#106/111: Future of Education

An other book by Kieran Egan where he talks about his different methods of approaching a topic and its implementation.

I talked a bit about these different methods and will now deepen it them a bit. His main idea is that knowledge should be deep and linked.

The first one is Mythic Understanding. This includes stories, metaphors, binary structures, rhymes, play, jokes and pattern. Stories are a very important elements, so is story telling. Even for adults story telling is great method for delivering information. Egan talks a lot about story telling and even wrote a book about it. He points out that stories should be made up. For example, if you want kids to teach about the days of week, you could just teach them the names and the order and they should memorize them. Or you could talk about the origin of each week day, what’s special about it, etc. Just look up how much information there is on wikipedia on Friday.

The next step is Romantic Understanding. You probably remind the time you were in this phase. You are looking for extremes - the biggest machines or smallest animals, you start to get hobbies and start collecting things, heroes help kids overcome their fear. This can be easily integrated in teaching. This is probably the most commercialized phase with action heroes, card games, books and games.

After that Philosophic Understanding is starting. This phase is quite interested because some people would define it at the final phase. Abstractions and theories become more prevalent. People begin to form theories and try to explain with them specific situations. However, even Philosophic Understanding got some problems.

The final phase, so far, is Ironic Understanding. It’s more interesting then you may think. Now there’s a difference between what you say and what you mean. Besides that a problem of Philosophic Understanding is that you may try to squeeze everything into a model. Some scholars overreach themselves with generic models and just neglect outliners. Furthermore, it helps you to live a nice live. Sure lot is fucked up but you could either become depressive and/or manic about it or just laugh about some stupid things happening.

The second part talks about a scenario how this ideas could be implemented. I won’t go into detail - but it’s a nice read.

All in all, it’s an interesting book. I know that he explained his ideas more detailed in The Educated Mind - so maybe that’s the better choice if you want to learn more about his ideas.


#101/111: Learning in Depth

I continued to think a lot about education recently, mainly after watching a Google Talk with Salman Khan from the Khan Academy. Lots of people associate learning with grading and tests and I hear many adult persons say that they are happy that they don’t have to learn anymore. However, most of them learn everyday but they don’t have to write exams and they don’t have to sit in classrooms.

However, these thoughts took me to do some searching and look for books about improving education. After reading the first twenty pages of Learning in Depth, I was already in love with Kieran Egan’s ideas. He suggest that each student gets one topic at the beginning of his schooling and builds a portfolio of this topic in his 12 years in school. This project is ungraded and voluntary. I sketch you how this can look.

You are in your second week in school and your parents are there. The whole class is assembled and your teacher gives you your future topic: Apples. You are eager to learn more about apples, you ask your parents and your teachers about them. You may paint them or collect pictures of them. Six years later. Your still working on your portfolio. You collected facts to different apples and identified rare types. Furthermore, you discovered apples in popular culture and talked to seniors which got the same topic as you about what they learned. Skip ahead another six years. Your in your final years and you still working on your portfolio. You covered different aspects of apples from cultural, to economical, to philosophical, to scientific factors. You helped lots of other peoples with your apple portfolio and you started about website about philosophical aspects of apples.

Why all this? You learned one topic in depth which will help you to connect to other topics more easily. Furthermore, you experienced learning without compulsion. You learned different approaches of learning about topics and structuring them. And all for the joy of learning.

If you are interested in this idea or hate it or have some objections, you should definitely read this book. Egan covers lot of problems and objects. Definitively worth reading if you are interested into new schooling methods.