Have you had the experience of not being able to remember the title of a song you like, or the musical artist? I have been racking my brain to remember the title and author of an accompanying song to an iTunes advertisement I really liked, and at last I found it this evening. I have performed many Google searches for “iTunes commercial,” “iPod commercials,” and even quizzed several local Apple store employees to no avail. I could hum/sing the melody of the song, and even get others to recognize it from their own past experiences, but no one could name the artist or song title.
The breakthrough came when I remembered Steve Jobs had shown this advertisement as part of his MacWorld 2007 keynote address. Adding the month and year of the keynote to my Google search (so I searched for “january 2007 itunes commercial”) turned up the video as the second Google search result. What relief! I’d been trying to figure this out for several days, not because this was a formal assignment I had to complete for a class or a non-classroom taskmaster, but rather because I just wanted to know the song so I could listen to it again.
When it comes to formal learning in schools, I agree with Seymour Papert who has observed the tendency of Schools to “infantilize” learning and often inhibit the natural desires we all have to inquire, discover, and learn. On pages 24-25 of “The Children’s Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer” Papert wrote:
In stark contrast with the image of Piaget the child constructing Piaget the adult, School has an inherent tendency to infantilize children by placing them in a position of having to do as they are told, to occupy themselves with work dictated by someone else and that, moreover, has no intrinsic value– schoolwork is done only because the designer of a curriculum decided that doing the work would shape the doer into a desirable form. I find this offensive, in part because I remember how much I objected as a child to being placed in that situation, but mainly because I am convinced that the best learning takes place when the learner takes charge, as the young Piaget did. Thus my antennae are always out for initiatives that will allow the purpose of School as a place for learning to coexist with a culture of personal responsibility.
Sometimes when we, as formal educators, have an experience like I had this evening (doing a successful Internet search which initially proved frustrating) our reaction can be “We need a curriculum that will make others learn this skill or concept.” Yet I agree with Papert, that our faith in formal curriculum is often misplaced. In relating the story of how computers in school evolved from their largely exploratory and constructivist / progressive roots in the 1980s, Papert discusses the common error schools have made of making technology/computers into a separate curriculum. Learning tasks, like the one I have just successfully completed relating to a song and commercial advertisement, need to be embedded within meaningful contexts. School 2.0 should mean many things, but primary among them should be the goal of permitting learners to have a greater degree of control over their own learning and the resulting provision of a resulting context within-which to embed new ideas as well as skills.
Do we need a separate curriculum for “effective Internet searching?” There is certainly value in discussing this topic (as I do in periodic workshops) but the skills need to be embedded in real contexts.
I would like to see a wiki created which lists challenging questions to answer via creative Internet searches and utilization of other networking / knowledge creating skills. Gary Stager provided an example of a complex question that can lead to searches of this type in his NECC presentation “Way Beyond Webquests,” in the activity “Who Should I Vote For” about the Iraqi elections in December 2005. I learned a great deal in a short amount of time about Iraqi political parties, and I would have enjoyed and benefited from even more time to explore this subject with other learners in a collaborative investigation.
Alex Kasman has used Google Analytics to uncover some of the diverse questions “Inquiring minds want to know.” What are the complex, engaging and worthwhile questions learners around you want to explore? What are the issues they don’t necessarily know they would enjoy and benefit from exploring, but you know something about? How can those questions become centerpieces of the curriculum, rather than tasks we have to do after school on our own time?
Part (or maybe a large part) of the answers to these questions lies in rethinking curriculum in our schools.
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On this day..
- Reflections on ISTE 2015 by Shelly and Wesley Fryer - 2015
- Comparing Free Ways to Privately Share Files with Others Online - 2011
- More Google Translate for Animals Videos - 2010
- Don't be slow getting on the DC metro - 2009
- Closing Keynote at NECC09 by Erin Gruwell (Freedom Writers) - 2009
- Do So Much with an iPod Touch - 2009
- Classsroom 2.0: What Is Web 2.0's Role in Schools? - 2009
- RU In My Space? Y Have A Social Media Policy? - 2009
- 21st-Century Learning: The New Visionary Administrator Speaks Up! - 2009
- Chris Lehmann: The Pedagogical Visionary of School 2.0 - 2008