Changing Knowledge

As a teacher, at least from a student’s view, we are sometimes seen as knowledge keepers, wise to all things that are known in our world. Even though we know this isn’t true, we still try to hang on to this persona as it gives us a sense of confidence and stability. I’ve been guilty and admit that when I don’t know answers to student questions, I have provided a long winded nonsensical explanation that either confuses the questioner or tricks them into thinking I know even more than they thought. However, if I’m not on my game, I’ve flat out said, “that’s just the way it is”.

Thankfully, I’ve started to change my approach to the frequently asked questions that I am bombarded with at home and school. I have started to admit when I don’t know something and I try to model my thought process to reason and draw conclusions, which may or may not be true. I make myself vulnerable and reveal my knowledge imperfections. I do this because I want kids to wonder for themselves and try to make sense in their own minds without relying on adults as knowledge keepers. Unfortunately, soon after I’ve been released from the clenches of constant questioning, I find myself Googling the answer because I am not satisfied with not knowing! There, that was hard to admit.

However, once I find the answer to that question, what does it actually mean to me? How do I ensure that I or others that I share it with will store this in long term memory because it’s something that is meaningful?

Pavan Arora summarized knowledge to be changing faster than every before. Our access to knowledge is easier than ever. When students can simply look up any concept listed in our curriculum, then what is the purpose of our jobs? Arora identifies that we need to be creative with how we teach knowledge because that’s what going to make it meaningful to students. Access it, assess it, and apply it. The key points that I pulled from his TedTalk titled Knowledge is obsolete, so now what? are:

  • We need to deduce rather than memorize
  • Experiment and experience rather than listen or take notes
  • Leverage technology rather than ban technology
  • Learn from mistakes rather than punish failure

In Brown and Adler’s article Minds on Fire: Open Education, the Long Tail, and Learning 2.0, we are advised that our focus is not so much on what we are learning, but more on how we are learning. I loved the idea of the 4 C’s that Amanda Brace shared on her blog post this week. These were:

  • Critical thinking
  • Creative thinking
  • Communicating
  • Collaborating

These are all aspects in which students can be taught how to think critically, creatively, communicate and collaborate with others in order to make knowledge meaningful. A study done by Richard Light uncovered the idea that students who studied in groups, even only once a week, were more engaged in their studies, were better prepared for class, and learned significantly more than students who worked on their own. This is a demonstration on how students can gain knowledge in a meaningful experience.

One of the best ways to learn something is to teach it to others. An article titled Learning by teaching others is extremely effective – a new study tested a key reason why identifies that “students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned go on to show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply spend the same time re-studying.” This reminded me of Bloom’s Taxonomy, which has been revised since I was first introduced.

I was shocked to see that “applying” is not considered to be a part of the higher-order thinking. Getting students to get to these higher-order thinking skills within the taxonomy is no easy task, but with support we have to let them take risks and experience failure in order for them to learn and gain knowledge. These are life skills that will transfer into any future job, obsolete or not.

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