Hi all. I’ve been thinking a lot about the the model that Illich puts forth in “Deschooling Society” and wanted to open a discussion about technology-facilitated, student self-directed education. Skip on down to The Thoughts if you’ve read “Deschooling” or want to skip my summary of his proposed school replacement.
Illich advocates throwing out all schools as they currently exist and replacing them with self-directed, unstructured educational dialogues that are facilitated by technology.
Here’s my interpretation of his model as it could be done in 2010 : A person would log into a website and indicate the title of a text, movie, website, or journal article that they would like to discuss. They would then be provided with the emails and cities of others who are interested in the same title. The students are then left to make the contact and set up a virtual or real-life meetings to have the discussion. Everything else (Do the read it first? Do they look for other POVs on the work? Do they research the context in which it was produced? Do they start with a list of talking points to consider?) is left to the students to work out.
I was most intrigued by his use (even in 1970) of technology to supplant the institutional teacher. He argues that institutionalizing teaching allows every other person and institution in society to ignore their shared responsibilities in co-education because there is this thing that is supposed to educate.
Technology-facilitated educational change has been simmering in my mind for a while, and I am wondering about models that you have seen, read about, or dreamed up, that facilitate self-directed, semi-structured education. Illich’s model use technology to facilitate dialogues between real people; I’ve talked with people about computer assisted education that would allow students to work semi-independently at their own pace and in their own direction (somewhat like Montesorri to the extreme). But these are just thoughts and theories, and I haven’t seen a successful example of either.
Another example (ie. digression): I watched a teacher preparing for a class by researching a topic and following all the tangents that sprang from it. The research process was intriguing and exciting to her and she went way beyond what she needed for the period. I feel the students would have been more excited to do the research than to have the “important” points set in front of them and then have a guided discussion. If students actually had the self-motivated discovery experience my friend did, it would provide at least an equal educational experience and save the teacher a whole lot of time. This isn’t a new idea by any means, but it’s usually done when a teacher decides to let the students have an unstructured, self-directed class period rather than the regular experience of the students.
So, where have you seen alternative educational models in the wild that focus on student self-direction without even the guidance/facilitation of an expert/educator? What have you dreamed up that would be worthwhile? Obviously, I’ve thought about this in a technology-facilitated manner, but I don’t mean for that to be a limitation to the discussion.