Friday 27 May 2011

Learn. Unlearn. Relearn.

You don’t have to come,’ said Adrian.
‘What? Miss parents’ evening?’ Frowning. How can you have a parents’ “evening” at 3pm?
‘Well, you’re cold and you’re not well.  You don’t have to come. James won’t mind.’
‘I’d mind,’ I replied.  ‘Anyhow, I’ll be warmer in the car than here and, besides, I’m getting better.’

And I was. Mind over matter and a gut-load of weirdness was sorting me out. Sort of.
So he dropped me at the health store so I could stock up on more potions and then we trip-trapped into school, into the auditorium. Now, put me in a theatre seat and I have a nigh-on instant Pavlovian response: my eyelids droop, my head nods (legacy of my theatre reviewing days I suspect).
But then a few words and phrases broke through my dozy reverie and I started paying attention.
‘Everything’s changing,’ said the Director of Studies. ‘And so education has to change too.’ I’m paraphrasing wildly here: she was far more eloquent. But the gist was that it’s no longer enough to learn ‘facts’, to get a firm ‘grip’ on a subject alone.  It’s not about being an encyclopaedia because that is, frankly, impossible as well as useless.  There is simply too much information out there and it’s growing exponentially. Children will need to become navigators, weaving their way. They will need to learn skills of elasticity, of discrimination; they will need to sift, to select, to choose wisely, to figure out what is truth and what is misinformation.  Hmm.
‘Learn. Unlearn. Relearn,’ she said, paraphrasing Alvin Toffler.

Then she said that, at this point in their lives (we’re talking age 12-13) they were, in effect, learning how to learn and learning how to approach life. The major skills the school hoped to impart were those of confidence, independent, discrimination and enquiry.  ‘We want them to become self-reflective,’ she said. ‘Self-critical, to dialogue without judgment.’ She really did say that, I scribbled it down.
Did that mean that a lot of the actual ‘meat’ of their current studies was, frankly, irrelevant?  She shrugged, eloquently. ‘Yes.’  Paused.  ‘But don’t tell them that.’

Interesting.  Learn. Unlearn. Relearn. 
Maybe we all need to be navigators, setting aside dull certainties (which don’t exist) and head into uncharted waters.

Dump ille, illa, illud.  Embrace qui quae quod?  And quomodo?
Be Wise, not Wo(o)den.

But really. What do you think? Does education need to shift? Do we just give children a foundation, a few building blocks? A compass (moral, philosophical?) and then gently push them out to sea, to see? 


Sage said...

As a trainee teacher, for adult education, I tend to agree that we are not preparing today's youth for tomorrow's world and that having a sackful of facts but no idea of how to use it does not prepare them for anything useful. Far better to learn how to apply such knowledge earlier, to question how it is used, why it is used will lead to more positive teaching and taught students xx

Alison Cross said...

The Curriculum for Education is alive and well and being implemented in Scotland.

My son is, apparently, learning how to learn.

Which, these days, means switching on the computer and going surfing for information to copy out and submit for your weekly home work assessment.

I have told his teacher that setting him a week long project is no use. He's 10. He's not got the ability to break it down into sections and do a bit every day. Even though that's what I suggest and offer to help him with.

As a result, he is tip-tapping like crazy on a Thursday night to have something to hand in on the Friday.

All he's learning at the moment is that his mother is not prepared to sit down and do his homework for him.

What he's NOT doing is spelling homework or maths homework - as a result, I have not a clue what he's doing at school until there is a Parents' Night.

I do feel that my son is being experimented on educationally and it's a bit unnerving.

Ali x

Alison Cross said...

Damn - that should have been Curriculum for Excellence, not Education....sooooorreeee :-)


Ladybird World Mother said...

So interesting, all this kind of thing.... we have the same at Middle Son's school, and do you know, I kind of know what they are talking about...
Problem is that there is too much information around that is impossible to learn, all of it. And so our kids, with all this info at their fingertips must learn to use it, not necessarily to learn it. Very very different. Doesnt mean that they never learn ANYTHING. They still need to learn times tables, and spelling and who Henry V111th was, etc. BUT not to use information as the the 'be all and end all', but the means to and end. You should hear Middle Son's headmaster on this... he has the most amazing philosophy re education and I LOVE it. If I can find his link on informaion and how it has changed and WILL change over the next 50 years or so, I will send it to you. It will wow you too.
hugs and all. HOpe you are feeling better. xxx (apologies if this is rushed but off now for the weekend, but so wanted to say something...)

Lynn said...

I think the way to learn how to learn is to actually learn a few things very well. That gives you a knowledge base, developing skills, practice in learning (practice, trial and error, research, listening to others, summing up, relating your specific subject to other subjects). Specific examples: learning an instrument, math including arithmetic skills, history, foreign language, drawing, taking mechanical things apart and putting them back together.

Far from being just a collection of facts, these activities engage all facets of the brain and senses.

AFTER you've spent a lot of time with these kinds of activities, you have a basis to learn, unlearn, relearn computer/internet based knowledge.

I guess I'm saying with young minds, invest the time into acquiring the knowledge and skills that don't change before you focus on technological minutia that change like the weather.

Cameron Chapman said...

It's much more important for children to learn how to learn, and how to find and analyze the information they need, than to learn facts. Factual knowledge is useless. We can access Google in a second from virtually anywhere and get any information we need. But knowing how to find the good information, and how to analyze and draw conclusions from what you find is invaluable.

Anonymous said...

One of the driving forces behind our home educating our only child was severe disatisfaction with the education system (the other was bullying).
I know of few young people these days who have learned what I would consider critical thinking, a vital component for getting through the world and life.
I sometimes wish we'd either had more kids or done the home ed bit sooner. Free range education was possibly the best experience of true family unity we've had, and the testimony is that she says now, if/when she has kids, that's what she wants to do.

Anonymous said...

Right. But what does Quasimodo have to do with again?

Anonymous said...

This is very interesting and I do agree with the idea of preparing children for the big wide world out there. That was lacking in my day when I went to university full of facts yet unable to write a cheque or apply my methods of learning to the wider world.

My daughter is only 7 but I can see a difference in the way she is taught. At the moment she is role-playing Egyptian life at school, which is all very nice but she isn't bringing home any spelling or basic maths homework and she is, without doubt, falling behind. If you find the solution, let me know!

Tattieweasle said...

It makes me uncomfortable that children don't learn things as such but can look them up without actually reading and understanding the information. It is part of our cultural heritage to actually have useless pieces of information at our fingertips or else how would we be able to play trivial pursuit!

speccy said...

Interesting- ours are still bringing spellings, comprehensions and maths for homework most days. However 8yo is on 2 school committees and 10yo has spent most of the last 2 months rehearsing for the school play. An odd mix of 'the basics' and 'wider' learning.

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

Scarey ! What happens if/when Google disappears ?
When the computer systems fail and there's no Fat Controller anymore to sort the trains out ? ...... Oh , that already happens , a LOT .
When the doctor's assistant assumes you'll self-diagnose so that you won't fill up the waiting room uneccesarily .....
Oh that does too .
It might be a good idea to continue to teach basic skills until children are 15 or so . Literacy , numeracy , a foreign language plus at least one "dead" one , music , drawing , map reading and cooking . Then they'll be able to apply and adapt computer wizardry with sense and panache and skill where appropriate .
A Luddite !