. Check it out.