What is wrong with our educational model(s)?

00 2015 Douris_Man_with_wax_tablet_Banner


Education is my lifetime passion. “Educare” means raising someone or take his hand and elevate him from the state of ignorance to knowledge. I am the opponent of the theory of apprenticeship as of the information age, they have distorted pedagogy[i] while accompanying children.[ii] – Dr. Antoine Courban – 2015[iii]


The model of actual schooling expects teachers to perform like movie stars, in other words to bring the wow effect, as in a more academic expression: ensure these kids become job ready candidates once they finish school! In a world where once educators have finished their job, learners are in principle prepared for a reality that sustains the vocational education model and so much less their many years spent discovering and collecting and appreciate the limitless possibilities of knowledge!

My statement may seem odd, I know and I am fully aware of that. The art of education is – and I am a true believer of Dr. Courban’s definition – by itself a humanistic process, walking with the students towards knowledge until it is reached when learners (kids) are fit to walk into their adult life.

As much as odd my statement may seem, I frankly recognize that in many situations it is sadly the case. It must be very disappointing for graduates (and their teachers I assume) to find out how different are the realities of the job market. It must be very disappointing not to say upsetting to be told they may work in different fields than what they studied for all these years.

If the present model is in anguish from within, it does not mean it is completely wrong, at the same time the vocational education model is also facing many challenges and criticism, that model cannot be completely wrong as well.

The two models would gain a lot, for the benefit of the learners to connect, to communicate and put together the best they could bring to the wellbeing of learners. I guess this is where thing go wrong: no link between the two!

Students cannot become good employees or skilled workers, while spending 15, 20 years or more studying in domains that keeps them in ivory towers far from the real world, but at the same time will never benefit of intense vocational training, one will see the entire forest and ignore the tree as the other will have the opposite situation. Learners need both realities.

If academic education is the food for the mind, vocational education is supposed to adapt such knowledge into the real world with the support of soft skills[iv] (See the endnote section). In order to avoid misunderstandings, let’s define soft skills as the various series of behaviours that help people work and socialize together. It is important not to confuse it with what hard skills that address the technical abilities someone learns and masters to perform specific tasks.

Both models are required to provide to graduates what they need to join the workforce. Vocational education will never replace academic and neither academic will ignore vocational. Both are meant to exist together and closer than ones may imagine.

Both models need to clearly understand that students are not recording machines who have to memorize data, more data, and nothing but data. If students cannot make any use of this data then education has a major problem, far more serious than what is ongoing nowadays.

For many years, I criticized the academic top-bottom model, for many years I defended and worked for a radically opposite model (bottom-top) , and I confess I was wrong!

I was wrong simply because I excluded one for the benefit of the other, in my mind as in many other people, if a model dos not respond to the expectations then we change it for another. Well if there is anything unique to education, it is a matter of people, human, minds, emotions and unpredictable behaviours and reactions. Besides if a model worked for so many years, there must be something (at least parts of it) good and profitable about it.

We are part of an entire complex environment in which the most intangible parameter is to know how people act and behave! No science, no course and no model could ever predict that!

Education as in capital “E”, is above all, knowledge (and know how) that interacts with human, with people! That could be the first amendment we ought to consider and then seek of where both worlds connect for the common good of people (learners). Knowledge is in no way data, just data, and learners are no either demographic or statistic data!

Educators and vocational specialists need to meet, need to share their art! Their partners, the learners, at the core of their thinking.

Turn your data into a story, into a game, into art! (Mark Sample), I discovered this quote a few years ago during a research I was conducting about modern pedagogy vs. the “old school pedagogy”. The words snapped into my mind, I found finally a simple but how real description of what I was hoping to offer in education program development. A definition of what a real pedagogue must be: an artist about linking the best of people and the wonders of endless knowledge. Oh! It is no secret to say there is no such thing “old school pedagogy” it never ages as it walks hand in hand with learners of all times!

We are desperately short on true pedagogues[v] who will inspire educational models to foresee the real challenges and more importantly the perpetuation of the real spirit of pedagogy in harmony with the 21st century realities.

The clock is ticking. Every year we lose in sterile discussions (eventually in no discussion at all) will provide another wave of people who will hold a grad in “drop out from school!”.

