Sunday, September 25, 2011

Education for today and tomorrow

There’s no question that the world is a very different place than it was when public schooling became a common practice in North America. In fact, the rate of change itself has accelerated dramatically during this time frame.

It took us about 3000 years to get from creating our first bits of pottery to starting to record our ideas in writing (with a handful of major advances in between). It has taken us less than 300 years to go from the first steam engine to building space stations on the moon (with far too many world-changing events in the interim to list). It’s estimated that the world (at the time of writing this) produces about 5 exabytes of new information per year1 (An exabyte is a billion gigabytes, in case you missed that particular piece of new information). That’s about 37,000 times the amount of information held in the Library of Congress collection. Ten years ago, who had ever “googled” an ex-boyfriend (or girlfriend). And five years ago, would you have even known what a “wiki” was?

Within the last few generations the time-scale for massive change has become very short compared to the human life span. The world will be a very different place when we die than it was when we were born. Education not only has to keep pace with today, but create structures flexible enough to adapt for an unknown tomorrow.

Changing Economy
The move from the industrial era into a knowledge/concept-based economy has shifted dependence on physical labour into a need for innovation, problem-solving and adaptability. Radically different approaches to work, productivity and prosperity require new approaches to learning, schools and education.

The Rise of Technology
Today’s students are the first generation to grow up with digital technology and this technology has changed the way we view knowledge, access information and relate to our world. Education needs to both capture the incredible possibilities for deep learning opportunities that new technologies can offer and prepare students to cope with the amount and speed of information at their fingertips.

Shifts in Society
Canada’s population has shifted from rural to urban, immigration has increased and we have moved away from interconnectedness with community and extended family into nuclear or single-parent family units. More women are in the workforce, and media, advertising and consumerism have exploded as major societal influences.

Changing World
Before the year 1824, when the first railway engine took to the tracks, no human being (or piece of information) had ever gone faster than the speed to be had on the back of a horse. Compare that with today’s realities for the nearly 6.5 billion people who travel and share information around the world. We have not only become globally connected – on a minute by minute basis – but globally interdependent in solving world issues that threaten our well-being.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

5 reasons: Why girls shoud play sports

Why play sports? You might say "to get exercise" and you'd be right. To have fun? That's true, too. But there's more. In fact, there are at least 5 more reasons. According to the Women's Sports Foundation, girls who play sports get a lot more than just fit.

1. Girls who play sports do better in school. You might think that athletics will take up all your study time. But research shows that girls who play sports do better in school than those who don't. Exercise improves learning, memory, and concentration, which can give active girls an advantage in the classroom.

2. Girls who play sports learn teamwork and goal-setting skills. Sports teaches valuable life skills. When you working with coaches, trainers, and teammates to win games and achieve goals, you're learning how to be successful. Those skills will serve you well at work and in family life.

3. Sports are good for a girl's health. In addition to being fit and maintaining a healthy weight, girls who play sports are also less likely to smoke. And later in life, girls who exercise are less likely to get breast cancer or osteoporosis.

4. Playing sports boosts self-confidence. Girls who play sports feel better about themselves. Why? It builds confidence when you know you can practice, improve, and achieve your goals. Sports are also a feel-good activity because they help girls get in shape, maintain a healthy weight, and make new friends.

5. Exercise cuts the pressure. Playing sports can lessen stress and help you feel a little happier. How? The brain chemicals released during exercise improve a person's mood. Friends are another mood-lifter. And being on a team creates tight bonds between friends. It's good to know your teammates will support you — both on and off the field!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Primary Virtual Schools - New Emerging Trend

Regardless of the controversies going on against online education, colleges and universities have been translating parts of their curriculum into distance learning courses and students continue to take them without entering the campus. A new trend is emerging these days, online education for primary schools. These virtual schools are operated by state governments or local school districts and promise to give students more flexibility while also lowering education costs for the state. Most of these virtual state-operated schools will accept enrollment from students anywhere in the state.
A law creating virtual schools legal is currently under consideration in the state Tennessee. Even if virtual education is a panacea for an ailing public education system, it’s clear that it is not going to disappear anytime soon.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Who Needs Online Education?

