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Konstantin Ushinsky. The great teacher.

0069-001«The pedagogy is the first and highest of arts, as it strives to express the perfection not on the canvas, not in marble, but in the very nature of man».

Konstantin Ushinsky

This day has come. It is time to sit on a leather chair, light up the old wooden tobacco-pipe of my grandfather (*smoking seriously harms your health), take a pen and from a height of passed years start to share my pedagogical experience. Unfortunately or fortunately, I do not have such experience, that is why I devote today’s piece of writing to the person whose contribution to education is substantial and has a big value in present.

Konstantin Dmitriyevich Ushinsky (1823 – 1871) is proudly called “the father of Russian pedagogy” and he deserved this title not only in theoretical field knowledge. Having finished Moscow University’s Faculty of Law, Ushinsky with a degree of the candidate of pedagogical sciences started his practice as an acting professor in the Demidov’s Lyceum in Yaroslavl (Pedagogika Ushinskogo, 2012). During his life, Konstantin Dmitriyevich changed a number of institutions due to inconsistency of his pedagogical views with the schools’ management, but whenever he was leaving a school, the system of teaching was radically different in a better way.  The reasons of such a drastic educational success are hidden in pedagogical principles of the great teacher.

Ushinsky was a strong proponent of democratization of education (Latyshina, 2006). Education for all, regardless gender or social status was the motto of Ushinsky, giving him love and respect of children and teachers he was working with. In addition, the father of Russian pedagogy argued that laws of philosophy, psychology, anatomy and physiology should constitute a foundation of pedagogy. The practice, in his opinion, even successful, does not mean its absoluteness and is closely bounded to theoretical field, as theoretical knowledge is complete only when accompanied by practical application.

Another component of “upbringing” by Ushinsky is the development of harmonious personality, which is impossible without moral values. The teacher viewed the moral side of the human as the main purpose of education, placing the skills and knowledge on a second plan. At the same time, an integral part of upbringing and learning in his concept is the acceptance of national traits, correspondence with traditions and special values (Cipro, 1994); education in that way promotes love for Motherland, but contrasts with idea of chauvinism and endorses respect to other nations.

The masterpiece of the great teacher “Man as the object of education: Educational anthropology is a comprehensive work, illustrating complexity of a human as a unit for research. He described an individual as a multidimensional creature that is very difficult to measure and even more difficult to educate. Ushinsky argued that in order to educate an individual in every aspect, an educator should know a human from every side.

As you may see, even today the ideas expressed by Konstantin Ushinsky are relevant and insightful. The modern society faces new challenges of epoch; when the humanity is getting more advanced in sciences and technology, the gap between knowledge and moral components is still increasing. The Globe is on fire: fire of wars, fire of human indifference, purblindness and moral numbness. Perhaps, it is time to sit on a leather chair, open the book and start to listen to the classic melody of Ushinsky’s wisdom.

References:

Cipro, M. (1994). Konstantin Dmitrievitch Ushinsky. Prospects: The quarterly review of comparative education, 24(3/4). Retrieved from http://www.ibe.unesco.org/publications/ThinkersPdf/ushinskye.pdf

Latyshina, D. (2006). Istorija pedagogiki. Istorija obrazovanija i pedagogicheskoj mysli [History of education. The history of education and teaching thought]. Moscow: Gardariki. Retrieved from http://www.twirpx.com/file/213745/

Pedagogika Ushinskogo [Pedagogy of Ushinsky]. (2012, October 7). Retrieved from Pedagogy: http://paidagogos.com/?p=4379

Think critically

59522135_1274895338_000159As you probably know we live in the 21st century. All of the problems and challenges our ancestors had before, now seem different for us. Due to the new age requirements most of them appear to be outdated, easy and irrelevant. The 21st century or information age requires a set of skills in order to be successful in the modern society and we, as educators, should convey and develop this knowledge in our students.

Inside various frameworks of 21st century skills (21st century skills, 2014) there is a constant component corresponding to the basic ability of a human – thinking, and thinking critically. But what do we actually mean by critical thinking? Robert Ennis (1993), an undisputed authority in the field of critical thinking and one of the authors of famous critical thinking assessment tool, represents educational understanding of the term: reasonable reflective thinking focused on deciding what to believe or do (p. 180). At the same time, we may also refer to comprehensive definition given by the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking (1987): “intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action” (par. 3). Putting it all together, the critical thinking is a skill, giving ability to look on common things in a new way, distance yourself from an issue and evaluate it independently. The majority of modern job offers requiring intellectual effort will not be productive without such aptitude.

