I have a feeling that the stage is being set up for a grassroots revolution in the field of education. Bill Gates is backing Khan Academy to develop internet based course content that is relatively easy to grasp. Ivy League institutions like Harvard, M.I.T., Yale and Stanford are making their course materials available online.
However, a lot more needs to be done beyond just providing the course content to get a revolution going in education. There are already reports like The Online Education Revolution Drifts Off Course. We need more than just an education revolution. We need a learning revolution at the grass roots level.
The following factors are required for the success of such a revolution.

Generating a passion for learning in the young and old alike.

Rapidly addressing past failures in one’s education.

Providing a practical course in learning how to learn.

Making course content available that is easy to assimilate.

Setting up the student to start learning on his or her own.
It is the product in (5) that will ignite the learning revolution. By filling up the blanks in understanding we may very well handle the past failures in education and restore the passion for learning. Courses on learning how to learn may very simply be organized along the lines of Subject Clearing. Easily graspable course content is already being made available on Internet.
I envision setting up a Tutoring and Coaching Center where service is available to carry out the above functions. A person will be assisted on a oneonone basis to clear up the obstacles encountered in learning. The person shall then be coached in the best practices of learning until he starts to learn on his own. After that he shall learn under supervision on a personal program that is customized for him.
I am close to retirement. I have enough experience from running a Math Club, and otherwise, to set up such a center and run it full time. I shall be happy to provide such services free. I shall also be willing to train other volunteers on providing these services. I believe that such services should be provided free on a broad basis; only then we may be able to spark a learning revolution.
I would like to see this center having a place of its own where computers, or docking stations for computers, are provided. The expenses shall be minimal and it would be possible to run the center with community support. Once a passion for learning takes hold the progress will accelerate. Then only the sky will be the limit.
I welcome suggestions on this thread to make this project become a reality. I shall keep you informed of the progress.
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Comments
“……addressing past failures in one’s education.” will produce a passion for learning. This passion is pre existing and needs only to be uncovered.
Addressing past failures, like you said, is the primary key among the vast number of kids, people currently. It also requires the most talent to achieve on others.
Currently, I seem to have an opportunity to implement the above vision through the Metropolitan Ministries of Tampa.
Here is what I have so far encountered at my current project working with homeless and near homeless people in need of assistance.
Student 1 – Young man… he is proud to have taught himself basic arithmetic… wants to learn about measurement… did very poorly on assessment for GED requirements… was very upset at the results of assessment and somewhat lost his motivation… very impulsive in answering questions… mostly guesswork… computation skill needs to be built up… tried to explain the problems he got wrong… he pretty much closed up… need to find the right approach.
Student 2 – Young girl… she comes regularly and wants desperately to learn… she is practically illiterate in both English and Math… Found her to be struggling on fractions… Work with her on the numbering system using abacus… got her interest but it was a big struggle for her… She is motivated because she wants to pass GED… She was back on fractions the next day… wanted to know how to round up fractions… tried to explain but she got overwhelmed… checked what was before fraction… she was interested in learning division… made some progress with her on doing division by setting it up as a fraction and simplifying it… she now understands exact and inexact division… she understands how exact division leads to factors… she is having a rough time understanding how inexact division leads to mixed numbers… basically, she is having a hard time grasping the concept of fraction even when pizza examples are used… but she is not giving up… I admire her for that. The right approach here is to continue working with her on fractions until she gets it. She looks happier.
Student 3 – Young women and mother… she is very much into fitness… she wants to pass her GED to get a job or start a business in Fitness… she is practically illiterate in math… could not determine where her trouble was with math… Work with her on the numbering system using abacus… she responded to abacus but it was hard to say if she was interested and getting it… went over 2 hours with her… she appeared overwhelmed… she comes infrequently… she hasn’t returned since last session… after this experience, I decided to limit session with a person to maximum one hour… the approach may be to give her an assessment test and then take it from there.