Until our next chat,

Michel – October 8, 2015

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[i] Pedagogy is the discipline that deals with the theory and practice of education; it thus concerns the study and practice of how best to teach The word comes from the Greek παιδαγωγία (paidagōgia), from παιδαγωγός (paidagōgos), in which παῖς (país, genitive παιδός, paidos) means “child” and ἄγω (ágō) means “lead”; thus literally “to lead the child”.

[ii] Original translation (French): L’enseignement est la passion de ma vie. “Educare” signifie “élever” ou prendre quelqu’un par la main pour l’élever du niveau de l’ignorance vers celui du savoir. Je suis un des ennemis de la théorie de l’apprentissage et de celle de l’information qui ont dénaturé toute pédagogie dans l’accompagnement des enfants

[iii] This citation is a free translation from the French original citation from the author, an eminent Medical Doctor, Teacher, Educator and Humanist!

[iv] [iv] Soft skills is a all term referring to various behaviors that help people work and socialize well with others. In short, they are the good manners and personality traits needed to get along with others and build positive relationships. Unlike hard skills, which include a person’s technical skill set and ability to perform certain functional tasks, soft skills are broadly applicable across job titles and industries

[v] The word pedagogue was originally used in reference to the slave who escorted Roman children to school. On the way back children used to discuss with them about what they learned and the discoveries they made The pedagogue’s job is usually distinguished from a teacher’s by primarily focusing on teaching children life-preparing knowledge such as social skills and cultural norms. There is also a very big focus on care and well-being of the child. Many pedagogical institutions also practice social inclusion. The pedagogue’s work also consists of supporting the child in their mental and social development

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Public Speaking!

00 Public Speaking


“Too many people spend too much time trying to perfect something before they actually do it. Instead of waiting for perfection, run with what you go, and fix it along the way…”
― Paul Arden


 

I never thought I would write a paper about public speaking [i] (I liked what William Pittenger says about acquiring and practicing Public Speaking – see the endnote of this paper), as I never considered myself to be knowledgeable in such a skill.

It is true I have been in teaching and training for many years during my career, and it is also true I feel that amazing thrill when I am in presence of an audience. Yet I always feel the anxiety of the unknown before and for the first 50 seconds of each event.

50 Seconds, no less no more, such being the necessary time I gave myself to evaluate the audience, recognizing the various types of people attending (this could be an untold fact but believe it or not it is real). The friendly people, they will make visual contact as soon as they sit in the room and wave a non-verbal sign saying “hey! I’m here to listen and learn”, they will eventually take care of people who will try to disturb the pace of your delivery, and they are the ones sitting in front. The “foes”, I know it is a big word yet these people act as such. The reason is simple: they have been asked (told) to attend the course of the conference, they look at you as being the source of their unhappy state of mind, but no worries the “friends” will make sure their behaviour is contained. Coming to the third type, I like to call the “tourists”. These people have no idea why they’re in your room, sitting at the back (the very very back) hiding as much as possible (behind their sun glasses, a text book, the laptop lid, etc.). Usually the tourists will make sure you think they follow you and will nod, eventually send you a discreet smile to let you know they’re in!

I always enjoyed these precious seconds, helping me to unwind the teasing anxiety before every event ever since after so many years.

For some, Public Speaking  is a performance delivery, for others it is a moment of fame to promote ones skills and knowledge, many look at it as a stepping stone boosting their career, a few consider it a must imposed by their job requirements. Public Speaking has been for me the occasion of building a love relation with my audiences, sharing thoughts, facts, and experiences; bottom line transferring knowledge for the love of contributing for a better social and professional good.

If I had the gift to speak in public, it did not mean I was unreachable as a human, as a person like every single person; I had the task to speak as they had the listening role, thus being equals in all the other aspects of our presence at the same place.

I remember during my college years taking a mandatory course of techniques of public speaking. That course annoyed me to the point I used to yawn every time. The professor, who was a very smart person, used to “wake” me up by asking me all of a sudden to continue the delivery she did, knowing I would fail and learn from this a lesson. Feeling challenged in front of the students, I had to act very fast, so I stood up and “continued” the course getting my inspiration from my strong auditory memory elaborating the rest of the delivery. It was a special finding about my personal skills which one day led me to what I enjoyed during all the years spent teaching.