Online education is not for everyone, it’s an option for working adults, students and professionals who want to further their careers without troubling their busy schedules and ruining their family life. Online education takes away all sorts of time restraints by offering a completely virtual learning experience.
Now working adults can continue their education, earn higher degrees, and earn more money through classes which are taken via the Internet.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bring a sense of spirit to the Humanities part 4

Comenius advocated a comprehensive education taught in the vernacular.  He promoted the establishment of many more schools and universities.  He was asked to design the curriculum for the recently established Harvard College, but instead chose to organize Sweden’s educational system.  He pioneered the use of academic specialization but warned that if the spiritual focus were not emphasized, educational unity would be lost.  We have arrived at that point today. We know more and more about less and less.  Without any unifying principals with which to appreciate the value of Liberal Arts and to relate it to our lives, education is bereft of wisdom.

At the heart of any education for tomorrow are these seven basic principles:

bulletAn understanding of the importance of love in education, and the development of human relationships based on such an attitude.
bulletRecognition of the ever-changing ways we view ourselves and the world we live in – the evolution of individual human consciousness.
bulletAn appreciation of the growth of personal freedom as it has evolved in the Western Tradition.
bulletAn emphasis on the potential for self-development and self-transformation inherent in each individual.
bulletAn awareness of how each subject relates to the experience of  "I AM" as the balanced center of thinking, feeling and willing.
bulletA sense of integrating the whole as well as clearly distinguishing the parts of each subject.
bulletAn exploration of the creative and artistic elements in our lives and in civilization in addition to the factual and intellectual elements.
Before you begin to study in this manner, it is important to mention that certain positive mental and psychological attitudes are necessary.  These are as follows:

Moments of inner tranquility are required, that state of being where you are at peace with yourself.  A sincere student must learn to practice stepping aside from the turmoil of daily life with its incessant distractions.  These moments of inner tranquility should be taken as a starting point for self-education.  To some extent thoughtful contemplation and objectivity are possible only at these selected disciplined times.

It is essential that one learn to know one’s feeling and then be able to become dispassionate.  This putting aside of one’s likes and dislikes and seeking to examine what is, not what gratifies, leads to a state of objective awareness quite different from the familiar personal and subjective condition.

This conscious objectivity allows us to see things from different points of view and enables us to see some truth, purpose and meaning even in attitudes and behavior we otherwise might find totally abhorrent.  This ability does not make us lose our sense of judicious discrimination - on the contrary it enhances this sense and our understanding of the world.

By withholding and suspending judgement we keep our mind open to new discoveries.  As soon as we judge, we limit our curiosity and thought.

We are thus able to understand how often we have "thrown out the baby with the bathwater."  Disagreements, prejudice and criticism often lead us to miss crucial insights that can enrich our lives.
True open-mindedness and thoughtful objectivity leads to "learned ignorance" which overcomes intellectual arrogance and false pride.  The more we learn, the more we understand how much we do not know.  This inspirational approach to Liberal Arts will lead to "the Truth that sets us free."  This is the wonderful goal of educating yourself for tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bring a sense of spirit to the Humanities part 3

Where do we find constructive help in this difficult journey into ourselves?  We can turn to the great artists, writers, thinkers, statesmen and scientists throughout history who have communicated their heightened sense of awareness through their lives’ work.  They have tried to awaken us to a higher view of ourselves through artistic forms and significant deeds.  Their examples can make clear to us that we have more than just five senses.  We can go beyond our material senses to deeper levels of cognition.  We all have dormant organs of finer perception which have always been cultivated by leading Human Beings throughout history. If we can understand and absorb their insights, we can ourselves participate more completely in the great creative force that drives humankind forward and upward.

So often what we search for is to be found right in front of our noses.  It is the same with life itself.  It’s like a game of hide-and-seek that we play with the self we know and the self we are trying to find.  And the method that we can use is also right before us in our own great culture and tradition.  It is only a matter of learning how to "see better" as the loyal Earl of Kent implores Shakespeare’s King Lear.