Student 4 – Older Spanish lady… she is illiterate in English and Math but very motivated to learn… she comes regularly to the center… worked with her on the numbering system and then on writing checks… she was very happy and excited… next time she wanted help with writing English words with correct spelling… she can read English but writes hesitatingly with upper and lower case letters mixed and incorrect spellings… Show her how she can use dictionary on Internet to find correct words and spelling… Show here the upper and lower case of English alphabets… Explain to her when Upper case is used… Have her read a paragraph from a children’s book and explain the meaning of words she did not understand… then dictated that paragraph to her so that she could write by listening… Explain to her what a sentence is… After dictating each sentence have her check what she wrote against the sentence in the book… get her to spot the errors in her writing and to correct them… she was very happy. It is easy to work with this student because she tells you exactly what she wants to learn, and then she is very interested.
Student 5 – Polite young girl struggling with learning but upbeat and interested… she is practically illiterate in math… Used abacus to clarify the numbering system… Showed her how multiplication is repeated addition… Showed her how abacus could be used for repeated addition… Help her generate a multiplication table for numbers up to 13… She wanted to know how to write a check… Showed her what a signature is… Help her create her signature… Showed her how to write a check… She was happy.
Student 6 – Young man… quite alert but frustrated about the test he was taking… have him stop the test to discuss the questions he got wrong so far… he listened to the logic given for correct answers quite attentively… he wanted to know about areas and volumes… explain to him what a unit is… he understood and liked the explanation… showed him how the unit for area must be a like a square tile, and the unit for volume must be a cubic block… explained to him the logic underlying the formulas for area and perimeter of a rectangle… he was excited about this new understanding and very pleased.
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In summary, my success in working with the people who come to the MM has been mixed. So far, this research has taught me the following:
(1) Keep the session very simple and do not go beyond an hour with a person.
(2) Every person is different, and the approach toward a person must be customized.
(3) The area of difficulty must not be assumed. Of course, their basics are missing, but the right entrance point needs to be determined, which would elicit their interest and cooperation.
(4) It may take time with some people to determine their entrance point. In difficult cases, the assessment test might help.
(5) GED assessment test may be too difficult and demotivating for some. A battery of assessment tests from simple to difficult is needed.
(6) All successful approaches to determine entrance point of a person needs to be documented.
(7) The immediate goal should be to get the person more interested in learning. If that is not happening then special attention should be given to the situation.
I shall continue to expand upon these notes.
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Notes 2/26/2015:
Student 6 – He wasn’t planning to come today, but he turned up. Start him on Short Form Division… practice some short form division… you can divide only as fast as you can multiply… multiplication is repeated addition… show him abacus and demonstrate place values on it… show that the numbers are written the same way as they appear on abacus… show the structure of large numbers… have him write the multiplication table from 1 to 20… Use repeated addition on abacus… He did very well. He was very happy.
Student 7 – Young women… she will be joining the course to learn to be a chef… She is quite motivated… Problem with multiplication, division, fractions, percents, and Algebra… Start with multiplication… show multiplication as repeated addition… have her start writing multiplication table… explain ones and tens on abacus, and show her how to add on abacus… finish table up to 13… explain all the place values on abacus… practice reading and writing large numbers… She was quite happy.
Student 8 – He was one of the students I met on the first day, but I didn’t get the opportunity to work with him until now… He has some welding experience… He wants to pass GED… Wants to learn geometric formulas for areas and volumes… Go over the basic concepts of Plane Geometry, Solid Geometry, point, line, surface, area, block, volume… He wanted to know the area of octagon… to teach this, first teach him the Pythagorean Theorem… practice the use of this theorem… He had great fun with it… he was quite happy.
Notes 3/3/2015:
So far I have put two students through the first selflearning document MILESTONE A1. Feedback from the first run was incorporated in the pilot document. Here is the testimonial volunteered by the second student:
“This had open my mind into how easy it is to learn on my own. This is easy to read and comprehend on what I’m learning. Math is not hard but when it is made even easier it’s mind blowing. I like this program. #Outstanding.”
