Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Learning vs Schooling

This post has been a long time coming, and undoubtedly it will be modified. However after reflecting on- Sugata Mitra's recent TED Talk "Build a School in the Cloud," Chris Lehmann's "Why Education is Broken," a #EDCHATRI chat about Professional Development, Seth Godin's "Stop Stealing Dreams," and The Future of Learning in a Networked Society I'm ready to put pen to paper (or in this case, fingers to keyboard) and put it out to my PLN for feedback.  So here goes...

Why we must change and refocus education to be about Learning (A) over Schooling (B)

  1. Motivation
    • A) Intrinsic (joy of learning) vs. B) Extrinsic (grades)
  2. Subjects
    • A) Interests, curiosities and passions (What is important to me) vs. B) Requirements (Core subjects & required electives)
  3. Immediacy
    • A) Skills, knowledge and products I will use immediately vs. B) Stuff you say I will use some day
  4. Time
    • A) As long as it takes- any time, any duration, any day, any season vs. B) As long as you say it should take- schedules, bells, pacing guides, agrarian calendar
  5. Resources
    • A) What I, my family, my community can create & provide vs. B) What must be or can be  funded
  6. Internet
    • A) What and who I can find, connect with and create with vs. B) What passes the filters (or what the student can get past the filters)
  7. Purpose
    • A) To be, or become, the "ME" I have always expected vs. B) To get to the next "level" expected of me
  8. Professional Development
    • A) Adults modeling life-long learning & living the "A"s above vs. When the "B"s allow or tell it is PD time
  9. Failure
    • A) A necessary part of learning that I grow, learn and become resilient from vs. B) A label given, a thing to be avoided, and why I might think I am unable to learn
To be continued...  (Feedback appreciated...change required)


  1. This post really sums up well all the disparate articles and discussions that have occurred over the past months, and it is spot-on. It all really centers on Motivation.

    It is perhaps the most ephemeral of traits, because you can't really directly teach it. You can model and encourage and hope that curiosity "sticks," but I have seen in so many different settings just how rare the truly "curious" are. It isn't especially lucrative, because curiosity does not necessarily equal productivity. We adore actors, not philosophers. I think this is a societal issue that far outreaches the scope of public education, who are but a small piece of the puzzle.

    I am intrigued by points 3 and 4. In some ways they are contradictory. Our society is very tuned towards instant gratification and application. On the other hand, careful, deliberate, and in-depth study takes time and scaffolding. We must be careful to teach patience and delayed gratification - that slow and steady contemplation can often lead towards incredibly rich understanding. This, above all else, is perhaps the most overlooked defect in our insta-techno-world. If we are content to let the tech drive our knowledge (and stop with facts), we may lose our ability to practice true wisdom.

  2. Hmmm, yeah, well...

    There are a few kids out there who will folow their passion to spend endless energies investigation the joys of classical philosophy, or fulfill their driving passion to become an actuary.

    The vast majority neither know what's good for them, nor what's needed to get along in life. That's sort of the definition of being 16, and why adults have a role in pointing out that spending endless hours PLAYING video games is not the same thing as actually preparing for their dream career of writing code for video games.

    Witness in the plain old pen and paper world the tragedy of the student who spends four years seeking out gut courses and structures them to get a generic communications degree, only to discover that while they have spent four years at a university with courses on every topic that could possibly interest a kid, and with programs built toward any career a kid could possibly dream of, they have emerged with no real knowledge and no useful skills.

    AS a liberal arts major, with liberal arts graduate degrees who teaches in the liberal arts, nobody believes in "learning for the sake of learning" and "thinking for the sake of thinking" more than I do. MY own high school was full of kids so driven, as was my college. But as one with high school teaching experience, nobody knows more than I do how few students truly have the intrinsic motivation necessary to make the above at all workable, and even in an elite school of special kids, guidance, structure, goals, measurement, demonstration of competency -- in short, an adult-created curriculum with clear purposes and values, with built in hurdles of achievement -- are all still necessary.

    As they used to say, mankind was created in innocence and endowed with perfect intellect and will, but original sin and the concupiscence thereof have left our intellects darkened and will weakened -- not hopelessly but enough to be less than absolutely reliable.

  3. sorry for typos in the above...follow..investigating..

  4. Ben- I think curiosity is certainly lucrative for those brave enough to risk it. Yet, traditional "schooling," as Michael puts it, often kills any desire to take risks. We've taught students to function only with strict structure and guidelines.

    Having said that, how do we balance student-driven learning with the reality that students have limited life experience and cannot possibly know the many changes they will encounter over their lifetimes? They cannot know now what they might want to know later. Is there room here for acknowledging that all individuals in a global society must know the cornerstones of human thought--the philosophies, languages, formulas, theories, histories --that have shaped human social evolution? Is it elitist to assume that people cannot live a full life without having been exposed to some dusty tome they thought they'd hate...but discovered they loved?

    I second Ben's comment- this post was an excellent synthesis of the many competing ideas out there. Thought-provoking and succinct.