I am a teacher and mother.These roles are interchangeable and they have become my way of life and guiding light to all inspiration and dreams. That’s why I feel that today’s thoughts about the future of our children are especially poignant on Mother’s Day around the world.
If you are homeschooling your children, you may be living in a remote area or you may wish to give your child more than the school system can offer. You may wish your child to have a more personalized, creative experience of learning that maximizes his/her specific talents. As such, you are probably a parent who likes to keep up with educational trends and who has mastered the art of customizing education beyond run-of-the-mill factory-style education.
According to research by the National education Research Institute (NHERI)in 2010, homeschooling is growing at a rate of 2.8% every year, making it the fastest among different forms of education. This data from the NHERI indicates that there are about 2.04 million home schooled students in the united states.
As Ken Robinson says in his new TED talk, ‘How to escape education’s death valley‘, “Millions of children are being left behind. Whoever coined the phrase ‘no child left behind’ understands irony.”
Tweaking the irony a bit could make it sound like this:
” We propose to leave millions of children behind. So far, the legislation is working beautifully”
What would happen if these parents and children were connected online via Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)? Would we save the 60 % of kids in America who drop out of school or 80% of the Native Americans?
These statistics come from Ken Robinson’s speech. Whatever the international data may be, I have a feeling that parents joining forces massively online would leave dubious governmental legislation spinning on its head.
1) Parents can connect with other children and families around the world
Personally speaking, I feel that my children are being forced to follow an old-fashioned curriculum that has been hijacked by left-brain tunnel-vision. It seems to me that Maths is the most highly prized subject in Greek schools and Art is given little focus beyond the age of seven. Drama or other creative subjects don’t exist as part of a planned curriculum, and language learning in state schools has been rendered defunct by privatization.
My children have adapted to the curriculum of their schools, but it’s up to me to add some colour to their learning experiences. I do it by running a bilingual home and encouraging artistic activities. My children make their own toys, are talented artists, and even write their own books. Most of this creativity sprang from encouragement and the provision of fun learning opportunites, rather than forcing impossible tasks upon them. It was also a case of collaborative learning, with my four kids being inspired by each other. In fact, they are well-capable of creating their own learning opportunities too, and regularly do so.
Yesterday, for example, my eight year old daughter told me a lovely story that she has just made up from the top of her head. It was so good that I could picture the whole thing in my mind’s eye, so I told her that we will turn her story into a comic today. Now, I am thinking that if we are connected with other children and families around the world via MOOCS, we could share her comic and stories online and other kids could do the same. The inspiration my kids get from each other could be spread and shared on the cloud.
I experienced this when I had my youngest daughter singing the Fluency MC alphabet song along with a cute child from Tunisia. Anissa Baa’s daughter, Moon, sang the alphabet song on video, and when I saw it on facebook I put it on an interactive poster. Now my daughter plays the video and sings along to it.
2) Get help and support in managing home schooling
As parents we also need outside support. We have jobs, bills to pay and have multiple responsibilities beyond educating our kids personally. That’s why I think we should look at MOOCS in this light. Connecting online with parents and children all over the world, and being part of a global learning sandbox that is greater than the sum of our households, cannot be a bad thing!
What about specialist subject areas? How do homeschoolers teach their children foreign languages? Perhaps they invite private tutors to their homes to teach. Nowadays in Greece, forward thinking language schools are actually taking their students online to play. This is thanks to a great initiative in Greece, called ClubEFL. By joining online intiatives, we can also make the most of safe social networking for getting our children to speak foreign languages online. The best online courses that I’ve seen for this are those created by Jason West called English Out There. MOOCs are well-organised massive learning opportunities that are also safe for children, something we must take into account.
Parents and children can log into courses whenever they want to access multi-media, games, blogs, or even take part in augmented reality lessons. Then there are live online adventures with teachers in virtual classrooms (like it happens at WizIQ). Having a safe learning space is preferable to trying to blindly surf the net. With kids involved, this is risky, dangerous and not to recommended. MOOCs may also save us parents precious time, as amazing courses could be made for us or else easily customised, and children can learn to create their own learning opportunities with multi-media and connecting with others.
What about pooling talents?
