Education in the third millennium:
Whether we like it or not, the rules have changed. The society we live in is very different from the one our parents lived in and we are still seeing profound political, social, economic and technological changes.
I studied both Mathematics and Physics and during those five years, I often felt I was learning despite some teachers and not due to them. I had to do most of the work and everything I could in order to survive in ‘the jungle’. At the end of the day, I think my degrees are more valuable as a ‘survival certificate’ than by themselves.
Nobody taught me how to do that. I had to re-learn how to learn after I started University, and the first two years I got bad results. However, I learnt how to work together with my colleagues to get things done. I learnt how to find additional resources that were either better than the ones the lecturer gave us or used a different approach, which proved helpful to better understand the subject. The times I learnt the most were when I faced a challenging, exciting problem and I had to go through all my notes, find extra information and try everything until I solved it.
My personal experience, along with my teaching experience and my readings on the topic, has led me to believe that collaborative learning and learning by projects usually have better results than the more traditional ways of learning. This approach is also closer to the real world, where you do not face a textbook problem on your own and you have all the resources you can find.
I believe our goal as teachers must not only be to explain and transmit knowledge, but also to make students better in the broadest sense of the word. To make them learn how to learn and teach them how the learning process varies among the different fields of knowledge. To make them resourceful enough to find the information they need (using Google, YouTube, Wikipedia…) and to distinguish whether or not it is truthful and accurate. Furthermore, to make them learn how to work in a team. This means to teach them how to express their ideas and disagree with someone respectfully, how to deal with their emotions, how to listen and how to accept when they are wrong.
To sum up, I believe we need to help students become critical thinkers, team workers, self-autonomous learners and emotionally grown up members of society. We need to make students an active part of the learning process, and not a passive one.
Learning by doing challenging projects in teams covers several of the aforementioned aspects. However, this scope goes a bit beyond – it triggers the natural curiosity of the students. The student must be at the core of all educational and the teaching processes, and the worst thing we teachers can do is to destroy the natural curiosity of our students. Students must play the main role in their learning, and we teachers must hold a secondary one – we must complement their learning with our knowledge and expertise. We must suggest what they can do next, what tools they need and where they can find them, and let them do the rest.
The first goal of ISEC is to lead these kinds of projects in an international, interdisciplinary, open-minded environment, with straightforward benefits to the participants involved.
The long term goal is to create a scientific community with similar teaching ideas and goals, involved and willing to make the world a better place. This community can easily grow and expand to other fields, such as Arts, Social Sciences, Humanities, etc.
In the meantime, we will archive every project our participants do during the camp in an open database, ordered by year, topic and skills and knowledge involved. This database of projects is meant to be a valuable teaching resource where teachers from all over the world can find ideas to carry out projects with their students. At the end, we will have enough ideas to teach at least an entire International Baccalaureate syllabus (11th and 12th grades), and we hope this help both teachers and student worldwide.
Carlos Morales Lobez, President of ISA (Inspiring Science Association).