Purpose/ed: Unlocking education, unlocking minds

It’s worth stopping and thinking back to some of the most exciting times in your learning life – to feel once again that cognitive buzz that energized your spirit and made you want to know more.  I mean something deep, visceral, urgent, demanding – like a child building and rebuilding a set of blocks with persistent fascination.  What have these learning moments been for you?

I still feel the utter disappointment of having found only dried macaroni inside the rocking clown that I demolished. I have so many memories from when I was a kid that remain charged with positive frustration (learning) and wonderful, sizzling amazement.   How many of them can I attribute to a learning experience as a by-product of formal education?  How many can you? Honestly!  What about our learners in schools today?

Learning and knowing cannot be separated, and relies on transactions and interactions with information. However, different people, when presented with exactly the same information in exactly the same way, will learn different things. Most models of education and learning have almost no tolerance for this kind of thing. As a result, teaching tends to focus on eliminating the source of the problem: the student’s imagination!

The purpose of education is surely about cultivating the imagination, for without imagination there would be no knowledge, no development, no scientific discovery, nothing. Most of us at some stage in our lives have had the thrilling experience of seeing a new solution to a problem, not necessarily in lofty theories of the professional world, but perhaps in making something, or cooking, or gaming, or solving a social conundrum. You don’t have to be Einstein to experience that wonderful feeling of a strong sense of uniqueness through a new insight or idea – making a connection that you’ve never made before.

For me, this is the challenge and purpose of education – nurturing ‘eureka’ moments for every kid. Not only are Eureka moments extremely exciting, they also reinforce an inner conviction of being special, someone worth having around.

So when it comes to our digital environment, we must work with existing and emerging media tools to promote creative and reflective learning. The challenge is to go beyond the constraints of the classroom and to push the understanding of what is possible. You only have to look at projects like the Flat Classroom Project to appreciate the possibilities.

No-one likes to grow old – but hiding in the 20th century mindset won’t stop you aging!! In fact it will definitely give you digital dementia, and simultaneously disenfranchise your student’s right to learn at the same time.

It’s time to go beyond worksheets, pathfinders, and lock-step learning. We’ve been saying it for years now, but many schools still ‘throttle’ young minds with essays, exams, cross-form marking and more.  It’s not curriculum that’s the mind killer – it’s what teachers do, or are forced to do with it that’s the problem.

I wonder what you could do today to unlock learning and energize the minds of your students?  Eureka!

9 thoughts on “Purpose/ed: Unlocking education, unlocking minds

  1. Pingback: The More I Learn, The Less I Know | Lee's Rambling Blog

  2. Pingback: Chasing Cars – A model for Leadership «

  3. Have you seen Steven Johnson’s video?

    Thanks for writing this great post…I love witnessing a “Eureka” moment in science classes when a student realises that she/he can apply their knowledge to solve a new problem.

    • Yep – I do believe that ‘the slow hunch’ shows us how to nurture learning. Eventually, a slow hunch can become a ‘eureka’ moment or point of achievement. Aren’t these videos great!!

  4. Jon, I like the sound of ‘a slow hunch’! That just might describe a collaborative learning experience perfectly, or researching a topic carefully and deeply. I still think a slow hunch can lead to ‘eureka’ moments of personal joy, or personal achievement, as well as new knowledge discovery. Either way, it’s wonderful that so many are realizing that creativity is core to learning of any kind.

  5. I totally endorse the idea that nurturing the imagination of young people should be at the centre of the education process but I wonder if the ‘eureka’ moment is a bit of a myth. I’m reading Steven Johnson’s ‘Where good ideas come from’ at the moment and I really like his notion of the “slow hunch”. I’m also really interested in the social aspect of learning and the important role that collaboration can play in generating creative ideas. I love your phrase “digital dementia”. Great post!

  6. Hey Jude, (nice post)
    dont make it bad, (just talk)
    take a sad song (education)
    and make it better (learning)
    Remember to let it into your heart (craft)
    and then we can start to make it better (#purposed)
    ‘Lets learn different things’

    Visceral indeed! In which case you might like 63/68 A Visceral History my novelisation of the Open Context Model of Learning;
    http://www.scribd.com/collections/2454050/63-68-A-Visceral-History
    Or my description of the PAH Continuum using the Beatles career as an exemplar;
    Academic Version on 9 after 909;
    http://fred6368.wordpress.com/2009/10/17/learning-with-the-beatles/
    Video edition on A Beatles YouTube Album;
    http://jpgringo2.wordpress.com/2010/05/01/beatles-live-1957-1963/
    Let me know if it works for you :)
    fred garnett gmail
    Lovely to find a kindred spirit :)

  7. Pingback: purpos/ed — #500words – Judy O’Connell

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