The Three Rules of Life and Education
Ramsey Musallam is a chemistry teacher who has been teaching students for thirteen years. As a teacher, he is absolutely overjoyed when his students take an interest in the subject he teaches. For the first ten years of his teaching career, Musallam took to the general method of teaching without giving much thought to designing his own teaching method.
One day, however, Musallam’s doctor told him he had an aneurism (basically an enlarged artery) and had to, eventually, have open-heart surgery. His surgeon was incredibly confident in the operation, and this caused Musallam to wonder what it was that brought him such high levels of confidence. The surgeon responded that there were three factors that contributed to his courage:
1) His curiosity led him to ask more pertinent and difficult questions about what would succeed for the procedure and what would fail.
2) The surgeon accepted the inevitable and messy processes of trial and error.
3) Through reflection based on the answers to his questions and the results of his trials, he revised the process each time until he could comfortably and confidently perform the procedure each time.
The surgeon’s words stuck with Musallam. This man, who had just performed open-heart surgery and saved Musallam’s life, was completely calm and relaxed while performing, what many would agree is, a nerve-wracking situation. Musallam thought about the surgeon’s words for a while, and devised his own, similar set of rules that he applied to education and children in the classroom:
1) Curiosity comes first. Students’ questions can lead to teachers and professors clearing up what students are confused about. While teachers are lecturing, they try to cover a general idea or topic so that all the students can get a general understanding of the topic, but it is up to the students and their curiosity to ask more detailed questions and head down a path that the teacher would not have otherwise uncovered.
2) Embrace the mess. Despite scientific rules, like the scientific method, or previously stated effects that result from specific causes, trial and error are still important components of the learning process. When students attempt to reach a goal by following instructions, they are being told what to do and just jot down what happens. This blunt concept of “if x then y” does not enforce learning, but just temporary memorization. Trial and error, however, teach students that “if x then y” and “if y then z”. Students can then predict, logically or through keen observation, what the expected outcome will be when something is added to something else.
3) Practice reflection. While trial and error and pertinent questions are important for the moment, reflection is the most important part of the learning process because it causes students to reflect back upon their actions and think about what they did and how they did it and why it worked. Reflection is key in preparing for the next time an experiment or procedure is performed so that this time less error is made and less trials are done in order to achieve the final goal. Using information gathered from the first two rules, the third rule combines everything learned thus far and applies it to whatever was being done in order to make it more efficient and in order to make the student more confident in the outcome of the situation.
Musallam’s rules are revolutionary in the fact that they turn the dreary school day where general information is thrown at students who may or may not be interested in it to a school day where students come in with pertinent questions and have their interests acknowledged and their questions answered. If more students were given the opportunity to ask questions about topics that interested them, they would be much more likely to do better in school and have a renewed interest in school rather than consider it a sort of chore or requirement for success in life.
The fact that these rules can be applied to workplaces outside of the education system, such as the surgeon who applied them to his career, just goes to show that Musallam and his surgeon have come up with a mindset that stays with students from their first day of school all the way until their retirement day.
Is Technology Being Used for the Right Purpose?
James Pontin reviews how technology started off taking us to space, and eventually to the moon. He lists several remarkable feats of technology and human ability that have conquered previously impossible goals. Pontin then discusses how technology has slowly been decelerating over the past few decades. Although we are still making technological advancements, Pontin wonders why we are creating gadgets such as iPhones to amuse ourselves when we could be focusing on much broader, long-term applications of technology.
Personally, I agree with Pontin. Although new cell phones and televisions and gaming consoles are great, I think that technology has become more of a business than mankind’s tool for making the impossible a reality. Technology should refocus on the goals it had in the 1960’s, for example getting a man on the moon, and revamping them to meet today’s criteria, such as getting a man on Mars. Although consumer technology is incredibly helpful and important, we as a civilization need to keep exploring our world and its surrounding worlds, and on the other side of the spectrum, the minuscule components that make up everything around us. Technologies of all kinds should definitely keep expanding, however one technology should not overshadow the development or funding of another.
Educational technology is especially critical to the success of other technologies because proper educational technology fosters minds that will later on develop the technology of other fields. Although some people still prefer pencils and notebooks, myself being one of those people, I still believe that educational technology needs to progress and design a device that aids teaching in a way that any student can use it and learn in their own way. Some students are visual learners, some are auditory learners, but some learn best when interacting with nature or in a natural environment. If students are unhappy in their current learning environment, it is imperative that a more comfortable, efficient environment is researched and established for them. Viewed from a psychological standpoint, education needs to create an environment that fits students that fall into one of the eight intelligences that Gardner established.
Overall, we as a civilization need to focus more on broadening our technological advancements than playing Angry Birds.
How to Immortalize Education
Juan Enriquez talks about how technology has reached a point where anything we do online is stored and can be accessed by nearly anyone. He tells of how we should be careful what we post and that anything we do post will be immortalized online forever. Not only that, but with new facial recognition software, people can take a picture of someone and find out nearly everything about them without even uttering a word to them.
Although the thought of immortalized social media posts is scary, the idea can be applied to education in a much better way. Much like textbooks and research papers, this online immortalization could greatly benefit education. Rather than writing notes out on chalkboards and then erasing them after they are finished with their lectures, teachers could write lecture notes on a SmartBoard and then upload them to a website where students can easily access the notes. The information stays on the website forever and can be accessed at any point during the year, which makes it beneficial during the time frame that the subject is being studied as well as for review for a test at the end of the year.
With immortalization of information, we can also keep online records of how theories and thoughts change as more information is uncovered or better understood. People worldwide can contribute their knowledge to a group project, whether grade school students or rocket scientists, without ever having to interact in real life. This information is stored online and remains there permanently, so if the project is, for example, put on temporary hold, the information can be revisited later on and the project can resume from where it was left off. Information also remains permanent so that historians in the next millennium will have a solid understanding of how we thought the world worked and what theories we had about which subjects.
All in all, although an immortalized online profile may not be good in every way, from an educational standpoint, it is one of the most valuable aspects of education and information storage.