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Good morning. For the past four years, I've had the pleasure of working in Xavier's International
Programs Office where we've been focusing on a program that we called the Xavier China
Experience or the XCE.
This is a study abroad program in china that is now a mandatory requirement for all of
our students to participate in before they graduate.
And I'd like to share this morning some of the lessons and insights that we've gained
from implementing the Xavier China Experience because I think that those insights and those
lessons can be relevant not just for those who might want to study abroad but for educators
everywhere.
So I'd like to go back to our theme this morning about innovation based on tradition. And I'd
like for us to think about what it means to have innovation and tradition in the educational
context.
So let's think of traditional education. For me, I think of traditional structure of having
subjects that are separate, the Chemistry and Physics and Math and English that are
entirely separate from each other.
I think of a structure in an organization where we have several periods in a day that
are usually the same amount of times. For the first 45 minutes, you're in one class.
The next 45 minutes, you're in another class, then 45 minutes after that and so on and so
forth. And everything is sort of predictable and expectations are clear.
Now, this doesn't work for everyone. We've heard speakers this morning who aren't always
so thrilled with that educational setup. But at the same time, there are some really valuable
things I think about the traditional education that are worth preserving.
One thing about an educational system that's very traditional is that it's structured and
it's clear. A student always has very clear expectations of what's expected of him or
her in the classroom, from the time that you stepped into school to the time that you leave.
You know where you're supposed to be, you know where you're supposed to sit, you know
what notes you're supposed to take, what pages you're supposed to read, what essay you're
supposed to write, what multiple-choice questions you're supposed to answer.
And while this can be at times frustrating, on the other hand, it provides very clear
structure for us to learn and acquire very difficult things.
I can't imagine studying Trigonometry or Calculus or Physics in an environment that's chaotic.
The structure and the clarity definitely helps.
In addition to this, many of the things that we learned from a traditional educational
setup are quite intellectually rigorous. It's not easy to learn to solve some of those Physics
problems, it's not easy to do a well-designed scientific experiment; it's not easy to write
a well-composed essay.
And so, to have the structure and clarity and guidance and supervision of good teachers
in a traditional classroom setup are definitely things that are worth having.
But as we've heard this morning and as we know from our own experience, that when we
think about the hours that we've spent in class, when we think about those subjects
that we maybe, we weren't so interested in, there are large portions of our own educational
system that to us can seem irrelevant and boring.
And so what we want to do is to try to think of ways that we can innovate, think of ways
to be more creative, think of ways to energize our educational system so that it can be more
engaging to us.
And so, there have been a lot of movements and a lot of efforts in the past few years
to try to do this. And one of these efforts is something that we call student-centered
learning where you give students the initiative and the choice to figure out what they want
to study and figure out how to study it.
And certainly doing this provides a kind of relevance and engagement to the students that
they wouldn't otherwise have. It allows students to choose topics of their own choice and so
they're motivated. And we all know that when you're motivated, when you have that energy
to do something out of natural curiosity, you'll accomplish much more. Not because of
a grade, not because you're going to fail but simply because you want to. So that's
a real value.
At the same time, I think this kind of student-centered learning is also quite empowering. What we're
telling the students in this setup is that you are in-charge of your education, that
learning is a life-long process and that you need to be active in it.
And what a valuable lesson rather than saying that education is about sitting in a classroom
and being passive and trying to take everything that a teacher is telling you. Now, we're
saying you are - you have the responsibility, you have the freedom, you have the privilege
to learn on your own.
But just as traditional education has its own setbacks, so too does innovation and progressive
education. If we sit in a classroom and we say, "Okay, everyone, what do you want to
study and how is it that you want to study it?" there's a real danger of the education
system becoming a bit aimless.
And let's face it. There are certain standards that we want our students to live up to. There
are certain standards of writing that we want them to be able to achieve. There are certain
standards in Mathematics and Science that they should be able to have before they graduate
and go on to college and go on to the real world.
So we don't want to be aimless in our student-centered approach. We don't want to be aimless when
we try to just come up with all of these innovations.
So what do we want? What would be ideal? I think would be really perfect for all of us
is if we could take the best of traditional education and take the best of our innovations,
if we could have a system that had the same kind of rigor and structure and clarity that
a traditional education provides but is also relevant, meaningful and empowering. But what
would that look like?
For Xavier School, one of the ways that we've tried to do this is through the Xavier China
Experience or the XCE. This happens during the third quarter. So it happens during an
academic time.
And so, in addition to having our students study Chinese language and Chinese culture,
they also have to study Physics and Math and Biology while they're there.
