Monday, March 22, 2010

Learning and the Twilight Zone

I wish I could say that I came up with this comparison, but thank you Joseph P. Allen & Claudia W. Allen for their commentary in Education Week in March! Their commentary highlights the fact that 'we' know more about how an adolescent's brain works today than ever before. In fact, 'we' know that
"adolescents are primed for action, stimulation, and relevance".

Yet, have we used this information to cause effective change?

So, the comparison between learning in The Twilight Zone:
...surgeons spend endless years operating only on cadavers, never getting to operate on live humans. Then extend that so that all adults in this world only work at simulated versions of their jobs. Lawyers would endlessly argue only mock cases, plumbers would repair only fake leaks, and teachers would teach only to videocameras in empty classrooms.


What would happen if we left learning in the Zone?
Our sense of meaning and intrinsic motivation in this world would quickly fade. Over time, we'd become bored, lethargic, and disengaged. Said differently, we'd come to look much like the teenagers sitting in our high school classrooms.


Hmmm, that sounds an awful lot like what we have now in many area. How can learning have optimal impact? How can we increase engagement for adolescents - without losing structure that addresses content standards, differentiation and learning development? Once again, I don't have any great answers, but I do know why looking for them is so important: to avoid the Twilight Zone.

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