Saturday, March 27, 2010

The many questions on our learning journeys

I'm in Prague at the Apple Education Leadership Summit this weekend. The day opened with a keynote by Marco Torres - his message was that schooling and learning are often heading in different directions in some of our schools and he asked is school getting in the way of learning at a time when clearly knowledge is not enough any more?

He also talked about journeys - he showed a great slide with some different paths on it. One was just a jungle - to go on this journey you have to hack your way through and make your own path using a machete - some teachers are up for a learning journey like this, but for many of us it's difficult to cut a new path. Then there was a photo of a field of corn with a small track through it. You could see that a few people had gone through - the corn was bent in places - some people would be comfortable to follow them on this journey. The next image was a definite track - not a particularly big one, but one that would stay solid in the rain and not get washed away. The final photo was of a highway. Some of us as teachers wait for the entire road to be finished and the end of the journey known before they will venture forth and make any steps on the learning journey.

Actually Marco asked a lot of questions - he said it was good to stay with the questions and not to come up with solutions too quickly as it keeps us as a learner. Some other questions he asked were:

What does innovation look like? In discussing this Marco asked are we talking about nouns (for example the technology, such as SmartBoards) or verbs (such as what the students are doing)?

Another question he asked is what makes someone an expert? Can I look all this knowledge/information up in Google? If so what makes you an expert rather than anyone else who can do this? In a fast changing world, how can anyone be an expert? Is being an expert what you know or what you do? Can we even agree on the definition of an educated person? Is it someone who is resourceful and someone who is connected? Is it someone who collaborates, asks questions, observes things and takes risks?

Marco talked about the fact that there are lots of studies about how students learn (kinesthetic learners, auditory learners, visual learners etc) but he asked the question how do students produce? You can be an auditory learner and a kinesthetic producer for example. How are we catering to the different needs of the students to create/produce?

Although Marco told us to stay with the question, he also cautioned us to never ask questions you can look up the answers to. Perhaps that's the power of asking questions - the answer might not be so obvious - the answer might make us all think - those who are asking the questions and those to whom we are posing the questions.

Photo Credit: Commuter Belt by Jenny Downing


  1. Nice post Maggie, thanks for sharing.

  2. Once again, I wish that I were there with you! It sounds like a really incredible experience with wise speakers and learners. I like the idea of staying away from questions that we can look up the answers to, because that means that there is one correct answer. I'm working hard with my students to help them understand that there often are many solutions to a problem and more than one correct answer. This is a hard concept for them to grasp in the age of standardized testing.