Educating Children for an Unknown Future

Educating Children for an Unknown Future


by Dr Shen Li Lee


IMG_0685

There is a really interesting article I read recently by Mitchel Resnick promoting the idea that education should be one Lifelong Kindergarten. The logic for his argument goes like this…

 

Education Must Change to Prepare Children for an Unpredictable Future

The world is changing so rapidly that we cannot possibly imagine what it will be like when our children are grown. They will face issues and challenges in a future that we cannot possibly predict. What we believe is important for them to learn today is likely to be irrelevant by the time they are ready to make their way in the world. The only way we can adequately prepare them for this unknown future is to teach them how to think and act creatively. It is not enough to know things – they must be able to use their knowledge in creative ways.

The Kindergarten Education Model is the Key

The only model of education that currently promotes this kind of thinking and creativity is the Kindergarten Model. It’s the one where children are encouraged to physically create the ideas in their heads. When they have a physical model of their ideas, they can play with the ideas, test them out, get feedback from others – these allow them to review, modify and improve their ideas. And on and on it goes, feeding a positive feedback loop that opens the doors for more ideas and more creations.

What is the Kindergarten Education Model?

In one corner of the room, a group of children is building a series of towers with wooden blocks. In another corner, a group is creating a large mural with finger paint. In the process, children are exploring important ideas: What makes a tower stand up or fall down? How do colors mix together?

These activities encourage children to develop their creative thinking. As they work together, they learn about the creative process: how to imagine new ideas, try them out, test the boundaries, experiment with alternatives, get feedback from others, and generate new ideas based on their experiences.

At the heart of the kindergarten education model is the opportunity to create – and that’s the real key to education.

The Kindergarten Model for Older Students

The idea sounds great in theory but how do you apply it to older students? Blocks, crayons, and finger paints will only take you so far. That’s where technology comes in… Mitchel Resnick talks about educational products like LEGO Mindstorms that encourage students to create.

The rest of this article is based on my interpretation of Resnick’s article. The main point I took home is essentially this: encourage children to create. Therefore any tool that allows children to create and express their ideas in physical form should work for the Kindergarten model. Here are a couple more tools that the children can use to create with…

Little Bits

Little Bits have been dubbed LEGO for the iPad generation because they connect as easily as LEGO but they let you create a lot more. Here are just a few examples of what you can create with Little Bits Smart Home Kit – smart fridge, smart AC, wireless lamp, remote pet feeder, and more…

Raspberry Pi

The Raspberry Pi is a single-board computer developed in the UK by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. The Raspberry Pi is a credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard. It’s a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that your desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video.

The Raspberry Pi is probably the most interest “tech toys” I’ve come across. I was totally blown away by what this eleven year old girl created with it:

“Grandpa is getting pretty old. Out there all alone on that farm, he has no one to look in on him, just to see if he’s ok. He’ll use the landline, but he’s beyond of the range of mobile, and he’s never been really great with computers. No Skype or emails. Grandpa does have internet. So I built this for him.”

The girl points down to a small box with a few wires coming out.

“I can bring up a web browser, and take photos inside grandpa’s house. Has he moved his coffee cup today? Is the telly on? At least then we’ll know he’s okay. And I can even type messages” – she changes focus to a textbox inside a web form – “that show up on top. We used ImageMagick for that part… here, you can see it in our code.” – The Register

The Raspberry Pi Magic Mirror is also pretty cool – it can tell you the time, the weather, and the headlines for the day as you’re getting ready for work.

Image Source: PC World

Good Tools are not Enough

LEGO MindstormsLittle Bits, and Raspberry Pi may offer some terrific avenues for our kids to create some really amazing things but we must remember that, at the end of the day, that’s all they really are – just tools. Like all tools, they can be used well and they can be used poorly. Simply having access to them changes nothing if our kids aren’t using them to create.

If all our children are doing is taking these kits and copying ideas already in existence (i.e. following instruction manuals on how to create cool things), there is no creative element. Copying ideas and following instructions may initially be a way to learn how things work, but after that, we should be encouraging our kids to make changes to it – fix it, modify it, extend it, and come up with better ideas. How can we modify it to make it work better? How can we add to it to make it more useful? What else can we make with these tools? Give our kids real world problems to solve with these tools like the girl and her Raspberry Pi project for her grandfather.

I want to make this clear – following the instructions is not a bad thing as long as the kids are learning something from the process. If following instructions teaches a child how to use the tool in a new way that he’s never thought of then that’s great because he can borrow the idea and apply it to a completely new project of his own creation. That’s the real goal we are after – raising children who can take what they know, change it in some way, and come up with something new.

Skills for the Kindergarten Model

If the fundamental goal of the kindergarten model is to encourage children to create, then there are many other ways to promote this creative process. Encouraging our kids to pursue the arts is one way.

  • Music lessons can help children learn how to create their own music.
  • Art classes teach children artistic techniques they can employ as they create their own masterpieces.
  • Drama and musical theatre foster creative expression.

Teaching children the arts is akin to giving them skills that will enhance their creative process.

The Bottom Line

If the goal is to encourage children to create, then anything that encourages that creative process is a good thing. They can be tools that facilitate the creative process, like Raspberry Pi, or skills that enhance the creative process, like music. I’m sure if you think about it, you’ll discover that there are many ways we can encourage this.

contributors

Critical Thinking: One thing you must do to cultivate critical thinking in your child

Critical Thinking: One thing you must do to cultivate critical thinking in your child


The Kidz Parade

contributors

Universities look out for students with critical thinking skills and corporates are giving more importance to creative problem solving skills when they hire new employees. During the teenage years, it is critical thinking skills that help children to figure out the kind of people they want to hang out with, the kind of habits they want to avoid and the kind of pursuits they want to undertake. So, critical thinking is important in every aspect of life. Moreover, it is a skill that can be developed.

Where are the Opportunities?

Everyday, your child comes across various opportunities to challenge themselves as well as to figure out how this world works. These are opportunities that present themselves to them to cultivate their critical thinking and creative problem solving skills.

Understand your child’s thinking skills

Does your child think everything they watch on the TV is true? Does your child blindly believe everything their friends say or make judgments and conclusions after thinking through it? Whether your child is a kindergartner or a high school student, there are many things you can do to cultivate and support their creative thinking skills.

The one thing you must do

The most important factor that helps creative problem solving is powerful questioning.  It is the questions that define the path of our thinking. What do you ask your child when they come back from school? Do you ask them “How was the school?” or “Did you eat your lunch?” or “What did you learn today?” From today onwards, why don’t you ask them “What questions did you ask today?”

This simple question could prompt your child to understand the importance of asking questions. It will provide inspiration to be not just a learner, but also a thinker and a communicator. Isidor I. Rabi, the Nobel laureate physicist gives credit to this very question by his parents as the reason for him to become a scientist. With the ever-increasing population and limited natural resources we have today, critical thinking is not a nice to have skill anymore, it is an essential skill. Your child’s success in the future jobs will depend on how creatively they solve problem.

So, what did you ask today?