Finally, being acquainted with the term, you may logically ask me how to develop critical thinking in students. There are a number of strategies and techniques stimulating critical thinking. In order not to be too broad and give you exact directions, I prefer to use tactical and structural recommendations by Richard W. Paul and Linda Elder (2000).

First. Design lesson with a purpose to retain more knowledge in students’ minds. Do not overload them with information.

Second. Speak less, let students talk and think.

Third. Give students possibility to read a text; do not provide them with ready explanation. In other words, teach them how to process a text and make conclusions.

Fourths. Introduce big concepts generally; spend more time on analysis and application of the concept rather than discussing 50 terms of the concept in details.

Fifth. Present concepts as far as possible with the examples of concepts’ application in real life. Draw interconnections between them in subject areas.  Always refer to the general concept in relation with current.

Sixth. Think aloud in front of your students, let them observe how you process the information and establish connections between ideas.

Seventh. Develop or use developed specific strategies for cultivating critical reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Use Socratic questioning.

Eights. Engage students who do not raise their hands up. After receiving answer switch to another passive students ask them to explain expressed idea in their own words.

Ninth. Break the class frequently into small groups and give specific task with a time limit. Then let them report findings and problems they faced with.

Tenth. Design all activities and assignments, including readings, so that students may think in their way through them.

Eleventh. Clearly articulate what you are expecting from students.

And finally, spell out as completely as possible what your philosophy of education is, how are you going to structure the class, and why the students will be required to think their way through it.

In sum, as can be seen the importance of critical thinking skill development plays irreplaceable role in the digital age.  We may observe that the objective to nurture students’ ability to think critically is quite achievable. All we need is to use pedagogical experience and be totally passionate about the idea of educating our students.

Check out this video and you will know that magic kills critical thinking!

References:

21st century skills. (2014, September 15). The glossary of education reform. Retrieved from http://edglossary.org/21st-century-skills/

Paul, R., & Elder, L. (2000). Critical thinking: Basic theory and instructional structures handbook. Foundation for Critical Thinking. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/tactical-and-structural-recommendations/467

The National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking. (1987). Critical Thinking. Retrieved from http://www.criticalthinking.org/pages/defining-critical-thinking/766

Towards democratization of education with MOOC

MOOC_-_Massive_Open_Online_Course_logo

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b8/MOOC_-_Massive_Open_Online_Course_logo.svg

2007. Somewhere in South Kazakhstan, 12 a.m.. Poplar alley.

       –  …Yesterday I had a chance to attend the calculus course from Harvard.

       – Oh man, I think the MIT is much better in science. I finished the matrix algebra last week, try it as well.

       – Really? I will subscribe to the course this evening.

Only eight years ago such conversation could deserve a condescending smile of casual passer. Nevertheless, everything chnages and in 2008 the first Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was introduced to the wide audience (Marques, 2013). The result was like the explosion of a nuclear bomb – the best courses of the most recognized universities all over the world are available online and free of charge! My third post is dedicated to the power of MOOC and possibilities which it brings to teaching and learning.

The user counter on the Coursera website, MOOC founded by professors Andrew Ng and Daphne Koller from Stanford University, constantly updates the number of current 11 336 863 users in 943 courses from 118 institutions.

The MOOC is an online course available for the unlimited number of participators and open to access through the web. A huge number of courses available through Coursera, Udacity and EdX give a possibility to learn and teach in a tight network of users who share their knowledge and help each other to assimilate new information. The common course usually contains a video channel or animated presentation of lectures, communication inside the peer/adviser network and a number of home tasks and exams. As the amount of students enrolled on a course may exceed thousands of participants, the student evaluation system is organised in the way of pre-designed tests and peer assessment.  At the same time, some of them provide a system of promotion, such as badges on Coursera, which are assigned to each student after course accomplishment. Some platforms offer a documentary confirmation in the form of certificates of course accomplishment for some price, but in general courses are totally free and easily accessible.

