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Friday, January 24, 2014

A Response

The following is a response to the comments and video found here:

"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves, therefore, are its only safe depositories. And to render them safe, their minds must be improved to a certain degree."  -Thomas Jefferson

Moore’s  Law applies to information, and education is an informational enterprise which is why I have been calling using the term Classroom 2.0 for the past several years. I encourage the use of cell phones in the classroom. It is amazing that we have access to the world’s knowledge.  There is more processing capability in a cell phone than NASA used to get to the moon. (This last statement has been repeated to me so many times that I have accepted it as fact. I have not, and am not so inclined, looked this up.)

Textbooks (information delivery) are antiquated. Classrooms, while fun, are not necessary. Teachers (while some of them are antique) are a vital part of education.  Today, for example, a student made the claim that this has been the “coldest winter ever.” Much to his frustration, I took this as a teachable moment.  First we had to define terms. Were we only talking about St. Louis? If so was it only years that they have experienced or are we talking about all years that have reliable data? What do we mean by coldest? Is it the average high temperature for the days between the winter solstice and the vernal equinox? (This last one met with confused stares) Is it the greatest number of days below 10 degrees Fahrenheit? 

Once the parameters of our inquiry have been established, we must devise a plan to uncover the answers. A number of students immediately went to Google and were able to bring back information about today’s weather and some even found the record for the coldest day (-17), but no one found the answer to the question.

Sensing their frustration, I decided that even if they could not support their argument then they should be able to state it in a more interesting way. Most of the decided that they would just say, “It’s hella cold.”  After some more less than stellar suggestions such as “It is freezing cold” or “It is colder than the North Pole”, I finally stepped in with examples. (“It was so cold that I pissed icicles” or “It was so cold that a polar bear went outside and said ‘hell nah.’”)

Knowledge is amazing, but critical thinking is the goal. The inquiry process is ingesting new knowledge, analyze it, combining it with previous experience and knowledge, and through this synthesis creating something entirely unique. This process needs a guide or you may become lost in an interminable morass of websites selling tennis shoes.

The “granny method” is basically the same as the Socratic method.  Questioning or refuting a hypothesis in order to constantly improve it.  Again this requires a teacher. Whether  that teacher is in the classroom or on the computer is irrelevant. 

I used the quote from Jefferson at the top to point out that education is not intended to churn out automata for the bureaucratic machine. We are creating citizens eventually capable of self-governance, self-education, and self-actualization.  The coldest winter ever was in 2009/10 with an average high temperature of 30.5