What is the teacher’s role in an era when he no longer has exclusivity of knowledge? How is technology being harnessed for learning? What do we know today that we didn’t know before? At TEKKIE UNI, we think that we have found the winning combination.
We usually think that modern schools as we know them today, with the frontal method of education and dividing the students into age groups, were created at the time of the Industrial Revolution. But history teaches us otherwise. Schools have existed for thousands of years. They were in operation more than 2500 years ago in ancient Greece and in the Roman Empire, in Egypt and in India. While most were private institutions where the children of affluent families learned for pay, then as now they learned to read and write, engaged in sports and arts, studied history and literature, examined natural phenomena and pored over religious texts. And then as now, studies relied on dialogue between teachers and students, and among the students themselves. The Greek philosopher Socrates, among the fathers of modern philosophy, used to hold dialectic conversations with his students, and always cast doubt on the arguments of the other party, thereby attributing tremendous importance to dialogue as a learning tool.
The information revolution and old pedagogy
In recent decades, we have been in the midst of an information revolution. The Internet and information technology, search engines, and the ability to store huge amounts of information are upsetting the existing educational order. Technology people, educators and educational theoreticians are calling out the traditional teacher-student hierarchy. They argue that the old pedagogical methods are no longer appropriate for the new era in which information is accessible to everyone. Teachers in our day no longer have ownership over information, and learning methods and teacher-student relations must therefore be redesigned. If teachers were once required to pose questions and provide answers to them, that knowledge has now been spread out. The questions are available to everyone, as well as the answers. Technology is thereby apparently making the school outmoded as a socio-communal institution and as a physical space. There are many who argue that gathering students in one classroom at fixed times is no longer materially important in order to absorb knowledge that they can obtain on their own. But is that really the situation?
The illusion of accessibility and the proliferation of knowledge
Due to the arguments regarding the schools’ inconsistency with the new age, new initiatives have appeared both in academia and in the business world, with the aim of redefining and redesigning the learning environment and the connection between teachers and students. Many of the leaders of this change have tried, and are still trying, to harness technology to narrow social gaps. These initiatives are based on the assumption that technology will enable us to make education more accessible to developing countries, and will make it possible to create learning platforms that will enable students to learn at any time and at any place (and about anything). In other words, the proliferation of knowledge. These initiatives mainly offer self-learning, or adaptive learning, which analyzes the needs of the student and produces the best learning method for the student.
Giant projects such as Coursera or edX offer a huge variety of video-based courses for independent learning, some of which are based on courses from leading universities, and some of which are based on courses for obtaining a profession, with the aim of enabling students from all over the world to obtain an excellent education at low prices. The Coursera vision is “A world where anyone, anywhere can transform their life by accessing the world’s best learning experience.”
But despite the convincing vision, and despite the immense investments in building content, these initiatives are finding it difficult to recruit students that will remain loyal over time, and the dropout rate of students in independent learning programs is high. The difficulty has to do with understanding—and there are currently many studies supporting this—that most of the world’s population is not among those engaged in independent learning. In other words, few of us can learn new subjects on our own, in a methodical way, over time. Therefore, despite the many efforts, and despite the impressive recruitment of students, the dropout rate in programs of this kind is very high, and just a few students actually reach the end of the program.
Old school, just on the Internet
With the deep understanding that technology should serve dialogue learning and not replace it, eTeacherGroup founded a number of virtual schools, including TEKKIE UNI.
All of the courses at eTeacherGroup’s schools last about nine months and include frontal classroom learning once a week, as well as additional practice classes at the student’s choice. A large number of the courses that are given to adults carry university accreditation. Experience accumulated over a decade shows that the method works. One hundred thousand graduates of these programs prove that dialogue-methodological education relying on excellent teachers is the recipe for creating a successful and meaningful learning experience.
Boaz Ben-Nun, co-CEO and founder, believes that, “The program for children is a good example of the eTeacherGroup’s technological-pedagogical method. Despite the fact that there are dozens of initiatives and immense investments in platforms for children to learn programming independently, few of the children are really able or want to do quality learning independently over time. Connecting the content with a mentor that will push them forward bridges pitfalls, creates commitment in an enjoyable manner, and leads to a very low dropout rate from year to year.”