I have been following the mission of the new Mars rover named Curiosity with interest. What I have noticed is the way it is being operated from Earth. Each day the scientists meet to come up with a game plan to send to the rover. They of course have a long term plan and goal, but they adjust the day to day operations based on what they find from the previous day. Something else I noticed is they don’t seem to be in a particular hurry. They are letting their curiosity drive them (and then they drive Curiosity, Ha!).
Exploration is best when it is not driven by schedules. The ability to replan and adjust for changing circumstances is the key to getting the most our of any learning experience. Teachers of course understand this and are constantly having to replan their day. Even so, they have a very limited ability to do this. I remember in High School where we just ran out of time to do certain things so they weren’t taught. Time was priority #1. Learning wasn’t even second I don’t think.
Here are the guidelines in operation today in public school classrooms as I see them in order of priority:
- Don’t cause problems for administration.
- Begin and end class on time.
- Keep order in the classroom and stop kids from misbehaving.
- Present the topic of the day to the class in accordance to the master teaching plan / upcoming standardized test.
- Assess that a certain number of students can pass a test on the material shortly after it was taught.
I can’t think of any others. I admit the list is generalizing but notice there is very little flexibility built in there? You can’t satisfy curiosity without flexibility. The Mars rover drivers let their curiosity be their rule #1. A future learning system will do the same.
Do any teachers want to chime in on these? How would you characterize the operating rules of your classroom?