Engaging Learning – Different Paths

In my previous post, I did bit of a “look at me, ain’t I wonderful because I overcame some learning difficulties and managed to succeed in spite of the odds being staked against me” kind of thing. Apparently it didn’t really resonate with anyone but hey that is life. Hopefully I can get some people riled up with this post with my off kilter view of education’s latest movement, Engaging Learning.

This is not to say I don’t buy into the latest and greatest ideas and theories that today’s educational innovators/leaders are offering up. I LOVE the modern classroom with all its new fangled digital tools to enhance the learning environment. In fact my classroom has gone completely paperless. Virtually everything is, well… virtual. However, as much as I like the new,  I also like to take a look over my shoulder once in a while to see what we might be leaving behind. As Newton said “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”  To disregard the experience of those who went before us both teachers and students is just plain foolish.

I believe that the “Engaging Learning” or “Personalized Learning” movement is one of these things that fall into the category of moving ahead, without holding onto or at the very least considering what worked in the past.

On the surface, it would seem that the goal of the Engaging Learning movement, is to create a world where every kid has a tailor made program created just for them. The idea being that if a child has an education that fits their unique needs, skills and personality traits they will naturally be more inclined to engage in learning. A pretty wonderful goal and I have no bones with the logic behind it. I would love for my own children to be able to take advantage of such an wonderful learning opportunity but then I stop and think…

What is wrong with making kids do things they don’t want to do and learn things that are outside their areas interest or god forbid just plain boring? I want my kids to struggle and succeed. I want them to be frustrated and overcome and hell ya, I want the to fail once in a while and be horribly disappointed because that is what life is like!

The Engaging Learner movement appears to be all about eliminating any sort of unpleasantness in our kids academic lives. Now instead of helping kids “find their way” we are “paving their way” toward a pothole free existence but there is one problem. Life’s highways and byways are fraught with bumps detours and some big assed potholes along the way. It makes sense that people learn how to deal with these “bumps” along the way and it would make sense that it occurs before adulthood.

Recent brain research even tells us that adolescents are incredibly adaptable, in fact their brain requires the stimulation that adversity and challenge provides. This is the prime time for developing the higher order thinking and problem solving skills required to overcome adversity in ones life. Pave out all the bumps and we are left with a young adult that can’t cope with the real world.

So let’s go back to my pity party that was my last post. I managed to become a useful adult in spite of being a product of an education system that neither accommodated my learning needs or even acknowledged that I had a brain worth salvaging. Yet somehow I engaged in learning in spite of the piss poor pedagogy I was subjected to.  Therefore, it stands to reason that there had to have been some value in the education system I was a product of.

I say yes, lets continue to try and engaging kids in learning. Yes lets try to personalize the learning experience for all kids but lets take a look back and figure out why kids were able to succeed in the bad old days. It certainly wasn’t because school was catered to our needs so there is something in the way things were done not so long ago, that bred success as much as it resulted in failure.

Perhaps it didn’t even have anything to do with school or is inapplicable in today’s world but I say it is worth a look back as we forge ahead.

Next post: What worked


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