If Public Speaking is a skill we can learn or develop it is at the core some kind of intrinsic gift that is probably dormant in our nature. I think, it is the love of sharing with others that materialises once we choose to address to public.

I hesitated to write my first paper in English, feeling unprepared to create and build an appropriate syntax, unable to choose the right words, and feeling uncomfortable about writing skills. I postponed this first paper for months, until an acquaintance, a known writer whom I envied her writing style, told me to write and keep the focus on the message rather than the aspect. I still remember her words “if you tell your readers how passionate you are about what you say, then no one will criticize you about your writing skills, the more you will care to share your soul the more people will like what you say!”

So you can figure how scared I felt when I pressed the button “Submit” for the very first blog I wrote in English! *Smiles*

If Public Speaking is a powerful skill for born-speakers we need to constantly remind ourselves such gift can and will make miracles in the lives of our audiences. Don’t you agree that Public Speaking is essentially meant for the social good and the wellbeing of people? I, Do!

Until our next chat I wish you happy public speaking!

Michel – September 12, 2015


The picture illustrating this paper is a courtesy from the Blog: Instant.ly


[i] “There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence of an audience. It may proceed from the gaze of the many eyes that turn upon the speaker, especially if he permits himself to steadily return that gaze. Most speakers have been conscious of this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable. All writers have borne testimony to the power of a speaker’s eye in impressing an audience. This influence which we are now considering is the reverse of that picture—the power their eyes may exert upon him, especially before he begins to speak: after the inward fires of oratory are fanned into flame the eyes of the audience lose all terror.” ― William Pittenger, Extempore Speech: How to Acquire and Practice It

 

How safe is the future of education in today’s world?

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The context:

2035 is the target date when all of the young people who went to school for the first time in their life will be called the young adults, most of them eligible to get jobs and take over the destiny of the citizen politics and economics in their respective countries.

You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot – it’s all there. Everything influences each of us, and because of that I try to make sure that my experiences are positive.
Maya Angelou

The status:

At the end of every school year people (specialists and those who have a word to say about education) meet and agree that they must come up with a plan for the next year. A plan that will improve quality, effectiveness and more to the wellbeing of the learners. Due to lack of time these well-intended actions are postponed until the next school year, and when it happens, under the pressure of tight agendas and calendars these are postponed again for winter break and so on.

Agendas, schedules, meetings and of course reporting seem to be of greater importance than the global and critical orientations of education itself.

Countries cut in certain domains to favour others, so for the sake of maths, science and other topics, the skimming process on arts, literature and humanities are inevitable. In some other places the lack of funding makes the learning content suffice with a bit of everything but a lot of nothing much, and so on. Budget and administrative considerations seem to prevail on the rest.

Considering some topics of lesser value than others seems, at least for me, jeopardizing the quality of education. Such risk being to graduate generation with deficiencies in global knowledge, mankind history and healthy faculty of thinking.

Most schooling models produce generations of future workers ideally trained and prepared to the needs of corporations. I remember when it was time for me to go to school, parents and teachers were encouraging us to consider becoming doctors, lawyers or engineers. I still remember the words “Noble professions” that would definitely assure us good and respectable life.

Looking at today’s model, if words changed, the idea remains identical, graduating generations of future employees who will fit to corporate requirements. During my career I often heard these words “why change it if it works?” always surprised to note such a rigid mentality with little openness to improvement that would wait major crisis to act.

The future of education can no longer expect a crisis to change, we know what level of quality solutions that come from the urge of a solution can be.

A few days ago most students returned to school, and most kids face the consequences of a certain lack of vision. No wonder why some, if not more, will be tempted to drop out during their learning path, preferring to get a source of income than walking onto a path that is not clear for them.

Most experts would argue that the business requirements somehow impose such realities, I could agree with that thinking if on the other hand students were able to choose and freely decide their own learning path rather than driven by “requirements”.

