What is education these days?

30 years ago education was about knowledge. Read, remember, test, forget (sorry that was the cynical part of my nature).

Like most educational trends they swing in big arcs and throw out the good bits with the bad (throw out the baby with the bath water). About 30 years ago, the big swing was to design education and then to teaching for understanding, which after teaching in many different systems I still think teaching for understanding is the best concept but not to throw out all the knowledge as students have to have enough knowledge to know there is a question to ask.

The issue has always been how much knowledge is required as a lead into the process of understanding the process of understanding. There has to be enough knowledge to know there is aquestion that needs to be asked. From that point on Google takes over in the knowledge stakes and frees the teacher to concentrate on the questions the students are asking and the levels of understanding they are reaching. If the teacher can inspire the student to ask the question then the students mind is ready and primed for the information as opposed to when the teacher is talking too much. When the teacher is talking too much, the student’s brain is invariably thinking about the latest thing their friend has written in Facebook. So the basis of teaching could be considered to be, the teacher talking less and the students asking more. Back to the questions that students ask, are they good ones? More time needs to be spent in the class room teaching students how to ask good questions and most importantly asking a good question of Google.


The students form a question for the search engines and if their question is a good one, they will get the knowledge they are searching for in the first page. If they don’t get a good answer they must ask a better question of the search engine.

If the students are learning how to ask questions the role of the teacher changes dramatically to one who sets the problems for the students, and to ask questions about what the student is trying to achieve. The teachers role can be to assist the students by helping them to clarify their thoughts, often on a one to one basis to help develop their understanding.


The teachers place in the classroom goes from the front of the room to being with the student fostering their understanding and assisting with the questions they are asking of Google. The full circle comes back to how much knowledge do the students need, the answer is very little especially if we look at Sugata Mitra's (2010) thoughts on child-driven education but students still need lots of guidance by using questions to assist students for both clarifying their understanding and maximising the speed at which they learn.

As a basic principle the less said in the classroom and the more guidance and re-questioning done with individual students the quicker the student learns and they do so with greater understanding. The teacher also has to remember they are not there to show off how much they know, they are there to illicit questions and teach the students how to learn. Showing off goes straight back to a teacher centered classroom, not a good approach if researched styles of good teaching psychology are to be believed.

As a side note the students still need to be taught how to verify information from the Internet and be shown how the teacher checks their work to see if they have copied directly from the nternet. They also need help with interpreting and assimilating information to the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy.i



Mitra, Sugata. (2010) Child-driven education. TED Global 2010 [viewed 20/03/2013]. http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html

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