Our Readers' Opinions
November 11, 2011

Education for cooperation and creation

Fri, Nov 11. 2011

by Phillip C. Jackson (Science and Technology Coordinator)


Stop encouraging a culture of rote learning! We need to create a learning culture based on exploration, inquiry, cooperation, creativity and innovation.{{more}}

At primary and early secondary schools, I envision a classroom where the space, curriculum and timetable are designed around cooperation and creation. Students must be systematically encouraged to collaborate and cooperate to solve real and simulated problems, with a view for creating viable and sustainable solutions that add value and wealth to themselves, their family and their community, NOT just compete in reciting facts that are now readily available and retrievable in myriads of formats. I have gone to schools and seen things like a blackboard filled with notes on soils for example, and no effort to take the students outside or bringing some soils samples to the classroom so the students can interact with the subject matter.

At the higher levels, the syllabuses for CXC and CAPE must be pragmatic and dynamic and capable of responding in a customizable manner to the current and future development needs of a particular Member State. So that if St. Vincent and the Grenadines has as part of its industrial policy a robust Information Communication Technologies (ICT) sector that is advanced and sustained by a content- driven, value-added services telecommunications sub-sector, then the curriculum/syllabus and its school-based assessment (SBA) requirements should be able to accommodate things like learning the various mobile smartphones development platforms be it Apple, Windows, Symbian, Android, and others. This way, our people can be adequately equipped to create content not only for the local, but regional and global marketplace.

Another example is the idea of having students who are interested in becoming what I will call ICT Ambassadors as part for their Information Technologies (IT) SBA work. This will involve delivering IT-related classes and training to empower uninitiated persons in groups like parents, farmers, craftsmen etc. I make this specific point because SVG has expended a lot of resources in building the IT infrastructure for education. However, the gains and successes to the students and the society in general of such initiatives will be fully realized ONLY if all the stakeholders that participate in the education and learning process be empowered to reinforce and complement the effort.

The idea of Education for cooperation and creation is not limited to face-to-face interaction and collaboration at the classroom, school or inter-school level. I envision cooperation and collaboration with students in classrooms and schools around the globe especially Vincentians in the Diaspora. The technology for this is available; it’s free, and best of all, it’s already in use – just look at the number of users of social networking platforms like Facebook, Microsoft Messenger and Skype. This sort of interaction and cooperation across borders can bring valuable information and insight to the exploration, inquiry, creativity and innovation enterprises of our students.

There is a lot to be said, but I will end with two further suggestions and leave the rest for subsequent articles.

Why don’t we make our primary and early secondary school syllabuses open documents on the Internet so that persons can share ideas and resources for activities that can enhance the sort of problem-solving approaches mentioned above? The intention here is NOT to rewrite the curriculum, but merely to enrich the experience through appropriate practical activities. Overtime, however, I am sure that the experience may lead to some revisions. The real benefit of this is not just the sharing of the resources, but it allows persons and groups exposed to the material to begin to think of more tangible ways they can really participate in the education process. This can be the beginning of a genuine school-community partnership, where persons working in various fields can come as guest presenters to the classrooms to add relevance and perspective to the content taught.

This is how something like this can work: the various syllabuses can be Google docs open for public input and linked to an appropriately named Facebook page that will help in coordination and popularization. Over time, the participating community especially the teachers and students can rate the resources and archive the best ones for future official inclusion across the board. This is what I will refer to as a peer review mechanism. The “like” button in Facebook is a veritable peer review mechanism.

With the increased use of computers and ICT in the education process, there is the elevated threat to learning posed by plagiarism and the cut and paste mentality. Educators will have to find ways to verify that the work presented to them by students for evaluation is thorough and adheres to the standards relating to plagiarism. From my own experience, I had to give students suspected of wholesale plagiarism oral evaluations before awarding them a grade for their assignments. To deal with this issue, the reader may take a look at three resources in PDF format on one of my Facebook pages. The page is called: SVG ICT in Education Support Page. The information packages are designed for educators, parents and students. There are a lot of other useful resources on the page generally related to enhancing ICT in education experiences for various stakeholder including policymakers. Some other Facebook pages by other Vincentians I will recommend are: SchoolTalk; SVG Science Teachers Association, and another of my pages – Parents and Computers Support Page. Next time we will look at the ICT Ambassador idea in more detail as well as suggestions for science and naturalists clubs and the idea of a Science Kit Library.