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Enabling classrooms to become successfully low tech

PHUKET: Approaches to education have changed quite dramatically in the past 60 years. Being able to recite your 23 Times Table, reel off capitals of obscure cities like Kiribati (Tarawa) and generally recall facts from rote learning was once seen by many as indicative of a ‘man of letters’.

By Jody Houton

Saturday 6 October 2012, 11:54AM

Nowadays, however, modern approaches to learning incorporates everything from knowledge of brain anatomy to studies in holding attention spans based on approaches learned from video games and keeping classrooms at ideal room temperatures.

Jason Stanley, who arrived on the island five months ago after a six-year stint as Head Principal for Asia Pacific College in Vietnam, is aware of all such theories but believes that what is ideal and what is achievable, especially in South East Asia is unfortunately quite far apart.

Mr Stanley said that his interest in ‘alternative approaches in education’ and a different way of teaching was sparked by his years in the Vietnamese education sector where rote learning and the very regimented curriculum is very much the norm. Here he often tried to introduce elements of critical thinking, but said that it was “difficult” at best.

“There’s a common way of thinking now in the U.K that says that critical thinking is king and that to a certain extent it doesn’t matter what is being taught, it’s more about how you learn it. It’s believed that the majority of the content is not really useful in the long-term working environment.”

Mr Stanley said that he agreed with that up to a certain extent, but added: “I think content is extremely important and is necessary in order to progress to the next level, you are building a foundation on which to proceed.”

He also added that more modern-day theories of neuroeducation also had to be kept in perspective, “I recognise the benefits of brain-based learning and am aware of the benefits of the correct classroom environment, including proper light, air and ventilation, but again one has to be realistic about and allow a teacher to be a teacher and not a counsellor or nutritionist. That is not their job.”

Mr Stanley referenced a study that said it’s good for learning retention to burn vanilla-scented candles, “Sure,” he added, “It’s good in theory, but not in practice. It’s dangerous and also expensive. It’s not fair to ask a teacher to do this.”

He also said that it’s not realistic either, especially not in Phuket, Thailand.

Laguna Golf Phuket

“It’s great that certain international schools have small class sizes and great teaching facilities etc, but what about the rest of the world and the rest of the kids?”

Mr Stanley added that as education budgets were universally being cut, now it was even more imperative to add brain-based teaching and actually become more ‘low tech’.

It is for this reason that Mr Stanley is currently working on a series of eBooks, that introduce the concept of these theories and the scientific background of their application. He also draws upon two popular current ideologies of educative practices.

Firstly that there are different learning styles, for example that people are primarily either visual or auditory learners. Secondly an ideology that was popular in the 1980s that there are multiple intelligences - interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal and even physical intelligences.

Once teachers are aware of the ‘knowledge’, they will be able to adopt which aspects of the programme or theory that they feel will work best for their particular classroom environment.

“An example of neuroeducation learning is to recognise that things are remembered often in different sections of the brain - visual, auditory etc. Knowing this, teachers should plan a lesson like that, get the students talking about the topic, so that they are talking and listening. This will increase the chances of remembering it.”

The first two eBooks will become available in December and can be bought from The Phuket News will be publishing exclusive excerpts of the books in the near future.



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