Generally, MOOC Guide (2013, paragraph 2) defines 12 central benefits of the course:

  •         You can organize a MOOC in any setting that has connectivity (which can include the Web, but also local connections via Wi-Fi e.g.)
  •         You can organize it in any language you like (taking into account the main language of your target audience)
  •         You can use any online tools that are relevant to your target region or that are already being used by the participants
  •         You can move beyond time zones and physical boundaries
  •         It can be organized as quickly as you can inform the participants (which makes it a powerful format for priority learning in e.g. aid relief)
  •         Contextualized content can be shared by all
  •         Learning happens in a more informal setting, at a place of your convenience and often around your own schedule.
  •         Learning can also happen incidentally thanks to the unknown knowledge that pops up as the course participants start to exchange notes on the course’s study
  •         You can connect across disciplines and corporate/institutional walls
  •         You don’t need a degree to follow the course, only the willingness to learn (at high speed)
  •         You add to your own personal learning environment and/or network by participating in a MOOC
  •         You will improve your lifelong learning skills, for participating in a MOOC forces you to think about your own learning and knowledge absorption

Critique

Despite the evidence that MOOC is a breakthrough and a totally new form of educational framework there is a critique concerning some aspects of such courses. The completion rate of MOOC courses is often lower than 10%, with a high decrease in the number of participants from the first week of study (Catropa, 2013). However, even taking into account such data we still may consider the number of students accomplished courses to be relatively high in comparison with the number of students finishing traditional institutions. For instance, in 2012 edX’s course “Circuits and Electronics” was successfully completed by lower than 5% of subscribers (7000 students), but these 5% are equal to 70 years of MIT’s work to cover the same number in the same subject (Vyahhi, 2014). The second and the most important criticism is that the MOOC cannot give serious knowledge, prepare specialists and finally compete with traditional institutions. Due to a rising number of complaints concerning non scientific context of communication inside the MOOC’s network and difficulties in monetization of the service many stakeholders lost their confidence in MOOC. Nevertheless, the quantitative study on effectiveness of online courses shows that students from online  class learn better and even the least-prepared students show successful results (Chandler, 2014).

Finally, we are able to state that the MOOC is the future of education. The ongoing process of the framework development reveals shortcomings and problems, but the increased public interest and wide involvement of institutions all over the world have a great impact on the future of perspective approach. As can be seen, the opportunities of the MOOC are unprecedented. Who knows, maybe it is time to click on one of the links listed below and start searching for the course interesting to you and beneficial for your professional growth?

Popular MOOCs:

References:

Catropa, D. (2013, February 24). Big (MOOC) data. Retrieved from Inside Higher ED:       https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/stratedgy/big-mooc-data

Chandler, D. (2014, September 24). Study: Online classes really do work. Retrieved from MIT News: http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/study-shows-online-courses-effective-0924

Marques, J. (2013, April 17). A short history of MOOCs and distance learning. Retrieved from Mooc news and reviews: http://moocnewsandreviews.com/a-short-history-of-moocs-and-distance-learning/

Mooc Guide. (2013, March 27). Benefits and challenges of a MOOC. Retrieved from MoocGuide: http://moocguide.wikispaces.com/2.+Benefits+and+challenges+of+a+MOOC

Vyahhi, N. (2014, October 23). «Zabud’te pro revoljuciju»: chto proishodit s obrazovaniem budushhego [“Forget about the revolution”: what happens to the future of education]. (F. Kolesnik, Interviewer) Retrieved from http://vozduh.afisha.ru/technology/zabudte-pro-revolyuciyu-chto-proishodit-s-obrazovaniem-budushchego/

Incorporating humor in your lesson

keep-calm-and-pretend-it-s-on-the-lesson-plan-66Of course, it was hard to leave the zone of serious writing (“Everything matters: Globalization and Education”) and start to write about flowers, kids and all that vanilla topics. Nevertheless, I managed to progress. My last post collected only one comment, highly disappointed, in tears, I decided to go to the “dark side”. Now you can surely put my piece of writing on the same shelf with “Are cows more likely to lie down the longer they stand?” (Tolkamp, Haskell, Langford, Roberts, & Morgan, 2010) and “Describing the relationship between cat bites and human depression using data from an electronic health record” (Hanauer, Ramakrishnan, & Seyfried, 2013) (I strongly recommend davidphilip to create a new category and call it “What makes people happy?”). I clearly understand, that from the moment I decided to publish this post I definitely killed myself in future as Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, but still hope to get at least a good grade by English.

I bet that you will read my post after such effective introduction. The secret is that humor works exactly the same way not only in a written text but in a classroom as well. My second post aims to explore the power of laughter, which effectively promotes students’ learning.

Jonah, 5th grade pupil refuses to read, write and do anything (Karschney, 2012). The team of two teachers starts to spend half of the day with him, teaching Jonah to read. Among a number of techniques used to engage student in a process of reading, Karschney mentions a positive impact of humor, which they incorporated to ruin the barriers of anxiety and fear of struggling student. The teachers started to laugh on themselves, inviting Jonah to do the same and see himself differently, from a different angle. At the same time, they created special literacy jokes understandable only for their students, they read funny books and laughed until they cried. And what was the result? Jonah started to read! The positive atmosphere, a new type of relationships between student and teacher, inspired him to perceive the ordinary activity in a different way.

