Last week I surprised myself by responding to a scholarly discussion on a Brainstorm article in a publication for higher education. When I was in graduate school, my professors encouraged us to continue a path of “scholarly discourse.” One professor in particular told us to embrace the mantra of “fearless curiosity.”
With that in mind, I responded to a wish articulated in comment 4 for a partnership with real on-the-ground teachers, who are surely too busy for such things. Despite the implied invitation, I was pretty sure what would happen, and it did. Two comments were pretty sharp: Go away! At the time, I shyly used one of my pen names, Kaceedog. Now I wish I had followed the advise of many educational bloggers and proudly used my name.
I thought about honoring the “professors only” sign, but then I considered the nature of online publications that ask for comments and that wonder about a topic I have researched, studied at length, and am using. I took the dive.
I weigh in again with some of the following points:
- The future belongs to the student who has a vision of more than facts to be reported, but a vision of being able to ask and answer deep questions that relate the information to their world—and that especially includes the lessons of history.
- While it is absolutely true that students must first learn discrete facts in order to have the necessary base, they must also be able to think with the information—to detect an argument that reflects bias or to locate information to support their own unique arguments. They obviously cannot analyze or synthesize unless they first understand and know. I was responding to the issue of students who refuse to think, who copy and paste, plagiarizing freely, and think they’ve gotten the teacher off their backs. If the same students are given problem-based tasks which challenge them to answer novel questions (those requiring deeper thought and not found on buy-an-essay sites), they are more likely to respond to the content with creativity.
- As far as the critical thinking of the adolescent, having raised three of my own to productive adulthood, I thoroughly agree with you that the abstract thinking abilities are only emerging. (The insurance companies have know about this longer that education and science combined!) That doesn’t mean that we should leave it on the backburner. Just because they’ll be closer to 25 before true judgment kicks in, they are still emerging. Ever notice the very young child who wants desperately to help, but is told s/he’s too young? Just like that child, adolescents need and thrive on age appropriate cognitive challenges.
- A number of writers are suggesting that we’re leaving the age of information and entering the conceptual age. Any teacher or professor who limits their students to information retrieval and manipulation will let that student down. We may discuss all we want. There was an age when the automobile and electricity divided the generations. I believe that now technology will divide the generations. We already have the digital natives and those of us trying to catch up.
- Technology remains a tool, not an end in itself. It’s not magic or destructive in itself. It is the tool of the future. We can learn to use it creatively to challenge our students, or we can call it bad names and use it poorly; but technology is changing the way the pre-kindergarten child approaches learning and the graduate student accomplishes learning.
- One thing is for sure: Learning how to learn and create new understanding in a community of motivated learners is not found on any standardized test—but it is one of the most important skills in life. (My thanks to Vicki Davis for a rewording of her comment elsewhere in this blog!)
I understand special interest groups and the need to exchange ideas with like-minded individuals to explore and develop common goals. We do, however, need to remember that online publication is not restricted unless it is password protected.
When we limit ourselves to our own backyard, we hear only our own beliefs and agendas. It’s important for educators to learn what different groups are thinking about the same topics–to appreciate different perspectives. It’s tough to take a punch, but it feels GREAT to get back up and still feel confident in your beliefs. I recommend diving into the fray of scholarly discourse; just don’t be afraid of a little dirt.
We will always run the risk of those who do not appreciate our thoughts; but then again, we just might find a kindred spirit, or challenge another person to grow, or, best of all, wind up growing a bunch ourselves!
When in doubt, stand and be counted.