So it's a real challenge. We're trying to again, take the traditional subject areas
and make sure our students keep up with those subjects and at the same time innovate and
say that you can learn while being abroad, you can learn while being in a foreign environment,
you can learn outside of the classroom.
And we have three programs that we offer students. And they can choose one before they graduate.
So 7th grade students who are 13 to 14 year olds here, they have a chance to go to Southern
China and spend six weeks in Guangzhou or high school sophomores have the option to
go to South West China and study the diversity of Yunnan province.
And our seniors have the chance to go to the capital of China in Beijing where there's
a rich sense of history and a rich sense also of development.
And what we want to do is make sure that this is relevant and engaging and at the same time
rigorous and difficult, challenging. And one of the ways that we do this is providing certain
themes to our educational process rather than subject areas.
So what do I mean? What I mean is that when our students go to Beijing as a good example,
they aren't taking courses in English or Social Science or Filipino. They're taking classes
in a theme.
One theme that we see in China is all of the societal and cultural change. So we have a
course entitled Societal and Cultural Change. Because if you go to Beijing, you might go
see a place like the Great Wall of China, 500 years old or 600 years old. You'll be
able to appreciate the richness of China's history and China's past.
But at the same time, maybe the same day, you can go see the Olympic venues and see
how China is modernizing and developing at a very rapid pace.
And so, there are a lot of discussions to be had about how does China deal with all
of that societal change and how should we as Filipinos or anywhere in the world deal
with rapid cultural and societal change. So we feel that's quite relevant and quite engaging.
Something similar occurs in our Yunnan program for High 2 Students. They go to South West
China. I mentioned, it's an ecology rich and diverse environment. They're taking Biology
in their sophomore year. And during the third quarter, they focus specifically on ecology.
So what better place to study ecological diversity than Yunnan province? Early in the trip, they
get to go up North to a town called Lijiang and they get to see and experience the wetlands
just by Lasher Lake. But a few weeks later, they go down to Southern Yunnan province where
it's quite tropical and they can walk around the tropical rain forest park and see the
biodiversity there.
So now, we've moved beyond just real life themes, but we've also have a real life setting,
we have real life activities, we have real life instruction. And these courses end up
being some of the most highly rated programs that we have based on our post-program evaluations.
But it's not just fun and engaging. Our students on those same evaluations also say that these
programs are some of the more difficult programs that they've had, that they do more work in
the XCE than they would do in a typical third quarter at Xavier.
And the reason is that the assignments that we give and the projects that we give cannot
be solved simply by reading a book and they cannot be solved simply by listening to a
lecture.
In the Beijing program, we have a course called Local and Global Citizenship. And our students
are tasked to go out into Chinese universities and interview university students about their
opinions on Chinese citizenship. They then come back to the classroom and have a dialogue
about what it means to be a Filipino citizen and what it means to be a global citizen.
And they collate all of their ideas and then we go to the Philippine Embassy in Beijing
and present our ideas to the Ambassador and to the Consuls there.
And it's a wonderful dialogue because we also get to hear the perspectives of professionals,
of public servants who are also talking about their experiences with citizenship on a national
level and on a global level.
So now we have real life themes, real life instruction and now real life assessments
and real life projects. These things are not easy, they're difficult. But probably the
most difficult thing of living in China, whether it's in Beijing or in Yunnan or Guangzhou,
is just being away from home and being in a foreign environment.
This is especially true for our Grade 7 students, again, only 13 or 14 years old. For many of
them, they're away from home for the first time in their lives, away from their family,
away from their friends, away from their support system.
And this comes out, the anxiety and disorientation, that that causes comes out in different ways
when they're there.
This is a picture of some students that I was with. And we took them to local restaurants.
So we went out of the dorm, away from the canteen. And we went to the restaurant and
I gave the guys the menu and I said, "Order away." And the problem is they don't read
Chinese characters very well.
So they sort of opened the menu and randomly selected dishes, some based off pictures,
some just sort of random. And so, you have a boy there on the left who's looking very
curiously at what he originally thought was a plate full of fried potatoes but in fact
is a plateful of cold tofu. And so, he's trying to decide whether or not he really wants to
eat it.
So this kind of disorientation happens all the time. It happens when they're doing laundry
and they pull out pink underwear because they threw in a red t-shirt along with the mix.
And so, they're trying to figure these things out for themselves and there is anxiety, there
is fear, there is frustration. But by the end of the program, there's also a sense of
responsibility, of accountability, of real achievement.
And many of our students much later into high school and even after high school point back
to the Grade 7 experience as one of the most transformative and meaningful programs that
they had in their Xavier education.
