It’s not such a great stretch to imagine everyone reading this post has a cell phone right? How many numbers do you have programmed into it right now? I have about 20. Now how many of them do you have memorized. I have 4. I don’t even know my brother’s cell number off hand.
Does it matter? Only when I forget my phone.
The Extended Mind
Andy Clark and David Chalmers wrote a book called Extended Mind. Basically it it talks about how people’s brains can process information from external storage sources. This means that while we have a lot of things in our memory, we can also function perfectly well with things stored outside of our brains, such as in cell phones.
This didn’t used to be such as big deal because we didn’t have much information we could readily access. Now we do. The cell phone is just a start. Turn it into a smart phone and the Extended Mind becomes globally connected.
Just In Time Learning
This in turn leads to Just In Time Learning. This is learning how to do something right before doing it. I had an example of this a month ago. I had to replace my kitchen faucet as the old one was leaking. I had no idea how to do it, but I watched some youtube videos, went out and bought a special wrench and poof. It’s installed. (and not leaking now). The ability to do this has exploded over the last 10 years. In the future, once you combine it with Augmented Reality, you will be able to have a virtual guide show you the steps as you do it.
So how does this connect with Education? First it’s important to remember that schools are not a requirement for learning. Our students learn every day outside of our four walls. The difference is, that kind of learning is something they choose to do. Their ability to learn things on their own is increasing every day. I think their ability to seamlessly integrate this external information into their mind is one of the things that make them Digital Natives.
I think the way to deal with this in the classroom is to acknowledge it’s there. The traditional classroom method is:
1. Teacher presents information.
2. Students try to memorize it.
3. Teacher presents an assessment of how much is retained.
4. Repeat 1-3.
I think students get frustrated with this because they can just Google a lot of this information when they need it. For example: Why teach state capitols? I had to memorize that in school when I was a kid. Why? How does that help me in my current job? More importantly, I can find out in 0.41 seconds. (that’s how long google said it took)
Students are perfectly happy to leave this kind of information in the Extended Mind. So what do we do as teachers?
Simple: Get the next question.
The Next Question
New classroom method:
1. Students get the topic of discussion the day before to start doing research on it.
2. Every child has access to the net via smart phone or laptop or tablet.
3. In class the teacher assumes a certain level of pre-knowledge or Extended Mind knowledge.
4. Teacher asks students about the information and solicits student questions. These are the next questions.
5. Students are divided up in working groups. They start to answer the questions (using Just In Time learning and the Extended Mind). The teacher acts as a roving guide.
6. Students create projects to present to the class. They are engaged and have ownership of their work.
This going beyond facts and data into thinking and researching is how to engage students who have access to an abundance of information. Some people will complain about how they don’t have computers in their classrooms or a good connection or their schools are blocking things. This_will_change_rapidly. Don’t fret on the tech. Think about how to use it because it will just show up one day. Not every kid has to have a smart phone when they work in groups btw.
So what do you think?
This was sparked from this excellent article below.