Designing Learning Environments Around A Need To Know

We love Digital Media and Learning. Among other virtues, their attention to the macro level ideas in learning and education set them apart from many education resources available. The video above explores the fundamental design of our system of education, from its goals to its processes and “leaks.”

It also addresses the very important question of curiosity–a need to know. Once education structures–i.e., learning systems–are designed around that need to know–from that spark backwards, the entire tone of the learning process changes. Spaces become “cognitively charged,” learning becomes truly collaborative, and the “need to know” can be shared across social media platforms and emerging digital technology.

Excerpts from the video are transcribed below.

Connie Yowell, Director of Education, The MacArthur Foundation

“There is no longer a promised future for all kids. If people don’t really learn how to learn, and how to engage, and be flexible and adaptive, and find communities, and have ideas about things they want to do now, we’re just really in trouble.

“We really think that part of what’s wrong with the current educational system and why people talk about it as broken is because it’s fundamentally starting with the wrong questions. The education system now starts with a question of outcomes. It starts with ‘What do we want kids to learn, what are the goals, what’s the content, what’s the material we need to cover?’ And then everything is defined by that. It almost doesn’t matter who the kid is, so long as we are going on-pace through the material and through the content, and reaching those educational standards and outcomes, because that’s our starting point.

“Our core question is, What’s the experience we want kids to have? So the core question is around engagement, and soon as you start with ‘Is the kid engaged?’…then you have to pay attention to the kid.

“How do you create a need to know in a kid? That’s an emotional question. That’s an intellectual question. That’s an identity question. And when you start designing learning experiences around that, then getting to the content, getting kids to engage in core question related to academic core, that’s actually the easy part.

“In school…we de-contextualize what they’re learning…because we’re so focused on these outcomes, that we’ve forgotten the learner, and we’ve forgotten that we actually have a passion for learning.

“What we’ve heard from kids over and over again, through all our research is that school’s a node on their network of learning. So that they, in fact, are learning everywhere now–in part because of digital media, and in part because they always have.”

Mimi Ito, Cultural Anthropologist, Digital Media and Learning Research Hub

“We’re so used to giving responsibility for learning to professionals instead of looking at how it’s a part of the fabric of our interaction with everybody.”

“The problem is effective matchmaking. So how does a kid find that mentor, or that peer who is going to…support them in developing their interests, making their interests relevant, developing a sense of purpose. And it’s not about finding the information anymore. How can we use the capacity of these network resources, these social connections, to bring people together who want to learn together.

“How can we use the capacity of these social networks to bring people together that want to learn together? And not the model of “How can we deliver content more effectively from a single source to many listeners–and that’s fundamentally reconfiguring what we think of as the problem and the goal of education.”

Katie Salen Professor, DePaul University, Executive Director, Institute of Play

“Education has been trained for a long time that it’s somebody else’s job. It’s the job of the schools, it’s the job of the teachers–the schools can’t possibly bear the burden.

“All of the spaces–the churches, the homespaces, families, the neighborhood coffee shop, the person online across the world that’s doing really interesting things, those are all people and groups who can help own the learning of any young person.

“So part of this conversation is trying to open up the question of who contributes, and who is ultimately responsible for helping young people survive and thrive, and grow up to be curious, engaged citizens.

“Our greatest aspiration is that this becomes a kernel of a set of ideas that enable a lot of people in a wide range of spheres and fields to take it up and do something with it. It’s about expertise that’s widely distributed in our society and culture, and the fact that anybody can help somebody else get better.”

Image attribution flickr user bobbyjames; Designing Learning Environments Around A Need To Know