Recently I attended a talk entitled “Rethinking Learning, Redesigning Teaching” by Prof Datuk Dr Mohamed Amin Embi, an open education and online learning award winning professor from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) (more on the awards later).
An interesting talk, Prof Amin spoke of the need to better understand today's Gen Z.
"We know so little about how they learn," Prof Amin said. "But what we do know is that most of them have an eight-second attention span, in which time we must capture their attention".
"They love bite-sized information. Videos beyond 3 minutes are usually too long for them".
Most Gen Z students are known as digital natives - defined as aged 15-24 who have had more than five years of online experience.
According to a United Nation’s study, Malaysia is No.1 in the developing world and No.4 worldwide for the number of digital natives.
"What this means," says Prof Amin, "is that the Gen Z of today are adept with the Internet, active learners, love instant education and knowledge, and are likely to share what they learn via social media if meaningful to them".
The evolving role of educators
There is a well-known saying which goes ‘If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow’.
As such, Prof Amin believes that "educators must have the mind set of learners and see themselves as architects of the learning experience”.
Relying on Uncle Google
"Why lecture when Google has most lectures?” he asks.
“Most content is readily available online, searchable via Google, and many are of good quality. Use the best videos on Youtube!” he says.
“If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn”.
In this regard, Prof Amin’s championing of open education espouses the view that teachers or lecturers should not just produce or create new content, but also use existing content to teach.
"This way, educators have more time to delve into the topic. Students are not bored absorbing knowledge. Educators curate knowledge”.
“Don’t just stop at asking ‘what?’, teach them how to ask ‘So What?’ ‘Now What’? and ‘Then What’?”
90% knowledge retention rate
According to ‘The Learning Pyramid’ by National Training Laboratories (NTL), students are less likely to retain what they learn if conveyed via passive teaching methods.
These include lectures (5%) and reading (10%). In contrast, participatory teaching methods have a much higher retention rate with group discussions at 50%, practice at 75% and teaching others at 90%.
As such, Prof Amin suggested a 70:20:10 model when approaching curriculum design. 70% must enable students to learn and develop through experience; 20% through others’ experiences, and 10% through structured courses and programmes.
UKM will soon attempt a ‘minggu tanpa kuliah’ or ‘no lecture week’ where lecture halls will be locked. This, according to Prof Amin, will encourage lecturers to approach teaching and learning differently.
Classrooms are no longer enough
By 2019, half of all high school classes in the US will take place online. Thus, online learning will become ever so vital.
In universities, online learning will help reduce student debt. An online + campus learning experience will be the future.
As mentioned earlier, Prof. Amin recently received two awards from the Open Education Consortium (OEC) at the Open Education Excellence Awards Ceremony in Poland in April.
The first was the ‘Individual Educator’s Award’ which he received for his contribution to open education over the last 15 years. He is the first Muslim and Malaysian as well as one of only two people in the world to receive it.
Rethinking learning, redesigning teaching
Prof Amin’s second award was the ‘Open MOOC Award’. MOOC stands for Massive Open Online Courses which are education courses one can take online, similar to EdEx or Coursera.
Prof Amin’s course titled ‘Rethinking Learning, Redesigning Teaching’ was selected as one of the best MOOCs in the world. More than 2000 students and teachers from over 80 countries all over the world have taken the course which is available for free at OpenLearning.com.
After the talk, UNITAR demonstrated their technology-driven learning process. The lesson’s instructions were “Google solutions to global warming, individually. Select 5 best things you can do to reduce it. Present and defend your choices. As a group, design flyers you can distribute to educate the public”.
Interesting indeed. Prof Amin said that he loves to get his students to share quotes on teaching. A quote which caught my eye was by Alexandra K Trenfor which goes ‘The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see’.