Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Classical Education – What exactly is it?

First, let’s look at the history of classical education and what happened over the years.  With the permission of Diane Lockman, from Classical Scholar, I reprinted her articles that speak precisely to this question:

Where did classical education originate, and how has it been adapted over the years?
National leaders on two continents have been successfully trained by the classical method for over two thousand years. The “paideia” of the ancient Greeks referred to the process of forming an enlightened mature mind. Unlike today, the paideia was not concerned with preparing students for jobs; rather, learning led to the mental discipline to discuss abstract ideas like truth, beauty, and justice. Adopting the Greek idea of classical education, the ancient Romans created a system of study called the “seven liberal arts” which were divided into two phases. Beginners mastered the three skills of the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) before moving on to the quadrivium. There is evidence in the writings of the Apostle Paul that he received a Jewish adaptation of the classical trivium.

After the fall of the Roman Empire in the 5th century a.d., classical education as a method of learning appeared to disappear; however, in the 9th century, Emperor Charlemagne revived and Christianized classical education in Europe when he opened the Palace Schools to perfect Christian leaders. Scripture and the writings of early Christian leaders were incorporated into the content. During the late 11th century, loose confederations of teachers and apprentices gathered in what was called the “universitas” to study the seven liberal arts. Students joined the the universitas at 14 or 15 years of age and began mastering the three skills of the classical trivium. Classes were taught in homes or churches. Study centered around great writers and their books, not subjects. By the 13th century, three more liberal arts were added at the graduate level: law, medicine, and theology.

With the colonization of America, classical education crossed the Atlantic and took a new twist. Educational institutions were established in the mid-1800s to control the rapidly expanding immigrant population, and initially a form of the ancient classical education was taught in the twelve-year common school format. Instead of teaching the three skills of the classical trivium, “classical” subjects like Latin and Logic were incorporated in the curriculum. By the early 1900s, the lack of qualified teachers meant that even a classical variation was no longer possible for American public school children, and classical education once again appeared to fade into antiquity.

During the 1980s, the twelve-year common school variation of classical education was reborn within the homeschooling movement. Inspired by a lecture given by author Dorothy Sayers in the 1940s, several homeschool educators adopted her premise that the three skills of the classical trivium might correlate with the chronological development of the child. These reformers chose to embrace the idea of stages instead of the “lost tools of learning” that Sayers lamented. Thus, the contemporary version of classical home and private school education generally follows a three stage trivium with artificial milestones established as follows: grammar stage covers grades 1-4, logic stage covers grades 5-8, and rhetoric stage emcompasses grades 9-12. Some reformers, myself included, believe that teaching three skills concurrently is more historically accurate and avoids the trappings of the 12 year public school paradigm.

What is the classical trivium, and what is the purpose?
Prior to the introduction of the classical curriculum in the public school systems, the three skills of the classical trivium were taught concurrently, not consecutively as subjects or as stages. In fact, the Latin word “trivium” means the intersection of three roads. You can visualize the simultaneous travels on these three roads if you imagine a three-dimensional cube – width represents one skill, length represents another skill, and depth represents another. Within the mass of this cube, there are multiple points where all three planes come together or intersect. It is this intersection, mastery of language, thought, and speech, that drives the curriculum in the early childhood to preteen years.

Working on the classical trivium is like that imaginary cube. A student can be acquiring language while he is improving his critical thinking tools and exercising his speaking skills by narrating what he’s thought and learned. Over the years you will be teaching your child all three skills with a goal of substantial mastery. When you reach this goal, your preteen or teen is ready to tackle the weightier disciplines like the abstract ideas found in the books of the Western Canon. Practically, your son or daughter needs to have such command of the English language that the vocabulary, complex sentence structure, and literary style of the classics is not overwhelming. The ability to comprehend and wrestle with the meaning of the written text is also essential. Finally, the young adult who has substantially mastered the three skills of the classical trivium is comfortable writing about abstract ideas such as freedom, compassion, and redemption. The content studied during these post-trivium years will comprise the bulk of the high school transcript.

From The Classical Scholar – Parent Workshop 101 Primer (www.classicalscholar.com)

Monday, February 23, 2015

6 New Teaching Techniques You Should Know!

Teaching techniques Education, like almost every other area of our society, has evolved in leaps and bounds in recent years. Traditional teaching techniques, based mainly on a teacher explaining a topic and students taking notes, may still be useful on occasion, but education today revolves more around encouraging the student to awaken their curiosity and desire to learn. 