As a mother, I know that there a some things I can confidently teach my children, yet other things I know little about. It’s probably no accident that my children like reading, writing and art, as these are the strengths that I can pass onto them. Yet, I see glimpses of many other talents that I may not be so sure of nurturing. It’s true that our kids often become the products of their parents’ talents. This is good in one sense, but narrow in the sense that many innate talents may never see the light of day if children are not exposed to enough outside influences. By collaborating via massive online inspirational networks, however, parents can pool talents, knowledge and languages to help our children live beyond and supersede our own limited attributes. We can become global masterminds for nurturing future generations.
3) Gain Access To Creative Learning Spaces.
The internet already has some fantastic learning spaces for children and schools online. There are school accounts and learning management systems on comic sites such as Bitstrips and Pixton. Make Belief Comix has special resources for homeschooling. Eduglogster has special school accounts too. Traditional schools all over the world are joining forces with online learning providers to enhance the learning experience and make it more active, more creative, and more befitting the 21st Century and this digital age we live in.
MOOCs for homeschooling could be organized with Moodle ( Did you hear about the Moodle MOOC ?) as the basic learning space and then parents could decide on which sandbox sites to let their children play in.
4) Children can reach out beyond the HomeEnvironment.
As homo-sapiens inhabiting planet Earth, we may not be aliens to each other from a global perspective. There is no denying, however, that we are often excruciatingly alienated from each other. Connecting online via MOOCs can change all that.
Home schooled children and/or semi-home schooled bilinguals need this kind of connection more than anything. A home schooling environment can be wonderful if it is organized better than the school system, but there is so much more that can be accomplished via blended online collaboration. Parents can reach out to each other through massive home-schooling projects.
Social awareness and global responsibility can be taught in no better arena than in an international one.
When you call yourself an Indian or a Muslim or a Christian or a European, or anything else, you are being violent. Do you see why it is violent? Because you are separating yourself from the rest of mankind. ~ Krishnamurti.
We may not wish to abolish religion or nationality, but that is not what the above quote is saying. It is saying that we should not over-identify with or label ourselves with socially imposed cultural scripts. We are human beings above and beyond religion or nationality.
Connecting online breaks down cultural barriers. If we want to end violence, racism, and extreme nationalism, we can do it via creative child-centred global MOOCs. If we want our children to escape the daily diet of government controlled political brain-washing, we can have them grow into citizen journalists of the world.
Then we may produce leaders of the future like this child who is addressing the United Nations.
5) Parents can REALLY take education into their own hands
When I was a child my teachers liked to organize pen pals for us so that we could write to children from all over the world. This was with old-fashioned letters and REAL stamps. It was nice, but what we can do today is miraculous in comparison.
To illustrate what this might look like, we can use the ClubEFL model as an example of a children’s online learning space. On ClubEFL schools and parents join forces with their children to blog together, network together, message each other, and create and share learning games, songs, poems, and quizzes. ClubEFL could host asynchronous MOOCS for small kids or, better still, it could work in conjunction with platforms such as WizIQ to host TV-style learning similar to what is now happening with Fluency MC and his Weekly English Workout.
Parents who are not sure how MOOCs would work for homeschooling can get some advice from e-learning specialists who are happy to share this information for the greater good. The most experienced e-learning specialist I know on WizIQ is Dr. Nellie Deutsch. She is organizing MOOCS via moodle, a learning management system that can be self-hosted and used for home-schooling collaborations.
We can learn a lot in hindsight from Australia and the distance learning schools that were developed on the 1950s to connect learners from the outback.
Schools of the air
Schools of the air have been the norm for Australian children from 1951 until present times. Today the system has been converted from short wave radio to wireless internet technologies.
In the past the main limitation on this traditional form of distance learning was the seemingly one -to -one nature of connecting with just one teacher, and missing out on group dynamics. Today, we can have massive group dynamics ‘on the cloud’ as opposed to ‘in the air’
6) Creativity can flourish on the cloud
(Image created by my 8 year-old daughter using Eduglogster.)
We can let our children make music together, learn and share ‘on the cloud’ in our safe but expansive MOOC zones. I feel certain that this kind of learning would be contagious, with children teaching each other, just like my kids do in our own little microcosm.
7) Learning can gain Momentum beyond the Establishment.
I will wrap up by mentioning the fact that MOOCs are attracting the attention of the enthusiasts as well as the naysayers. Personally I have stayed out of this till now, just observing and reading various blogs.
I think that we should step beyond such ‘definitions’ of MOOCs. Education these days is too dynamic to define. MOOCs for homeschoolers will become whatever parents can envision as part of a global effort to collaborate wisely and boldly.
Parents may have real power for the first time ever! Cheers!