There are a number of successful examples of humor incorporation; however, we as educators should remember some basic rules of using humor on the lesson. Lynda L. Ivy (2013) states that humor should be appropriate for age and grade level. The differentiation of age plays an important role in the understanding of humor. For instance, children younger than 12 may not understand such abstract ideas as irony and sarcasm. Jokes in a high school are different in a way that students of this age often project everything on themselves. The teacher should be careful in selecting humor; keeping in mind, that joke should not single out any student. At the same time, it is preferable for humor to correspond to the lesson’s content.  College or university professors may use humor to alleviate “hard” lessons, such as university-level math. Students in this group always expect professor to joke, which makes his work even easier.

Coupled with that, we have a huge arsenal of tools such as jokes, stories, cartoons, pictures and videos. They are easily accessible on the Internet; moreover, students themselves may be regarded as resource of funny content (Ivy, 2013). Finally, we should remember that there is a thin edge between misuse and overuse of humor. Use of humor in an appropriate way will make your lesson interesting and will shift your work to enjoyable activity.

 References:

Hanauer, D., Ramakrishnan, N., & Seyfried, L. (2013, August 1). Describing the relationship between cat bites and human depression using data from an electronic health record. PLoS ONE, 8(8). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070585

Ivy, L. (2013, February – March). Using humor in the classroom. The Journal of Adventist Education, 39-43.

Karschney, K. (2012, March). Inspiring a nonreader. Educational Leadership, 69(6).

Tolkamp, B., Haskell, M., Langford, F., Roberts, D., & Morgan, C. (2010, April). Are cows more likely to lie down the longer they stand? Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 124(1-2), 1–10.

Everything matters: Globalization and Education

The introduction of personal computer, creation of social networks and cheap communications made the world closer. Nowadays no one is restricted by physical borders of the country and even the oceans do not separate us any more. Together with it, the economy, politics and culture do not belong to the country as they become common for the region or even for the globe. My first blog gives an account on three decades of educational reform in Japan  (reported in Yonezawa’s “The Impact of Globalisation on Higher Education Governance in Japan” (2003)) and reveals how interconnection between economy, politics and culture influences education.

In 1980s Japan’s heavily manufacture-based economy reached a limit of its growth. looking for the solution of a period of stagnation, the enterprises moved their manufactures outside the country. Previously unclaimed English language started to appear on business and corporate meetings. However, the majority of job offers in Japan did not require employee to speak English. Nonetheless, in 1984 the Nakasone prime minister’s cabinet directly established the “Educational reform council”, which was apart from the Ministry of Education and consisted of “laymen” – people not directly linked to education. It is important to highlight that in citizens’ opinion the educational system of that time was strong and reliable; from their point of view nothing presaged changes. That is where the politics considered the economic background of the issue and took course on internationalization of education. The special attention of the government to educational domain (“Educational reform council”) was dictated by the need to create world-level competitive human resources and forward them to the national market. As a result of the initiative, Japan attracted 52 405 (by 1993) international students and the international environment at universities was created.

Another good example of right political decision can be made based on “the identity crisis” in Japan and proposed solution to overcome the problem. During 1990s Japan as many other countries faced the problem of identity crisis coupled with stressed economic conditions of the country. People lost the sense of purpose as their national culture started to rapidly concede to the global values and priorities. The beginning of 2000s in Japan can be characterised as the absence of public trust in national education. For the first time many Japanese took a look abroad in attempt to find better education. In the light of such plight, on April 2001 the Koizumi cabinet  approached a new direction in educational policy. Now, the education became closely connected to economic and industrial policies. Koizumi’s initiative launched a process of education’s privatization and decentralization. The new policy directed education to enter the global competitive sphere and gave an incentive to develop national universities. Yonezawa (2003) reports that education reform in Japan is now regarded as an instrument, which allowed  to return national validity. It appears that politics influenced cultural issue in a close cooperation with economic component and let the education to internationalize successfully.

Summarizing, the experience of Japan is very instructive. The country was able to solve the problems of globalization and successfully adapt to realities of the time.  In the case of Kazakhstan, we can surely find some similarities to Japan internationalization practices. However, it seems that more attention  should be paid to educational modernization from the highest level – parliament and government. The close participation of media and governmental structures may drastically promote the internationalization of Kazakhstani education.

For more information on globalization watch video bellow.

Reference:

Yonezawa, A. (2003). The impact of globalisation on higher education. Higher Education Research & Development, 22(2), 145-154.