Sunday, January 2, 2011

Interview with Pearce Delphin (Part Two)

Connected teachers spend a lot of time discussing the future of education on social networks. One main theme that continues to be a focal point of these discussions is how modern education needs to be more student-centered. The conversation usually takes place between teachers and I thought it would be of value to invite students from around the world to join the discussion.

I recently connected with a 17 year old student from Australia named Pearce Delphin, also known as @zzap on Twitter. Pearce came onto my radar after I read a story about some controversy he was involved in on Twitter. He struck me as a very intelligent and opinionated 17 year old, so I decided to ask his opinion on a host of subjects that interest educators in my learning community.

Pearce lives in Melbourne, Australia, he just completed high school at Peneligh and Essendon
Grammar School, a private school in Essendon, Melbourne. He obtained a scholarship to Monash University and he is thinking about getting a Business/IT degree there. Pearce is interested in politics and describes himself as a deontological libertarian. He loves "coffee, philosophy, books, and of course, IT and the Internet."

In Part One of this interview Pearce gave his thoughts on the value of school as an institution, the value of self-directed learning, social media, gaming and a host of other topics. This is part two. We would love to know what you think about what Pearce thinks! Don't be afraid to leave a comment below.
Q. What are your thoughts on standardized tests?

@zzap: Standardized testing is good ... to a point. The nationalization of
high school testing is being introduced here in Australia with
horrific repercussions. I think it's important to save some kind of
standardized score so you can see how someone else achieves
academically in comparison to someone else on a relatively equal
playing field. But when the number of participants to a specific test
becomes large, it reaches a certain point where it becomes
exponentially difficult for it to remain unbiased. I really don't know
of a solution to this. What is most critical, though, is that the
standardized tests aren't dumbed down. There should be only a very
small percentage of people receiving a perfect score, and very few
people receiving a near perfect score. The fact that anyone gets a
perfect score at all indicates that the test is not difficult

Q. What makes a good teacher good?

@zzap: This is, of course, another subjective question. To me, a good
non-interventionist approach makes a teacher good. As I mentioned in
question five, I thrive with teachers that leave me to my own devices.
I learn in my own way, and allowing me to do this is easiest for both
of us -- the teacher doesn't have to worry about me, and I don't have
to worry about "pleasing" the teacher with pointless shenanigans. Of
course, I understand that not everyone is like this, and a solid
teacher is vital to the educational development.

I can't speak for them, but I think it's clear what is really important: a good teacher
is someone who can identify their students' style of learning, and who
can subsequently deal with that student appropriately (that is, either
leave them alone or teach according to the student's needs).

Q. Do you feel that Googling facts is a suitable replacement for knowing them?

@zzap: Yes. Let me propose to you this: if you and I are sitting at a
table, you opposite me, and I had a phone under the desk with an
Internet connection and I could Google anything I wanted without you
seeing. How long do you think I could pretend to be a doctor? I think
I could pretend for a very long time.

Now, the key: if I could pretend to be your doctor for three years, or if I could pretend to be your doctor for five years, what is there to prevent you from certifying me
as a doctor? So just like a machine that can do arithmetic, i.e. a calculator, in one's pocket allows the entire population to be mathematically literate, constant access to the Internet makes everyone potentially a genius.

If one can access any information at any hour of any day in any place, do we really need an education? Because of this, I think you'll see a slow and, in my opinion, a very
needed, change in higher education bodies: they will become less of a
place where students go to learn, and they will instead turn into a
more of a research and assessment body.

A university will say something like: you want to call yourself a doctor? Come to our university for only one month, we will test you on every aspect of being a doctor, and if you pass we will certify you. Where you learn this information, how you learn this information, when you learn this information: it's all up to you. This will simultaneously cause a much greater personal independence required by students, which will also help them in their future careers since they are now naturally independent.

Return to Part One

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