Self-directed Learning – What should we be teaching?

Several weeks ago I witnessed an interesting exchange with high school students. A group of students was asked what course they would most like to see offered that isn’t currently on the high school roster of offerings. Here were some of the responses:

  • Photoshop and other software
  • Psychology II/AP Psychology
  • French
  • Philosophy
  • Tech Ed – Engineering
  • Biotechnology
  • Astronomy

I found the conversation interesting because even at such a young age, their paradigm of education is so old, so traditional. Do they realize that they have the ability to learn these things without “school”? Their paradigm is quite restricted in thinking that learning has to be pushed out by an institution. Not only is this  push model of education unnecessary with 1:1 computing and access to the Internet and countless connections to expert, but it’s also not practical in the current fiscal environment of public education. Resources are limited and so, too, are the opportunities available to our students through traditional means.

While it would be great for every high school to offer these opportunities (and much more), what can learners do who have a passion for a topic – say,  learning a language or learning all the features of a particular software? It’s easy. They can connect with other experts in the field through social media and structure their own learning plan using tools such as YouTube, MOOCs and Twitter to find and connect with people who have the same passion and the expertise they wish to acquire. Our students do not understand they can do this. They don’t understand how to do this. Our parents do not understand this. We as educators do not understand this. We have many things to do for kids in education. But with 24/7 access to massive amounts of content and connections, we as educators must teach students how to make connections around their passions so they can truly be life-long learners. This must become a priority.

How would this group (or any traditional group of high school students) respond to this video where students organize their own curriculum around their passions for half a year?

If students designed their own schools

The institution no longer owns learning……learning can (and should) be owned by every individual. How do we begin to educate parents, teachers and students about a new paradigm of learning?

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By Randy Ziegenfuss Posted in Learning

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