A number of different teaching techniques have emerged due to this change in education. Many of these teaching techniques are not actually new however! The use of technology in the classroom has simply given education a new lease of life allowing us to approach old ideas in new ways.

Outlined below are some popular teaching techniques that have arisen from the integration of technology in education.

6 Teaching Techniques You Should Know:

1. Flipped Classroom (Inverting your class):
The Flipped Classroom Model basically involves encouraging students to prepare for the lesson before class. Thus, the class becomes a dynamic environment in which students elaborate on what they have already studied. Students prepare a topic at home so that the class the next day can be devoted to answering any questions they have about the topic. This allows students to go beyond their normal boundaries and explore their natural curiosity.

ExamTime’s free online learning tools can be integrated into the Flipped Classroom teaching model. Using ExamTime, you can easily share resources with a group, in this case a class, allowing students to study these resources from home and prepare for the next class.

2. Design Thinking (Case Method):
This technique is based on resolving real-life cases through group analysis, brainstorming, innovation and creative ideas. Although “Design Thinking” is a structured method, in practice it can be quite messy as some cases may have no possible solution. 

However, the Case Method prepares students for the real world and arouses their curiosity, analytical skills and creativity. This technique is often used in popular MBA or Masters classes to analyze real cases experienced by companies in the past.

Ewan McIntosh, an advocate of Design Thinking, created The Design Thinking School as part of his “No Tosh” consulting group. No Tosh harnesses the creative practices of some of the best media and tech companies in the world to coach educators methods to implement the concept. Design Thinking for Educators also provides teachers with an online toolkit with instructions to explore Design Thinking in any classroom. Click here to download the free toolkit now.

3. Self-learning:
Curiosity is the main driver of learning. As a basic principle of learning, it makes little sense to force students to memorize large reams of text that they will either begrudgingly recall or instantly forget. The key is to let students focus on exploring an area which interests them and learn about it for themselves.

A perfect example of a teaching technique based on self-learning is outlined by Sugata Mitra at the TED conference. In a series of experiments in New Delhi, South Africa and Italy, the educational researcher Sugata Mitra gave children self-supervised access to the web. The results obtained could revolutionize how we think about teaching. The children, who until then did not even know what the internet was, were capable of training themselves in multiple subjects with unexpected ease.

A common technique for exploring self-learning is the use of Mind Maps. Teachers can create a central node on a Mind Map and allow students the freedom to expand and develop ideas. For example, if the focus is the Human Body, some students may create Mind Maps on the organs, Bones or Diseases that affect the human body. Later the students would be evaluated according to the Mind Maps they have created and could collaborate with each other to improve each others Mind Maps and come to a more comprehensive understanding of the Human Body.

4. Gamification:
teaching techniquesLearning through the use of games is a method that has already been explored by some teachers, especially in elementary and preschool education. By using games, students learn without even realizing. Therefore, learning through play or ‘Gamification‘ is a learning technique that can be very effective at any age. It is also a very useful technique to keep students motivated.

The teacher should design projects that are appropriate for their students, taking into account their age and knowledge, while making them attractive enough to provide extra motivation. One idea may be to encourage students to create quizzes online on a certain topic. Students can challenge their peers to test themselves and see who gets a higher score. In this way, students can enjoy the competition with peers while also having fun and learning.

5. Social Media:
 A variant of the previous section is to utilize social media in the classroom. Students today are always connected to their social network and so will need little motivation to get them engaged with social media in the classroom. The ways you can use this method of teaching are quite varied as there are hundreds of social networks and possibilities. 

A good example is the initiative carried out by the Brazilian Academy of Languages ​​”Red Ballon“, which encouraged students to review the tweets of their favorite artists and correct grammatical errors that they committed in an effort to improve their English language skills!

6. Free Online Learning Tools:
There is an array of free online learning tools available which teachers can use to encourage engagement, participation and a sense of fun into the classroom. Teachers can create an interactive and dynamic classroom environment using, for example, online quizzes to test student’s knowledge. 

If you haven’t used ExamTime’s free online learning tools yet, sign up now to create Mind Maps, Flashcards, Quizzes & Notes. Encourage your students to sign up to ExamTime too so you can create a Group and invite each of your students to become a member. This means you can share study resources directly with each student online and even apply the Flipped Classroom Model to your method of teaching.

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