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What We Teach

What We Teach

I' putting this graphic into my "events" album because it's collateral for a curriculum development meeting next week. It extends from an hour-long conversation in Dublin with Steve McCormack and Jessie Ward when they pinpointed a major shift we must make in the way we deliver third level skills to multimedia degree students. We have to shift our efforts into creating a classroom environment that spawns creative action. At the moment, much classroom activity generates rote knowledge. As the graphic from Kathy Sierra shows, that is not a credible by-product of higher education.

Sierra points out that if you study math, science, or engineering at a four-year college in the US, much of what you learned is useless, forgotten, or obsolete. You could say the same thing for the standard multimedia degree in Ireland. If Ireland hopes to win international attention as a creative multimedia centre, college students must learn how to create multimedia at every assessible step of their third level programme.

Conversations with industry experts like Steve McCormack, Jessie Ward, Ruth Maher, and Nicky Gogan lead me to believe we are tolerating a massive disconnect between how we teach multimedia development and how multimedia developers actually work. As documented by American research, professionals do not use the logical, left-brain symbols associated with their work. Professionals use the left-brain function to communicate the by-products of their work. Tey actually work with applied intuition.

From Sierra: Sensation (Einstein talked of a kinesthetic element). Anthropomorphizing. Metaphors.

Underscore this: "What experts use to do their work are the things we don't teach. We focus almost exclusively on how to talk about the work".

We are producing creative talent in Ireland almost by accident. Couldyou imagine what we could produce if we stop drilling students to memorise facts and test them in areas that challenge their intuition and visual skills?

Across Irish third level, the Bebo generation trained today are blocked from social media since it is seen as a distraction from book-facing, fact-learning skillsets. While this perspective worked well in the 80s when Irish education measured its ultimate effectiveness by whether graduates were positioned in "jobs for life," today we know our graduates churn through jobs every three or four years. Today, "we must prepare students to be jobless. We must prepare them to think fast, learn faster, and unlearn even faster", according to Sierra.

"The Waterfall Model of education is failing like never before. We need Agile Learning".

I believe in the work of Roger Schank, Dan Pink and computing/learning guru Alan Kay, the thinker who posits, "If you want to be a better programmer, take up the violin." Kay believes that the longer he spends playing music, the fresher and better his approaches to engineering become. He's an outspoken critic of engineering students focusing too early in their education, because he believes that with a more liberal arts education, you get metaphors and ways of thinking and seeing that are vital to your later engineering work. We need to start revising our academic curricula now. Any takers?

Dan Pink -- Whole New Mind