Via The Globe and Mail, a very interesting article: Physicist's crowd-sourcing philosophy gains traction in the classroom. Excerpt:
Nobel laureate Carl Wieman was already toying with ways to fix university-level science teaching in 2007 when the University of British Columbia came calling with an offer he couldn’t refuse: a chance to test his theories on a grander scale.
The world-famous American physicist packed up and left the University of Colorado, arriving in Vancouver with fellow physicist (and his wife), Sarah Gilbert. About $10-million in donated funds awaited to launch the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative.
Dr. Wieman’s central tenet is that “it’s what’s going on in the students’ brains that matters,” and that 20 years of cognitive science say those brains go farther in classes where students tackle tasks and problems together. It’s the educational equivalent of crowd-sourcing and a philosophy gaining currency at all levels of education.
These ideas are not entirely alien to other universities across Canada, but the UBC initiative is the country’s most co-ordinated and generously bankrolled effort. It is aimed at cracking a common conundrum, namely the creeping suspicion that the entrenched stand-and-deliver style of so many lectures is not grooming the kinds of collaborative, entrepreneurial, critical and adaptable students the world needs.
“The fundamental paradigm [has long been] it’s what the person up in the front of the class is doing,” Dr. Wieman said. “That’s not what determines learning.” The key is less what students learn than how they learn it: The Googles of the world have decentralized knowledge, meaning the teacher’s role is now much more about helping students assess information and apply it.
The article goes on to describe an approach I called "swarm learning" in a Tyee article back in 2008: a group self-teaching method using computers. It turned out to be surprisingly effective.