Yesterday, I published a short passage from my second novel. It was fun, but I meant it to be an illustration, an it-could-be-like-that example of how learning and education could be. However, if I brought up such ideas in a group of educational professionals, it would be met with either scoffing or with a barrage of but’s, at best, or butts, at worst.
I’m a romantic in terms of philosophical tenets, which in part means that I don’t give a shit what “authority” has to say. I will always question authority, and I will always think that nature provides ideas, innovations, creations when we need answers. And young people, youths, are the closest we come as human beings to being unaffected by ego and its powerful interpretation of us in reference to society. Add those together to get an idealist who finds a way to make things work.
However, in case you do not teach, the life of a classroom teacher is relatively isolated, professionally speaking. The following framework of learning is what I developed to try and maximize the learning experience of my students.
So, here’s the deal. I define learning as a process of asking questions, making connections, creating communications; a recursive process of curiosity, discovery, and creativity in which learners Collect, Connect, and Create. Learners must develop a curiosity which fuels intrinsic motivation: they have to care about learning for themselves. This comes naturally when their own curiosity has initiated their search.
Short of that, I sought to set up conditions in which students could engage intrinsically; it was always their choice. Then, I could share with them tools and techniques to collect — collect information, because information is needed to construct knowledge. Albert Einstein said, “Information is not knowledge.” Indeed.
I stressed the questioning process: ask questions, answer questions, ask more questions, refine the controlling question. Einstein was big on curiosity, wasn’t he? “Never lose a holy curiosity.” “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” I wanted to eliminate equating information gathering with knowledge, eliminate as much formal education as I could. I did not care if students remembered in what period of literature Shakespeare wrote. If they had a question about it, they would find it. Another quote attributed to Einstein: “Never memorize anything you can look up.”
We covered sources of knowledge, which boils down to research techniques involving recording answers to the questions: note-taking methods, observation of patterns in the information, ways to record it. Then, we look at ways to analyze and discuss. There are tweaks to every content area for these elements, but they work.
Our brains have to do something with all of this flow of new information, so we looked to organize that collection via making connections, which is where knowledge construction begins. We start sorting our new information into the little file folders in our brains. Slipping that new info into existing files helps us to draw conclusions, form opinions, and propose new questions. Ultimately, we synthesize new ideas — knowledge.
Oh, that leads to more action. How will we communicate these new ideas? How will we develop them into useful, meaningful responses and actions. This leads us to create. Who needs our new ideas? What value do they offer? In what format will we offer our new ideas? When we answer these questions and offer the communication, we have created something new, something significant, something unique to us. That’s pretty cool.
This might not mean much to you, but it formed the backbone, the skeletal structure that I used to spiral skills and concepts and engage not only students but also myself. Unbeknownst to most of my students, our class activities, whatever they were or had to be, I structured to engage them in this framework.
How do I know this is more natural and effective? When they had a full voice in curriculum development, they naturally engaged in this process.
I could share my practical framework for learning with students, teachers, or parents in one workshop, the implication being that courses aren’t required to understand or implement it. No systematization with multiple workshops and trained representatives nor volumes of books over the topics. Simple — That’s what I developed and did and what worked for me for a long time and still does as I learn. I wanted to remove as much of education as I could for students and have them learn how to learn (and to love to learn).
“The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” Albert Einstein
(This did not get published on May 11 because of severe storms and power outages!)