Education as in schooling is the continuation of what has started at home and will never replace such reality, so we, as educators, do not need to educate our students, but share our deepest passions and most important discoveries of knowledge. Motivating and inspiring those future adults to the quest of limitless curiosity that is what education is about, isn’t so?

The wish:

Teach how to learn is the most precious gifts we have in our hands, there will always be enough time to memorize content and facts. So let us keep in mind such gift when time comes for planning and scheduling. The good thing about it? It does not need any extra budget or funding!

One of the most rewarding moment I had during teaching was when asking a student to teach the class (that included me sitting on a chair) how and what he or she understood about the lesson…

I can assure you the things you may discover would inspire you writing the best sellers of each school year!

Until our next chat,

Michel – September 5, 2015


The picture is from the site : Eyes on the Future

Please do not keep your knowledge to yourself!

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Knowledge is power. Information is power. The secreting or hoarding of knowledge or information may be an act of tyranny camouflaged as humility. Robin Morgan[I]


 

There were many changes during the communication era, the power of knowledge and the value of what it can provide not only to individuals but for humanity. Today, we stepped into the times of connecting among each other a step far above information, and communication. The admitted and promoted purposes were stated by many leaders, experts, people of interest and influence. Initially such promised knowledge is supposed  to serve the wellbeing of populations. At the same time, globalization was sold to people as the solution for that wellbeing.

There are still too many countries struggling with internal issues such as starvation, lack of basic quality of life, poor education, difficulties accessing essential resources, and so more disappointing results. Ones may say not to blame it on globalization! I would fully agree and support such idea if it weren’t at start that the whole idea of a Healthy globalization did not carry a hidden agenda that would empower more than ever the key players who are building their wealth at the expense of less fortunate populations.

I am a true believer that we, the people living on this planet, can solve our own problems and fix all the things that aren’t really Okay! We can stop wars, provide food and education to whom has none, build true relationship among nations, and still strive to advance in technologies and reach places no one has ever imagined. I know it takes the will to do it, but I am also convinced that nations in need, have to take care of themselves according to their traditions and cultures. For that to happen, they need knowledge. Knowledge that is abundant for some, let’s admit it, less fortunate people do not need international aid programs, nor blankets or wheat even milk or baby food. What they really need is the knowledge to take care of themselves, to learn how to manage their water, their fields, their basic resources.

I once saw a documentary that seemed to hit a wow among viewers, showing an international aid team going to a country where the access to milk and its derivatives to build a factory to collect milk and transform it to various sub-products. One little thing the documentary did not say: there weren’t any cows in that country!

Sharing our knowledge and skills is critical to our own kind and oddly such thing would cost ways less than sending cargos of emergency supplies to the same people in need.

Our journey in this life is relatively too short if we compare it to the timeline of our history, shall we burry this richness in our minds, vaults and servers and pretend we want to help humankind?

Until our next chat,

Michel – August 7, 2015


The picture is from the Blog site of Women in Business


[i] Robin Morgan American Poet

Robin Morgan is an American poet, author, political theorist and activist, journalist, lecturer, and former child actor. Since the early 1960s she has been a key radical feminist member of the American Women’s Movement, and a leader in the international feminist movement. Her 1970 anthology Sisterhood is Powerful has been widely credited with helping to start the second wave feminist movement in the US, and was cited by the New York Public Library as “One of the 100 most influential Books of the 20th Century.” She has written more than 20 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, and is also known as the editor of Ms. Magazine.

When sharing your knowledge remember not to share your habits!

00 Age  of Emlightenment


There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge… observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination.
Denis Diderot – (1713 – 1784)


Learning from other people has been the necessary path, even more the indispensable path to collect and retain knowledge. From the cradle at home, from the schooling years until our working location we learn and collect knowledge. We are the receivers of such an amazing heritage of cultural, humanistic and social wealth. Since the very first communities in the caves of Lascaux who shared their know-how through “multimedia techniques” (the drawings on the walls about hunting, and various other scenes of their collective life) people collected knowledge, shared it within their own communities, an example of such were those cathedral builders who transmitted their skills from generation to generation, and many more examples of the same nature.

