I spent 18 years teaching high school, 22 years total in a public school, and even though I left a decade ago now, I do remember this: Almost nothing I learned in college prepared me for the realities of the classroom. My first week of student teaching stressed me out so much that I got a total of around 10 hours of sleep Monday thru Thursday. The only reason I survived it was because my co-operating teacher had a party that Friday night at which he made sure to keep a fresh beer in my hand (among other things) until I gained some “perspective.” When he felt I was “ready” to hear it, he slung his arm around my shoulder, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Will, you’re taking this much to seriously,” after which I somehow got myself home, poured myself into bed and slept for like 18 hours.
My “perspective” was much improved on Monday.
Anyway, my initiation into teaching is not the point of this post, at least not the major point.
As I was at ISTE in Denver last week, I started thinking about all of the presenters up there on the various stages or in the front of the breakout rooms, wondering how was it they arrived at that moment. Wondering how much of what they were presenting about had they learned in a formal, classroom, education-y setting. Remembering how I arrived at my first presentation in Dallas at the 2003 Journalism Education Association conference where three people showed up to hear my musings on “Blogging in the Journalism Classroom.” (First question: “What’s a blog?” Sigh.)
When you look through the ISTE program list, you’ll find the occasional research study or paper being shared. But most of what you’ll see is people talking about practice, whether it’s tools or pedagogies, or projects or whatever else. It’s personal experience intended to help others understand the value to kids and how those in the audience might take it for their own.
I’m pretty sure those presenters didn’t figure out how to do the things they were presenting about by taking a course or a workshop and then writing up an application to present at ISTE. Instead, what they’re showing off is the fruits of their own personal (not personalized) learning labor over time, the results of trying, of failing, and of wanting to learn more. Of working with others, comparing notes, reflecting, collecting various forms of data…a soup of primarily tacit learning developed “on the job.”
That’s borne out by a highly scientific survey that I posted on Twitter this morning. Here are the results as I write this:
Fully 90% of the respondents say that most of what they currently do was learned “on the job.”
So, what’s my point? This: Learning for kids in schools should be much more “on the job.” I mean if we ourselves have learned how to learn out of need or desire, in tacit ways with others, for sharing with real audiences, why wouldn’t we create the same conditions for kids?
I was reminded of this today when I watched a presentation by John Moravec, whose concept of Knowmadic Learning and his Manifesto 15 have both been influences on my own thinking. In this particular presentation, he talks about what he calls “invisible learning,” defined as “placing trust in learners and shifting the flow of power from the top-down to the learner-out.” He adds:
We learn more, and do so invisibly, when we separate structures of control that restrict freedom and self-determination from learning experiences.
I love that, and I have a feeling most of the presenters at ISTE this week were self-determined, “invisible” learners who had the freedom to pursue their interests in ways that they designed and structured. And now, they had a chance to present their learning to an audience of interested peers hoping to learn from them. That’s a pretty cool end to a natural cycle of learning.
But, I guess, not appropriate for our kids.
(Image credit: InUseExperience)