Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where good ideas come from - Steven Johnson RSA animation

ICTWatching this RSA Animation of a presentation by Steven Johnson put me in a reflective mood.
For most people in the Western world life is busy. Very busy. And we EXPECT to be busy – afterall being busy is a by-product of an active life, of balancing leisure and work. We “seize the day”, we make every minute count and never put off until tomorrow what we can do today - the platitudes could roll on for several more sentences but we are all too busy to read them. Technology, of course, is our friend in all of this – we can be online 24/7, in touch with “everything all the time” thanks to the shiny devices we have on our desks ... and increasingly in our pockets.
This holds true not only for adults – children are increasingly busy too. Which leads me to ponder – are our schools too busy? Do we try to cram so much important “stuff” into each day that our students don’t have time to reflect? Do we give them time to make connections between our very important “you will need this in later life” spiel that they don’t have time to work out what is important for themselves? Do we spend so much time developing skills that we don’t let them actually use those skills in anything resembling a meaningful manner?
A metaphor that presents itself is that of cooking. Microwave frozen dinners aside, it is not enough to simply mix the ingredients for a cake and put them in an oven – the mixture must be given time to transform and become more than the sum of its parts. Johnson mentions that “chance favours the connected mind”. Hard to argue with that. To hearken back to the cooking metaphor – the ingredients need to be blended together rather than kept separate. We don’t put the flour in one container and the eggs in another and expect the cake to form.
So – the message for me is that we need to give students time to contemplate and reflect on their learning, but also to structure our classes so that the students and the concepts we teach them mix together.

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