To Ask or Tell

What is the most effective means of knowledge acquisition? Consider this question professionally. When faced with the task of skill or concept development, what is the style of learning that causes the most deep-seeded attachment? Is it listening to a speaker hand out tools during a keynote presentation? Or does the ownership of the method follow actual use of those tools?

The question of "transfer" -- defined in this link -- is at the heart of business and educational efforts. How is knowledge acquisition managed? Is it more effective to "transfer" knowledge via the Cartesian method -- which says that by the nature of my position as teacher, I am qualified to pass down knowledge in "tell" fashion? Or is it more effective to facilitate an environment that encourages question asking?

One of the foundational principles of a YB education is an adherence to the latter. That's why we're going to employ "Knowledge Acquisition Specialists" rather than "teachers". Because at the end of the day, genuine adoption of information, tactic, method, etc can only truly be accomplished by doing -- by immersing to the point of inquiry.

And, in fact, no less than MIT is thinking about this very topic.


No More Writing

According to Plato, Socrates believed that teaching writing was a bad idea. If you teach writing, "your pupils will be widely read without benefit of a teacher's instruction; in consequence, they'll entertain the delusion that they have wide knowledge, while they are, in fact, for the most part incapable of real judgment." For Socrates, students who can write will lose the skill of reasoned discourse. You can't exchange ideas with someone who is dead but whose ideas remain in writing.

Thus the pattern of communication adoption was set. The older generation knowing that the new communication medium (writing) will destroy the established time tested communication medium (face to face discourse) , and that society will suffer for it. Of course, this was not the case. It has never been the case. It will never be the case. No new technology has erased the previous technology. The printing press did not eliminate calligraphy. Books did not erase oral story telling. Neither recorded music nor radio destroyed live music. Television did not eliminate radio or film. To be sure, the relative importance of communications shift (do you remember sending letters by US Mail) but they do survive. What is important is that we become as competent with new forms of communication as we were with the old.

For the YB blog I am, henceforth, giving up writing in favor of short videos. Since I am a much better writer than video maker, you might wonder --"Why?"

It is because video is competing with written communication. The "moving picture" word may dominate the "written" word. Literacy in the 21st century may mean the ability to make a good two minute video and send it like email to your mom, your boss and your 19,000 closest friends.

I learn best by doing, doing badly to be sure, but doing and doing and keep doing until I get it right or at least until people stop making fun of my efforts. Wish me luck.


Ei Sinun Isä Koulia...

...or, "Not your father's school" in Finnish.

If you aren't from Finland however (the country that tops all others in Science, and is near tops in Math and Language according to the 2006 PISA Report) you might say this instead:

не вашего отца школы (Russian)
不是你父親的學校 (Chinese)
Nicht dein Vater-Schule (German)
لا اباك مدرس (Arabic)
Pas l'école de votre père (French)
귀하의 아버지의 학교에 없다 (Korean)
Non è il tuo padre scuola (Italian)
父親のいない学校 (Japanese)
No es su padre de la escuela (Spanish)

The learning environment for our kid's success as adults is not in the traditional school house of our parents, but in what is yet to be created. It is too hard to fix public schools, pumping them with billions in resources. It is too big and slow of an institution, in spite of the hard work of the countless few (the techno-savvy, bright, energetic, out-of-the-box thinkers) who embrace the necessary tools to develop kids for their future.

Alvin Toffler says in a great interview posted on edutopia.org, "...The public school system is designed to produce a workforce for an economy that will not be there. And therefore, with all the best intentions in the world, we're stealing the kids' future."

Do we re-examine, re-structure, re-train, re-build, re-fund, re-form?

Should we purchase a round trip ticket to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to spend some time in Finland studying what it is they do, with the hope of replicating their practices and success?

We could. We could even read everything available about current education, pedagogy, and best practices so we are super informed. We could attend every professional development class or seminar with the hottest name in education so we are up to date with the newest trends, all with the charge of fixing the system.

Or we could listen to Alvin Toffler as he loosely quotes Bill Gates, "We don't need to reform the system; we need to replace the system."


What?? Hold on. This is crazy! Are Tofflin and Gates suggesting we replace the school system that successfully elevated the United Stated to a global superpower? How does that make any sense? Our education system has worked for such a long time hasn't it?

The truth is that US kids have fallen far from the top of the stats. The fat from 'mom's apple pie' isn't sustaining us any longer. We are not in a world where the schools, our father's schools, will allow us to compete in a global market. There are too many forks with a reach extending from every corner of the flat world, freely taking bites from the pie.

Replacing, not rebuilding our system of education, will ensure there is an opportunity for my kids and your kids to have a bite of the pie when their time comes to eat.


The Global Garage Sale: Sifting Through Cyber Debris

"Who is the Master here: the information, or us?"

I love eating sushi, especially when I know it was prepared with passion, prepared with fresh, healthy ingredients, and it looks great. I want it in my mouth, to savor the flavors and textures. I can get sushi from a number of places. I can get if from a cooler at Whole Foods, from a conveyor belt as it slowly glides by me at a brightly lit seat among the lunch rush. Or I can get sushi from a restaurant where the fish is in plain sight (and I am informed was caught an hour earlier), it is assembled by a person I know is trained to prepare this food, and he gives liberal portions presented beautifully. The question is, what kind of sushi do I want?

There is a lot of information out there that anyone with a laptop and free WiFi can find. With applications like Twitter and RSS, information is literally fed to us, from people contributing all around the world, instantly. The trick is determining what kind of information we want, and how to access it in a manner, and time frame that works best for us. This is true in the corporate world, and in education.

Businesses live and die by this ability. There is information (a lot of it) that offers assistance to the corporate person to access and sift through information- step by step processes to maximize time...because time is money, right? Ross Dawson and iLibrarian offer tips and links to help sift through the cyber debris until that needle in the proverbial haystack can be found.

Finding those needles in the haystacks are what can make what we do purposeful and engaging.
How does this apply to education?

Well, education is essentially the process of learning. And it might be the best use of our time to 1) learn things that will help us pay the mortgage and 2) learn things we are interested in knowing...in no particular order. I suggest learning things in which we are interested has great potential to influence the way we pay the mortgage.

So let's teach that way! Let's offer a way for kids to learn as equipped consumers of information. More so, let's set them lose in a collaborative environment to share and remix that information in reality based projects and tasks. Let's get kids ready for a work environment that is waiting for them.

Enter Personal Learning Networks (PLNs). Will Richardson discusses the idea of PLNs here.

The successful people in the business world are the adapters. People are able to adapt because the are informed. If we want our children to be successful adults, let's assist them in their pursuit to build personal learning networks, and to use their tool kit to be wise consumers of endless information, responsible collaborators, and creative individuals with what they receive and how they share.

I want sushi from the freshest source, prepared by the best chef, served in a delicious presentation. I want to hire, and work with a person who can access the best information (in the quickest way), remix it to exceed my expectations, and present it in a way that impresses and inspires. I want our kids to be those people. I want to get them ready for that world, the world that is waiting for them.