From TED Talks - Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.
First of all, that video is amazing. It’s such a simple idea, but I agree with Gates that this software is revolutionary. It reminded me of how, if I were to open a language learning school, my school would be fundamentally different than what is currently offered here in Taiwan or China.
I never cease to wonder why schools here do not capitalize on multimedia education. Whenever I ask a student what he did over the weekend, the answers are always the same: played Wii, played computer games, or watched TV.
Yet, every language school I have ever worked at is still a pen-and-paper, out of the textbook school. Just doesn’t make sense. Capitalize on what these kids are interested in, and the results will improve exponentially. Allow teachers to be facilitators and moderators, not corrections officers (as one fellow colleague recently commented).
And the same thing goes for when I was an instructor in Xiamen University’s International Journalism program. I had to beg my faculty dean for a computer classroom to have access to breaking news and Microsoft Word. Even after finagling the schedule around to make it work, half of the computers could never connect online. Useless.
It just doesn’t make sense. A small investment in the necessary tools of 21st century education is not a waste of capital, as many of Taiwan’s money-making buxibans envision it. It’s not a short-term gimmick.
Imagine, a young elementary student walks in to his normal elementary school class. Almost all of his classmates will have gone to a nearby buxiban the evening before. Except, today, they all look like hell and he has a big ol’ smile on his face.
Kid #1: “Why are you so happy?” they ask.
Kid #2: “My new buxiban is awesome! For the first 10-15 minutes of every class, we watch an English cartoon. Then we take a break to talk about what is happening, what we like about it, and what we think is going to happen next. We write down a couple of important vocab words and phrases, then we get to watch the second half. After, we hop online and compete in games that focus on the themes, vocab, and grammar from the video. We can keep track of our progress, earn points, and even play at home! What did you do at your school?”
Kid #1: “We wrote each vocabulary word ten times, then threw a sticky ball at the white board for half an hour.”
Kid #2: winning.
Kid #1: going home to tell his parents he wants to change schools.