There was a movie a few years ago called the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. It wasn’t a good movie but there was a scene in it I liked which I wanted to share with you.
Forward to time 1:39. In it, Alan Quartermain is teaching Tom Sawyer how to shoot. They talk for a bit but notice what Quartermain says at about 2:20; he talks about picking the exact time to shoot. You have to wait for the exact right moment.
Since I found out I am going to be a father next year I have been giving some thought to our son’s education. Well, to honest I am thinking about lots of things but education in particular. His due date is on February 14th. I realized that if I enrolled him into the public school system, I would be able to look ahead and say that in 7 years, 6 months, 14 days and 12 hours from his birth he will be in school listening to a lecture about Verbs in English class. He will get exactly 2 days on this topic, he will get to do some worksheets, and then he will get a test on the material.
Of course I have no idea what he will actually be learning on that day but understand there is a plan for that day already. This is horrifying. How do they know that is the right time for him to learn that topic and why doesn’t the system care?
So when is the best time to learn something? When you are curious about it. They call these “teachable moments”. The best parents do this all the time. An event happens, the child is curious about it and the parent makes a lesson out of it. I submit that sort of learning is far more effective than an impersonal lecture at 7:30am with a class of 30 other bored kids.
Online learning doesn’t suffer from this problem as much because students have a bit of flexibility in when they want to learn a topic. Not much, but some. Flipped classrooms have even less but it’s still better than lecture in the classroom.
Curiosity leads to interest. Interest leads to inquiry. Inquiry leads to learning. Curiosity is a fragile flower though and only happens at certain times. An optimum learning system would function when the student is ready, not when the system says they are ready.