The self-developmental thrust of this type of Liberal Arts education goes beyond the conventional approach to the Humanities found in colleges and universities today.  For example, undergraduates study the doctrines and ideas of Plato.  In contrast, this approach redirects the focus of study to the process of self-knowledge using Plato’s symposium as a catalyst.  Self-knowledge is the goal.  Plato is the guide.
To those who do not understand the spiritual dimensions of "Know Thyself!" self-knowledge appears to be narcissism.  To those who have had this inner-experience, it is a path to community service.  It is the goal of true education to cultivate that which is the best within each of us.  Thiscreates the conditions for a superior understanding of perennial wisdom, so called because it constantly blooms.
The new curriculum at many universities includes selections from non-Western, female and minority sources.  The changes reflect the recognition that the traditional approach to the Humanities has great limitations.  However, in spite of good intentions, the quest for universal relevance in education will continue to go astray so long as Humanities advocates do not realize that higher education must be founded on the conscious development of these dormant cognitive organs leading to a deeper understanding of the human condition.  The development of the whole Human Being – no matter what the sex, color or race – must be fostered.

No unifying theme has been consciously applied to our secularized education, and the Liberal Arts curriculum has become over-specialized and over-intellectualized at the expense of an education of the heart and the will.  Of course, revision of the traditional core curriculum of the Humanities is not a recent phenomenon.  At the very onset of our modern curriculum development, Amos Comenius (1592-1670), the great Moravian educator responsible for many aspects of modern education, saw the potential pitfalls that have come to be.  For those who are unfamiliar with Comenius, his book, The Visible World, was the first textbook in which pictures were as important as the text.  He was determined to translate into reason what previously had existed as tradition.  In The Temple of Pansophia, he wrote that he wished to construct a temple of Wisdom that would serve as a sacred edifice for education similar to the Temple of Solomon.  His temple was to house a school of universal wisdom, a workshop for attaining all of the skills necessary for life and the future.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bring a sense of spirit to the Humanities part 2

The conventional approach to the Humanities too often has consisted in rote teaching, memory training and problem solving.  Opening the "inner eye" requires experiencing the "I" as an integrated whole, an ego (Latin for "I") that balances thinking, feeling, and willing.  Increased mastery of this integrative process leads to the ability to distinguish between true intuition and mere whim; between inspiration and empty abstract thought; between creative imagination and disconnected fantasy.

Such personal development goes against the present flow of conventional Western thought.  For 500 years Western civilization has developed itself through the exploration and conquest of the "outer" world.  This progress seems to have come from a scientific materialistic philosophy.  The world viewed with this attitude appears separated from our inner being.  And yet, if one looks more deeply – imagination, inspiration, and intuition – all spiritual, integrative processes, are at the core of our scientific and cultural discoveries.  Einstein, to take one example, has said that he valued his ability to speculate and fantasize above his mathematical skill.  The "new physics" is based on doing away with the old attitude that "I am here and it’s out there."  The observed, say the new physicists studying sub-atomic phenomena, is always changed by the observer.

Yet so much of the way we think and live is structured in dualism, (binary thinking) the commonplace way of thinking in terms of either/or, bad/good, inner/outer.  Whether our faith is in science, progress, God, human nature or government, our outlook is often confined to dualities.  Only enhanced self-knowledge enables us to transcend the temporary illusion of duality and one-sided materialism.  An experience of opening the "I" breaks through to the integration of head, heart and creativity that is the core of all reality – the "patterns of organic energy" with which the Zen masters of ancient China were concerned.

To satisfy the universal need for inner direction many are turning toward gurus, cult figures, drugs and pseudo-Christianity (close-mindedness, intolerance, hatred and violence in the name of Christianity).  People who choose to neglect their own self-development through self-knowledge can become attracted to and become locked into unhealthy, unfree solutions for their doubts, illnesses, insecurities and dissatisfactions.