I was very lucky since childhood to be given the opportunities to collect knowledge, as my parents satisfied my curiosity (even when exaggerated) about all what was around me. I learned reading and writing before I could use a pencil and a piece of paper, with a pair of scissors and some glue I used to cut the letters from a magazine after my mom or dad wrote the desired group of words on a piece of paper such as my name and other expressions I wanted to learn about. Curiosity has been a companion that never left me since. Always willing and wanting to know more something new. Schooling years were not always fun as I often had to do as told, but moreover to follow the learning path as our teachers told us to do.

I remember I had a teacher who tried his best to show us how much he knew better than us, (I guess it is logical he knew more but better not sure), saying very often “If you do it my way then you will pass the final test!” (Don’t be shocked I am taking you back in early 60’s). Such statement remained well anchored in my mind not that I followed it, I rather used all my potential to fight it and go through the learning years the best I could.

During the years I worked as an educator, these words kept haunting me, struggling with this idea. I promised myself, in the case I would, I was to change career. To me it was a kind of betrayal towards the trust students and learners had put in me. So I took an unthinkable challenge at that time. Cover the material as requested, but using a different pedagogical approach. I guess the real challenge was mine, as I wanted to prove myself and my former teacher there was a different way to teach if not better at least for me.

Every class I taught since, I made of it a real journey, a journey to discovery, a discovery of the context, of real life examples, and the how we as people could use such knowledge. A spreadsheet class recapped the basis of math, including a few funny manners to take advantage of the various functionalities, a class on history was an occasion to mimic the events, put some dialogues and ask the participants to take a role. The first time I taught programming I had a class of people whose sole motivation was to start coding, yet not caring about the path (programming logic) to follow, etc. Teaching was never the same anymore, as it was a new journey for everyone. Since that time I always prepared my class content as if the first time. I know most of my colleagues thought I was spending too much time when I could get in class 5 minutes before and start teaching (reading the course I guess).

Through years and collecting knowledge I also discovered how important Knowledge would be for the benefit of people. Learning and memorizing was not enough anymore, people needed to understand the big picture and the real challenges behind every piece of knowledge they could grab… That also was the time when I met a senior engineer, a fellow co-worker, who taught me the most amazing lesson of my entire career. We were discussing the implementation of Knowledge Management (Knowledge Network) implementation for his division, we reached a point where the team needed to make a final decision about the model, and he stopped, looking at me, he said “You know Michel, I learned something not long ago – When you share knowledge make sure not to share your habits!”

Denis Diderot, I guess, was not far from this idea when in the middle of the 18th century speaking of knowledge he introduced the fundamentals of collecting (acquiring) knowledge: observation – reflection and experimentation, whether it is about nature or science or literature. It is a matter of people, a matter of sharing the true and real meaning of that know-how and less about our own personal ways, just because that is the way we do it!

Until our next chat,

Michel – July 21, 2015


The picture represents some of the authors, thinkers, philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment.

How Much is Knowledge Worth?

00 KNowledge CUlture


I wash my hands of those who
imagine chattering to be knowledge.
Silence to be ignorance,
and affection to be art
– Gibran Khalil Gibran


 

It has been said that knowledge is a matter of people, it has been also said that the amount of knowledge we share is about 20% where the other 80% remain untold and unshared hidden in our minds, I personally believe that to be true.

Knowledge is luckily unique, even for people working the same kind of job, skills or trades. As long as it is a matter of people, each person collects and retain that knowledge accordingly to nature, personality and comprehension, we may also add according to the nature of exposure, etc.

Our knowledge is similar to a bank account, the savings start at birth and keep growing as our mind and consciousness is nurtured at home, school, social and professional steps in our lives.

When a senior goes on retirement we tend to think the loss is the employer’s in the case there is no mechanism to retain such critical knowledge that would benefit the industry. I do agree, yet I believe that the person who leaves for retirement is also losing an occasion to make this valuable knowledge benefit other people as well.

If some think that storing information is collecting knowledge, thus keeping safe important information for a business, to tell you honestly it would be burying tons of files and documents into these ultra-sophisticated virtual vaults for no benefits at all. How many people within the organization would be aware, would be able to reach such information. The person who made me discover the principles of Knowledge Culture used to say (repeatedly) “once knowledge is confined in a document it is virtually lost, keep in mind Knowledge is a matter of people talking to people”.

