Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Escaping the Dictatorial Didactic or MazeBuilder

“The authority of those who teach is often an obstacle to those who want to learn.” ― Marcus Tullius Cicero
When reflecting on Cicero's quote, I can't help but wonder what exactly is the it that someone is making you learn something, which doesn't make sense because who learns when someone is standing over them with a metaphorical whip (e.g. detention, bad grades)? Or, perhaps, the problem is more like you are forced to run the maze-builder's labyrinth of boring stuff before you get to the stuff you want to learn?
When I think of "dictator," Panamanian dictator Omar Torrijos comes to mind.
He was the dictator in Panama when I was a child and lived there.
In my experience as a perpetual learner, it's often the latter, although I've suffered my share of the dictatorial didactic. The labyrinth of curricula beguiles many and they are often lost, starving for real learning...that is, learning that engages them, is relevant, and makes a difference in their lives.
Education, as we know it, still involves delivering content to some degree. Curricula still include topics that need to be mastered that rank pretty low on the relevance scale (and is all content relevant to all learners?) And quite frankly, lots of teachers have never experienced a high engagement classroom or workshop nor been taught how to conduct one. (Source: Blue Skunk Blog)
I suppose we have to learn what we have to learn. But that's not the right word to describe the experience. I wouldn't say everything I "learned" in school is something I can understand and apply. If little interested in a subject, I memorized enough to pass a test, write a paper--in fact, the art of writing about what you know nothing about in a manner that convinces others you DO know something about it...well, that's a blog entry in itself--but not necessarily much else that is useful.

When we discuss distraction in school, let's be honest. I was bored to tears in my classes unless I was actively engaged. That's why approaches like Writing/Reading Workshop, Problem-based Learning are so darn fun. You are doing something, you own the learning. If I see a teacher with a worksheet, a plan of study that gives the student little choice in the matter, the question I have to ask is, How have we enabled our students to endure in a maze of our creation?
Image Source:
"A pause in 'business as usual' activity is the gateway to new learning and better performance." (Read more)
Of course, this is all against the backdrop of distracted learning or learning with technology. Technology is so often perceived as a distraction. And, you know what? It is. It is a boon companion in those moments when we are stuck in the muck of someone's labyrinth.
Kirstin R. Wilcox, Lecturer at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is the latest in a growing long line of higher ed educators that refuse to wrap their big brains around how to use educational technology. Writing in the blog, Wilcox talks about how ed tech and all the associated things that go with it are not helping her students actually learn deeply. She opines that deep learning takes place at the edges of the classroom conversations, and those tools that students use online either prevent that learning, or don’t allow students to go there. Source: Holt Think
Deep learning takes place at the edges of classroom, what a powerful assertion. Let's strip it down even more. Learning happens when people converse with each other. The basis of workshop approaches involves alone time with regular time to discuss that alone time and what has been accomplished (or not) and why.

But in the big bad environments of that some teach and learn in, it's not about learning conversations, fostering dialogue and sharing. Rather, it's about doing what you're told or, like a rat in a laboratory, doing what must be done to get the reward. But even rats in the maze have is pointed out in this Agile Learning blog entry, it's important to vary things a bit.

Tim Holt asks, Do you think that students have to adapt to your way of teaching in order to learn from you, or do you have to adapt to their way or learning? This reminds me of a question Dr. Scott Mcleod (Dangerously Irrelevant) asked a long time ago (May 1, 2007):
Source: Well, What's Your Answer?, Dangerously Irrelevant

I'd like to think there is some middle ground, a place where learners can meet to share ideas and information that isn't fully in the teacher or learner camp. It is in that virtual ground that we can shed our old roles of expert and neophyte, master and student, and find new ways to juxtapose ideas and learning to mutual benefit.
“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom. Without this it goes to wrack and ruin without fail.”
― Albert Einstein

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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