My brain hurts. Sometimes there are just too many interesting, intensely profound ideas floating around out there. What did I do BB? (Before blogs…)
This is going to be one of those work-it-through, brain dump type posts that probably won’t make much sense and rightfully shouldn’t even see the light of day without more polish, but, what the heck. We had a snow day yesterday. I’m feeling brave.
My zeal for the potential of Weblogs, wikis, RSS etc. is born almost entirely from my reflective self that is constantly amazed at the way these tools have transformed my learning first and my teaching second. This is pure passion for new ideas, for stimulated thought, for dreaming. It is in many ways intoxicating and exhausting. But I really feel like for the first time in my life, I’m getting the most out of my brain.
While I’ve tapped my intrinsic motivation to learn, (which I believe all of us have for subjects that interest us) there is equally intense extrinsic motivation to be a part of a community of learners that is sharing this struggle of ideas with me. They are equally engaged in their passions, and we’re able to connect to each other by our blogs and our feeds. This community shares little if any resemblance to the traditional classroom community whose members are motivated neither by the intrinsic joy of pursuing their passions nor the extrinsic pull of being a part of a larger effort to learn.
My learning occurs in the context of a shared construction of meaning. In isolation, meaning-making ends once the meaning is made. In this online community, meaning is never totally made or finished. It evolves and grows, nurtured by the community. Ironically, I used to preach to my Expository Composition students that a piece of writing was never really finished, that they could pick it up again and make new meaning. But we all knew the lie inherent in that promise. It was handed in. It was assessed. It was finished. Not so in this space, however.
I want my own children who are just 5 and 7 to share this passion. But I see it already being bled out of them by well-meaning teachers who are bound by a system that nurtures conformity rather than creativity. I have few choices when it comes to where my kids go to school, but I know I have many choices as a parent in the ways I nurture and support their own learning. My daughter blogs. She constructs. She publishes. And I want her, eventually, to find her own community. (This goes for my second-child-syndrome son too, by the way.)
Aaron, who has been on a brain bender lately, says “Clearly then, there is an immediate need for educators to find ways to allow students to follow their intrinsic interests in the context of the classroom.” This REALLY makes my brain hurt. He’s right. But what a huge, huge task. So, my first job is to facilitate that at home, at least, in the bigger classroom that is the Internet. That’s where the real learning opportunities seem to be happening.
I think there will be thousands of parents joining the ranks of the homeschoolers primarily for this reason. They can’t stand the idea of the system leeching passion and motivation out of their kids.
It’s not up to educators to try to squeeze in some focus on kids’ interests — the curriculum and standardized testing pretty much precludes (negates?) it on a broad scale. It would take a revolution to change the expectations of the education system, and I think you’ve just identified the rallying point for that revolution.
Tom Hoffman says
Creating the kind of classroom you’re talking about is difficult, but it is a well understood problem–pretty much the problem reading and writing workshop was meant to address. This problem and its solution both existed prior to and independent of the web.
The right kind of content management system could make a classroom employing reading and writing workshop significantly easier to manage, but I’ve seen precious little interest in such a thing.