I confess I felt annoyed at first to hear that same phrase on and on, but soon I found out how right he was! I’ll explain using a simple example. I do not like tinkering, thus I call the plumber or the electrician when I need to make some repairs at my place. I once called for an electrician, a senior guy came, amazingly knowledgeable, a person who spent a lifetime fixing, helping desperate clients, but also a person who learned will the bells and whistles of the trade, those “thingies” no book or no course will ever teach. During the time he spent to finish the repair, during the time we had a little chat at the end he expressed his disappointment, calling it his “failure”, as we was on his last couple of years before retirement but had no apprentice whom he had trained and made sure his trade will continue. It is hard for a senior specialist to admit, in such cases, his own responsibility.

I kept thinking about this incident, trivial in appearance but how critical and important: a wealth of know-how was a risk to be lost.

The words my mentor used to drown me with, came back, Knowledge is a matter of people speaking to people.

Every person owns a fair amount of knowledge, every person needs to care sharing it with others (peers) also before such knowledge becomes obsolete… Knowledge culture is dynamic, there are almost no records stating knowledge is stored for the centuries to come.

I like the expression: Pay it forward, it describes in simple words the true sense of Knowledge Culture.

So who is next?

Until the next chat,

Michel – July 3, 2015

If Knowledge is Power, Trusted Knowledge is Priceless!

00 trusted knowledge


In the Information Age, the first step to sanity is FILTERING. Filter the information: extract for knowledge. Filter first for substance. Filter second for significance. These filters protect against advertising. Filter third for reliability. This filter protects against politicians.

― Marc Stiegler, David’s Sling


One of the biggest challenges we do face in every part of our life, business, social, or education is to use and collect trusted knowledge. It is not a new thing that I am revealing, yet I find that our consumption of “Junk Knowledge” is making us unhealthy to a limit we might suffer from a unstoppable bulimia wich will lead us soon or later to the intellectual obesity!

News Networks, specialized magazines, newsletters, and experts provide information that most people may take as Knowledge. It is unfortunate to notice that we do not take all the necessary measures and enough time to ensure we are collecting real knowledge and not information and on the second hand we can make sure such is considered trusted knowledge!

Adding references to a paper does not entitle the content to be validated, especially when the reference is not clear and does not state who, where when in addition to cross-validated references… This will seem tedious and very complicated for many (that includes me too).

A funny reflex I have developed through the past years working with knowledge, specialists and trusted sources was to implement a mental alert that became with time a “natural” thing in me. When a text starts with “It looks that…” or “It appears that…” My first reaction is to ask the author mentally “Where are you going with that?”

I know there is some subjectivity behaving like this, yet it helped me avoiding major embarrassment when I was tempted to use references with minimal validation.

Of course until proven wrong governmental sources can be considered as trusted universities, research centers, and more of the kind. Yet to me trusted means a concept of a simpler manner (maybe harder to find too). As humans we identify ourselves to other peers who experiment similar experiences in their lives, whether it is at work, on an industrial site, social, family or public. We also tend to be focus about what people live and how they solved a certain issue that speaks to us. Such sharing are among the most trusted sources besides what we learn or hear is no information but knowledge: the how I did it thing! Or what did I learn for a better result?

People like to learn from their peers. I spent many years in creating adult educational program, I have to admit the best sources of knowledge were those people (people from the industry) who were feeding the true knowledge at the core going beyond all user guides, manuals, and sometimes experts.

It will never be said enough that Knowledge is a matter of people talking to people, sharing their past experiences. Knowledge built on theoretical thinking is incomplete, therefore not trusted, if it is not based on experiments and sharing with other peers.

Stating something as Knowledge is also a matter of responsibility, in the same manner that we do have responsivities and obligations towards our social environment. One needs to understand and feel accountable for every piece of knowledge he or she delivers to others, else it may induce the people into dramatic disappointments and critical misjudgments.

There is no need to become experts to provide and share trusted knowledge, we are more knowledgeable than we think!

Until our next chat,

Michel – June 22, 2015


 

The picture is a courtesy from the site Active Rain