And I think it was this experience of being lost, of being out of your element, of being
confused that was so educational. And this is what we try to do even for our older students.
For example, those in Beijing. For someone who studied abroad in Beijing, I know what
it's like to have to go on a lot of tours, to get on a tour bus, to get off the tour
bus and follow a tour guide who tells you where to go, what to see and what's worth
knowing.
And I have to say that this, just like some of the lectures and textbooks that I read
in a traditional classroom setup, this is a traditional tour setup. And it can also
seem boring.
And so, we wanted to provide some of that empowerment to the students. And so, what
we say is that once a week or twice a week, the students get to design their own itinerary.
They break into small groups of 11 or 12 accompanied by a faculty mentor and we tell them that
you can go anywhere in the city that you wish. You can do whatever you want.
We just have a few conditions. One, you stay with your group. Number two, you make an effort
to accomplish those academic projects that you have assigned to you. And number three,
that you only take public transportation. So you can't cheat and take a taxi and show
them where you want to go and get there. You have to ride the buses. You have to ride the
subways. You have to figure it out for yourself.
And inevitably, the groups get lost. My first group in Beijing in 2008 decided they wanted
to go to the old Beijing Science and Technology Museum. And this was no easy task. It's not
a popular tourist destination. There were no books or tourist books that they could
refer to to tell how they could get there.
And so, they had to navigate Chinese websites to figure out the buses and subways. That
involved one bus ride, a transfer to the subway, a transfer to another subway line, a transfer
to another bus and then a 10-minute walk.
And so, I was impressed when they got to that last bus ride and I could see the Science
and Technology Museum coming up. I knew where it was. I wasn't going to tell the students.
But I knew where it was. And so, it's in front of me. And a few seconds later, it's in front
of us. And a few seconds later after that, it's behind us.
And so, I turned to the students and I say, "Guys, when do we get off the bus." And it
hadn't occurred to them that they'd have to get off the bus. They hadn't thought of what
station they need to choose or which station they need to - that they need to identify
in order to get to the museum.
So they got off the next stop and they began arguing immediately which direction to go
in. And they eventually ended up going in a direction away from the museum until one
of them asked a local newspaper vendor which way to go which I thought was a very proactive
move. Unfortunately for them, the newspaper vendor pointed them in the wrong direction.
And so, we continued walking in the wrong direction for another ten minutes until the
frustration begins to boil and the students begin asking lots of people. And finally,
lots of people direct us back in the right direction. And 20 minutes later, we're at
the museum.
The boys gleefully go up to the ticket counter and say, "Okay, we're here. Let's go see what
this Science museum has to offer" only to find out the museum had closed five minutes
earlier.
And so, they felt, "Okay, we failed at our task." And we began to process this. And I
said, "Well, what was your task for the day?" And they said, "Well, we wanted to get to
the museum."
And I said, "Well, you got to the museum." And they began to think about, they began
to think about the lessons they learned. They learned something about situational awareness,
being aware of your surroundings and knowing when to get off the bus.
They learned about planning, they learned about teamwork and communication. They practiced
their Chinese, being able to talk to local residents. They learned that you have to find
multiple sources of information in order to find the right way and the right path.
Now, those kinds of lessons, in my opinion, are far more crucial and far more important
than anything that they could have learned in the museum itself.
So our insights here for XCE is that there are couple of ways to blend innovation and
tradition. I think for teachers and educators out there, you don't need to have an XCE.
If you want to make your classes more engaging and more relevant, you only need to do one
thing. Focus on real world issues, have real life themes, have real life settings.
Again, a real life setting doesn't have to be as far away as Yunnan province. They can
be as close by as your local community, your own city. You only need to step out of the
classroom walls every once in a while.
Also, you can have real life assessments and projects so the kinds of things that students
are working on don't seem like just a series of hoops that they have to jump through.
And finally, the next message that we've learned from the XCE, and this is to all students
out there and really to all of us, is to allow yourself to get lost. Allow yourself to get
confused. Allow yourself to put - to be in situations where you don't know the answer,
where there is no step by step guide. It's that experience of being lost, of being confused
and finding your way out of that that ends up teaching you the lessons that you'll never
forget.
And so, today, my message to all of you, to educators, to students, to learners of all
stripes is I invite you to help us upgrade the way that we learned. And the way we do
this is quite simple. It just means that we have to get real and get lost. Thank you very
much.
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【TEDx】TEDxXavierSchool - Brian Maraña - Learning through Getting Lost

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Hhart Budha 2014 年 6 月 15 日 に公開
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