MyPal Online School

Learner Centric Education Model for 21st Century

12 September 2013 By In MyPal Blog

The natural desire to learn:

Every child is born with an innate sense of curiosity and a desire to learn.  But, slowly school curriculum and in some cases lack of qualified and inspired teachers, makes school work rather routine and the excitement to learn gets lost, quite often.  Students slog through school with aspirations to go to college for higher education to learn something ‘real’ and get a good job.  School curriculum is not expected to provide life skills or prepare students to secure a job.

In Chirec Public School, we tried to bring about some changes by offering a choice of international curricula such as Cambridge and IB.  We tried to digitize the lesson plans and worksheets and make them available on a web based learning management system to make grading automatic and instantaneous thereby reducing the monotony of grading for teachers.  The experience of attempting to computerize the lesson plans, providing online educational resources, online quizzes and worksheets opened our eyes to the fundamental limitations of curriculum itself.

Limitations of school curriculum:

School curriculum has changed very little in its format, pedagogy and content since the era of industrial revolution.  We are now in 21st Century which is heralded as the knowledge age mainly on account of the breakthroughs in computers and telecommunications, often referred to as internet and communications technologies (ICTs).  The advances in computer science which have impacted every field of learning like math, physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, geography etc are yet to impact the foundation level for all knowledge i.e School Education.  ICTs will certainly, if not already, impact school education in a very fundamental way that Guttenberg’s printing press has impacted learning and education in the medieval period.

While curriculum can be frustrating for any average student, one can imagine the plight of the bright and talented students who are ahead of the curve and tech savvy by default.  They are being taught through an outdated curriculum by teachers who are not inclined to change their age old lesson plans, teaching resources and worksheets.  Very often, it is the rare breed of dedicated school teachers who inspire students but curriculum can become a constraint in what and how much the student can learn at a particular stage. The standard school curricula does not develop creativity and critical thinking but encourages cramming and repetitive practice which are useful to score in final exams or prepare for entrance exams to get into good Colleges and Universities.  The ‘good colleges and universities’ are then expected to prepare you to step into the world.

 Addressing the challenges of school curriculum:

To make a beginning to address the challenges faced by school educators in a resource rich knowledge era, we decided to use technology to teach Computer Science and Math courses online to make up for what students miss in standard school curricula.

We have promoted MyPal Online School (www.mypalonline.com ) to cater to needs of academically talented students. ??MyPal’s objective is to leverage technology to provide goal oriented personalized learning for imparting skills required for 21st century knowledge age.

MyPal is an acronym for My Project Active Learning.  In active learning the learner has control over all the work, the learning resources, how to access them and when and where to use them.  Active learning occurs in classrooms through projects and group discussions whereas in a digital world and internet space, active learning acquires a different dimension and a whole new meaning.  Mypal leverages technologies to make active learning possible through structured online courses that have been designed by a team of experts in the field of education including subject experts, instructional designers and graphic designers.

MyPal’s process of talent development has two stages.  The first stage is talent identification: continuous targeting of the precursors of domain-specific talent through the formal and informal processes to recognize and identify talent. We used specially designed aptitude test for identifying talent in math and computer science through a series of logical questioning that challenging critical thinking and analytical reasoning.  The second stage is talent development: how the person demonstrating talent is instructed, guided, and encouraged—a process too often left to chance rather than to strategic and targeted effort.

Strangely while observation, questioning, experimenting and discovery are encouraged for other science subjects, standard curriculum of Math is presented as facts and formulae and has come to be accepted as such.  Mathematics and Computer Science have great influence on each other but the field of Math Education in Standard School Curricula has remained unchanged with advent of Computers and Computer Science.  Math and Computer Science develop a ‘way of thinking’ and teach students ‘how to think’ and taking up talent development in these fields at an early age gives a distinct advantage.  MyPal is focused on academic talent development in Math and Computer Science because these subjects are very suitable for teaching online.  MyPal collaborates with IMACS, USA (www.eimacs.com), pioneers since 1993 in math and computer science courses for gifted/ talented middle and high school students.

MyPal has adopted a Learner Centric Education Model which is relevant for 21st Century knowledge age and is illustrated below.

b2ap3 thumbnail learner centric education model MyPal

In MyPal’s learner centric model, a variety of educational resources are used to provide personalized learning to students that is appropriate to their development stage and their current interests.  The role of Teacher more akin to a facilitator/ coach or mentor and co-learner at times.

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