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‘Students suffer from Swiss cheese effect’
By a Staff Reporter October 08, 2017
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ABU DHABI: Blended education is the future and teachers have a responsibility to empower their students, said Michael B Horn, Co-founder and Distinguished Fellow at Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation, a US-based non-profit think tank.

In his keynote speech at a session titled ‘Disrupting Class to Reinvent Education’ on Day 1 of the Qudwa 2017 Global Teachers’ Forum, Horn outlined the future of education in the context of technological innovations that continually offer new channels of learning.

Co-author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, a bestseller on, Horn highlighted the benefits of blended education that allows teachers to use the internet in helping students enhance their knowledge based on their needs and abilities.

Beginning his address with a thank you note to the teachers, Horn said: “It is one of the most noble professions of time, as cultivators of the young minds. As a father, I appreciate all the work and efforts you put in.”

Referring to the factory-model based on which schools are conventionally built, Horn questioned the rationale to have an education system that barely optimises learning. He said: “Education institutions follow a fixed-time system where we bring in students, cram their minds with the curriculum, then we test and assess their understanding – just like a factory line works. We do not consider the fact that some students have fully comprehended the class and others haven’t, with great variables.”

Drawing attention to the findings of cognitive scientists on the working memory capacities in the minds of individuals, Horn emphasised the need to customise and personalise the delivery of education. He said: “We are seeing what is now being called the Swiss cheese effect with students developing holes in their learning. Due to the system in place with a running curriculum, teachers are also facing difficulties in finding these holes early on.”

Responding to the repeatedly asked question on why blend, Horn said: “We should personalise learning to the different needs of each student, to be able to reach each student – competency-based learning at scale. This will allow us to fix learning but keep time as the variable. Teachers will still test and assess students, but will get real-time and interactive feedback to know what to do next, and only move on once students have mastered the course. In addition to the more rigorous academic outcomes, we will see more life-long and better prepared learners with stronger perseverance that fit into today’s society, as well as tomorrow’s. Fundamentally, we are teaching our students that they must work to get somewhere, even if it is at a different path and pace.”

Horn concluded: “Teachers are becoming more important than ever in this brave new world. Technology does a great job in delivering instructions and content to students, as well as data to teachers, but it is not so good at other things.”

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