Yesterday, I watched a TEDxTEEN talk by child prodigy physicist Jacob Barnett (Don’t mix him up with “Josh” or you’re in for a surprise). He says, “Stop learning, and start thinking!” Yes, he says it with enthusiasm. He cannot contain himself! He attributes his knowledge and understanding with the fact that he takes time out to contemplate an idea in depth.
Why does he say this? Why could it be true?
When the goal is to create something or solve a problem, we have to think about it. At some point, we will come to the conclusion that we need to do some research — find books or websites or other people who will gives us some information to use as a tool to solve the problem. This is true learning. This is what we as employers want to see in our employees.
Another thing employers want in employees is people who can work well in teams. They don’t always know they want this, but they do. Even the best lone programmer in a corner will not typically be as good as a circle of programmers who talk to each other about their ideas, help each other from time-to-time and share code.
What if we make as many learning materials available as possible (and anytime, anywhere on any device if possible) and then set the students free with projects to create and problems to solve in teams? Our role as teachers is to coach the students through the process. This may include some actual “teaching” of concepts, but that is just another piece of learning material, as long as it is not the only source of learning.
I have been doing this in my classes with great results. I require students to go online to access the class materials (30hands), because I want them to be well-versed in digital technology skills (navigating, blogging, discussing, reading, creating). The great result is engaged students who do independent and team homework with little/less prompting and create things I would not have expected. Then, I have them present their projects to the class, which passes the learning on to the others. Students often prefer to listen to other students rather than teachers. An added bonus is that the students are also gaining skills in communication — standing up in front of a class and presenting. They are also learning organizational thinking skills by putting their ideas into the form of a coherent presentation.
Thinking leads to better learning, higher level learning and greater thinking.