A few days (a week?) ago I started writing about what education would be like if we focused on Personal Learning Networks. It all came out of thoughts from the Tech Forum Southwest, ideas of Sheryl Nussbalm-Beach and a discussion with "the professor" over coffee. In my last post I had begun with talking about Online Education, but was just about to move to our current education system when time ran out.
Two things are central to this new vision (both coming from Sheryl): networking and a passion for learning. In my talk with "the professor" I was wondering what school would be like if instead of teaching facts we taught kids how to network and have a passion for learning. Would they? Would they learn the "right" things, whatever they are? I have to admit that what I know about Biology and Chemistry is only because I HAD to take those courses. I wouldn't have chosen to take them. That is probably true of government and many other things. But...would I have learned more about them if I had CHOSEN to take them and they were part of my passion for learning?
"The professor" is skeptical about students choosing to learn the right things. There ARE things that you just have to learn and what if kids don't choose to learn them when growing up? For the first time I think I had a vision of what school COULD be like, but I am not sure it would work. There would still be teachers, and schools. Kids would still come every day to a place to learn. At first there would be a lot of scaffolding-everyone needs support at the beginning. Kids NEED to learn to read and write. 5 year olds need structure in their day. As kids get older though what if the curriculum became more and more about networking and passion? What if they were required to do X number of large projects and could work in groups or alone?
What if teachers were facilitators of those projects and helped kids and stretched their ideas? What if teachers saw themselves as "Master Learners" (David Warlick's term) and they really had the passion for learning and how to find the right information? What if they could help students learn how to search, how to find experts, how to evaluate information? What if students could use online resources and connections to experts as well as text books? Would students find their passion? Would they learn Biology in a deeper and more meaningful way because it connected to something they cared about and they needed to learn it in order to do something or to communicate intellegently or would there be big holes in their learning because they focused on a passion and didn't "cover" everything?
The professor is doubtful. He works every day with many college students who are not curious or interested and squeak by in class. (You need to know that he also works with some brilliant and interesting students). He is doubtful that they would CHOOSE to learn the right things. I am not sure. What do you think?