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It is so good to see another who is actually DOING something worthwhile, in addition to just thinking and contemplating.
My admiration.
Mark
Notes on Milestone Pilot Thursday 3/5/15
Today we had a student who came to the GED center for the first time. We started her on the selflearning pilot on Milestone A1.
Milestone A1 is written in very simple English. It consists of lots of pictures that explain the concept. So it is very easy to understand.
Milestone A1 deals with Numbering and Place Values. This is the most basic concept in math, so no other knowledge of math is required.Therefore, this pilot provides a measure of the learning capability of the student.
I started this student on the pilot. She seemed quite enthusiastic. She claimed that she had made it to the 12th grade but then failed the FCAT. So, I expected her to zip through Milestone A1.
Milestone A1 consists of 15 lessons. Usually I go over the first two lessons with the student so he gets the idea of how to proceed through rest of the milestone by himself. I did the same with this student, then let her continue by herself, while keeping an eye on her.
She proceeded through the lessons fast. Then I found her stopped on lesson A1.7. She didn’t ask for help. She just sat there. So I went to help her. I checked her knowledge of lesson A1.5, because that is the key lesson on which the understanding of all other lessons depend. It is about regrouping. She said that she understood it. But when i asked her to demonstrate regrouping on abacus, she couldn’t do it.
This is the common problem I am finding with school dropouts. They think that they know a concept but they really don’t. Asking them to demonstrate is a quick way to check their understanding. You cannot see what is going in their mind. But you can definitely see whether they can demonstrate a concept or not.
This student didn’t get the idea of regrouping on abacus despite the fact that the procedure of regrouping was clearly shown with pictures (see Lesson A1.5 in MILESTONE A1: Numbers & Place Values).
It took repeated demonstrations of regrouping on actual abacus for about 30 minutes before this student could get it. This was the first time I came across this difficulty in comprehending the concept of regrouping. But this effort was worth it. After this experience, I worked with the student all the way to the end of Milestone A1.
Finally, she was able to read and write numbers in millions and billions, and was quite happy about it. She then wrote the following testimonial.
“I (name) enjoyed learning abacus and writing numbers in Billions & Trillions with Mr. Vinay. It was a positive experience and I look forward to learning more. He was very thorough in his teaching. Sincerely (signature).”
This was an interesting experience for me too.
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I worked with this student today and found that she had no clue about negative numbers.
This student could not differentiate between positive numbers, negative numbers and absolute values. Explaining these concepts to her has not been easy. It seems to be forcing her to move out of her automatic responses and to actually participate mentally.
She seems to be having a rough time doing this.
Notes (March 6, 2015)
In Milestone A1, there seem to be a way to quickly assess a person’s capability for abstract thinking right upfront.
Mathematics requires a certain aptitude for the recognition of abstract patterns. One can see 3 cats, 3 dogs, 3 trees and 3 chairs easily. But to observe “3” as an abstract pattern underlying what one sees requires a special aptitude for abstract thinking.
Children are expected to develop that aptitude, but that seems to happen by luck. I am not sure if the normal educational curriculum ever addresses this aptitude. That may be part of special education. So many children are bound to slip through the cracks.
In the current selflearning project, where we are dealing with school dropouts, we need to assess and handle the lack of this aptitude before the person once again feels frustrated with math.
I think we are being quite bold in attempting to pick up the pieces of a failed education system.
Notes (March 11)
It seems that the aptitude for abstract thinking is suppressed when a person gets overwhelmed with situations in life. He starts to respond to life in an automatic fashion without much thought. This may be called GLIBNESS. It shows that the person is not really engaged mentally.
glib (adjective): readily fluent, often thoughtlessly, superficially, or insincerely so: “a glib talker”; “glib answers.”
Remedy to this situation is suggested as follows:
(1) We make our own inhouse diagnostic tests for the most basic concepts in a subject, whether it is language arts or mathematics.
(2) Generally the basic concepts have a sequence. Simpler concepts come earlier, and the later concepts are built upon them.
(3) Shorts Diagnostic tests may be prepared in the same sequence as these concepts occur.
(4) By using these diagnostic tests we can discover holes in the understanding of the student.
(5) Best results are achieved when earlier holes in understanding are filled first, because the later holes depend on earlier holes.
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