The time with our learners is limited. We have to make some very important decisions about how to use this time. We must consider the economics of our decisions based on the resources we have. Is it cost effective, cognitively, to spend multiple days on a learning target to master something that a machine will do for us?
Is what we label as problem-solving and critical thinking really problem-solving and critical thinking or is it just harder stuff to deal with? Can we teach problem-solving and critical thinking in the absence of context?
Do we have a common understanding of what good problem solvers and critical thinkers look like, sound like, and think like? If we are teaching problem-solving, critical thinking, and creativity, shouldn’t we know what that means to us? Shouldn’t we be able to describe it?
Does technology hamper or enhance a learner’s ability to problem solve and think critically? I think I might be back to the struggle of using calculators to compute and a spell checker to write. Do we even know enough to make a decision about technology until we experiment and learn by doing?
If you have not read Can Texting Help Teens with Writing and Spelling? by Bill Ferriter, stop reading this right now to read Bill’s post. It is a great example of leveraging technology to promote creativity and critical thinking using technology. Read about having students write 25 word stories. This is teachnology, not technology. Tweet, text, type, write on paper – it doesn’t matter – unless you want to publish your work. The technology, Twitter in this case, aids in the critical thinking; you are restricted to 140 characters. The technology offers the learner a way to publish and see other published work.
My ability to transport myself from place to place is actually enhanced and improved because of my truck. I have no idea how my truck works other than gas goes in, step on the brake to stop, R means we are going to go in reverse, etc. I do not need to understand the mechanics; I can have that done.
I do not need to understand the mechanics; I can have that done. I don’t need to know how to change the oil in my car. I need to know that I need to have the oil changed in my car. And, very important, I don’t need to learn this lesson by experience. It is too expensive to learn experientially why I must have the oil changed in my car.
Isn’t it too expensive to spend 2-3 days on some topics that we traditionally teach? Are we getting the biggest bang for our cognitive buck? Often our learners can’t see the forest for the trees. They never get to the why because of the how. Don’t we need to learn when and how to use technology not only to engage our learners, but to increase our cognitive capital?
How can we learn to ask
- Why are we learning this? Is this essential?
- Will technology do this for us so that we can learn more, deeper?
- Does this have endurance, leverage, and relevance?
- Shouldn’t we use technology to grapple with the mechanics so the learner shifts focus to the application, the why, the meaning?