“Free education will arise, not from socialist ideas and the expropriation of property, but from market forces”
11 ნოემბერი, 2015
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             AuditoriumF (Auditorium Facebook) - new global project from Prof. Gigi Tevzadze

A Professor and education reformer from Tbilisi, Georgia, introduces the “AuditoriumFacebook” (‘AF’) which, he claims, can change the higher educationsystem forever.

Prof. Gigi Tevzadze (b. 1967), who is a former director of Georgia’s Education Reform Project (2003-6), a founder and former rector(2006-13) of Ilia State University in Tbilisi, Georgia, and who is now a lecturer, researcher and author, here shares his experiences of using the new media in education.

- Could you please tell us about your experience?

- I’m convinced that, when introducing new technologies into a modern education system, the important thing is that they are leading edge. Despite the fact that, in any particular country, education is a very conservative area, on a global level educational and research systems change very rapidly indeed. Social media and electronic resources open up great possibilities. Electronic resources are replacing traditional educational ones. For instance, the large universities upload recordings of their lectures, while at the same time devising new electronic spaces for academic communications. Such attempts have also been made in Georgia. The main thing is that, as a rule, electronic technologies should make the processes of work and study easier and cheaper. As far as this is concerned, however, everywhere we look, we see, nothing but price hikes and complexity increases.

For around seven years now I have been undertaking experiments on the application of electronic technology to the teaching process. I have tried everything: on-line lectures that fell flat: Speaking at length only to realize that half the audience had switched off and finding out that Internet connections cannot (as yet) be synchronized to the required level. Then I attempted to make video recordings of lectures, but had limited success. I had links with colleagues in San Diego, California and with other US and European universities. They all have the same problem: A student/member of the audience says that a recorded lecture is still not a lecture. They say they don’t like it. Despite the fact that administrative and academic and staff spend a lot of time recording lectures, the recording does not replace the lecture itself, and so academic staff has to visit the lecture theatre again, as have administration to arrange the time and space for lecturing. In actual fact, one could say that their workload has doubled.

I thought about it, and eventually managed to find a place where it is possible for lectures to be held - not in an auditorium - but using Facebook itself. I recorded my lectures using specialized but straightforward technical equipment, uploaded them into YouTube, create Secret Group on Facebook (with the aim to restrict to all except my own students). I make all my students members of this Group. Now they listen to me on Facebook, where they watch me and videos of my presentation material, followed by a question and answer session. I’m at hand to respond. There is live interaction without the pressure of limited time. This is a lecture as held on Facebook. Seminars are also held there, what I called the AuditoriumFacebook(AuditoriumF, or AF). I divide the audience into groups of 10-12 students then enroll them in Facebook’s Secret Seminar Group. I set a group task; they make a presentation right there and thenupload it, while at the same time I am already posing questions. Their engagement in the work process is obvious. Of course, I carry out individual evaluations in the Auditorium. However, if there will emergecorresponding application, this would also be possible in AuditoriumF.

Students like this since instead of getting up at 6.30am and arriving in a sleepless for their lecture, they can now listen to it at home, on the way,while resting, they can wind it back to the beginning, replay it, and ask questions of me and of each other, and so on. This is very convenient. Clearly, these students still attend the University, since the University is not only lectures, but also projects, communication and interaction. Besides, I am in the lecturing hall at fixed times and they can see me face to face about topics arising directly from the lectures, or discus new ideas/projects.

I can say that this is a world first in this area, and you are the first to hear about it (except my studnets, of course). Also, it is good that the AF (AuditoriumFacebook) gives me the means to know how students are working. While preparing a group presentation they are constantly in touch with each other, and it shows.

Theoretically, Mark Zuckerberg could start a Facebook University. Clearly, this would be through the development of special applications. This would noticeably reduce education costs and improve access. In future Facebook Universityyou do not face the dilemma faced by every large university when the administration has to choose between the number of student places and the quality of the lecturers. The greater the number of student places, the lower the quality of the academics teaching them. Simply nowhere are there to be found as many good lecturers as students. AF gives a means for a maximally high level of academics and professionals to teach a maximally high number of students.

I can say here that, if this system was developed, the registration system for the selection of lecture courses would largely be destroyed. Clearly, today, not all studentsare able to attend their desired lectures: their selection is limited in time and space. On the other hand, the stress level will be correspondingly lower, more students will be able to find courses/lecturers they would like, and so on.

The quality of teaching improves with AF as better lecturers teach more students. The opportunity arises for good researchers and high-ranking professionals themselves to teach. Because these are directly involved with their work, they usually have no fixed time for lecturing.

This is also good for universities since it frees up auditoriums and spaces that can be used more productively. In short, this method radically changes the profile of universities for the first time in eight centuries.

What is most important is the path to free higher education. However, this does not mean that the lecturer no longer receives any payment nor that we no longer know where we can get moneyfor research and development from. If this method develops and becomes global in its scope, an advertisement in this space would bring in a largefunds, with the result that the students don’t pay any money for teaching and research. These will financed by the advertiser, who will not pay the students directly, but who will pays for advertising in one of the (if not the most) largest virtual community. These are the possibilities of using Facebook for educational purposes. The world we have got used to will change entirely. Free education of future will arise, not from socialist ideas and the expropriation of property, but from market forces.

- In short, you are invading the space where students spend a lot of their time: on Facebook. How do the students like this?

They like it very much. It is very convenient for them. And anyone wishing to see me or to have a chat can do so in the lecturing hall. Besides, AF increases the quality of learning. My students make more interesting presentations, and individual evaluations have improved 25-30% over last year’s results, as compared with students attending lectures in a ‘normal’ auditorium.

- On what can AF have a negative impact?

- If AF goes global, competition among researchers will increase (which is not a negative with respect to global research and development) and, in the end, economics will benefit. This global perspective can change the whole education system. Despite the fact that nobody has tried this yet (as far as I know), I think that this is the future of education.

AF has one more positive side: it creates opportunities to get a high class education in every country. Every country has high class researchers and professionals, but the correlation between the number of good researchers / professionals and students is negative. AF gives a chance to students to get an education from high quality professionals, instead of those lecturerssome 10 or 20 steps lower down the scale. An AF approach not only makes education cheaper, but at the same time it also increases its quality.

Do you know why nowadays AF is not developed? Modern everyday thought suggests that an ability for social interaction and cognitive ability are different. Contemporary research shows that they are in principlethe same. Every educational theory that emerged in the twentieth century pointed to this conclusion. The AF project is just uniting social interaction space (Facebook) with an educational area.

One more reason why this has not happened yet its is unsuccessful attempt by essence, trying to copy physical reality in the e-world. If a new global technology exists, copying an old reality makes no sense. One must create something new. This is what Zuckerberg did: he created a new dimension of social interaction. AuditoriumF means establishing an additional sub-dimension in it.

 

By Maia Chalaganidze

maia chalaganidze
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