By and large, formal schooling is set up to push learning onto students. Adults decide what they need to learn and when they will learn it. Students show up and (most?) take notes and complete exercises.
Contrast that with learning that students pull because they have a reason to learn it. Push vs. pull terminology is used in marketing and business — but I wonder how we can design schools so that more of the learning is pulled on by the students rather than pushed on them. We’ve created this whole system of assessments, grading and credentialing as a sort of less-than-authentic way to motivate students to learn. Are there better ways?
One of the more practiced ways to have students draw on information when they need it is to set up a well-designed inquiry. If done well, this is what sets project-based, problem-based and experiential learning apart from traditional lecture or skill drills. Is there room to think bigger about this?
And are young people already moving learning in this direction thanks to the World Wide Web?
Early studies of MOOCs (Mass Open Online Courses) reveal that students use them more as a learning resource than as credentialing. An average of 4% of registered users actually complete the course. Some may say this is a failure for MOOCs. But New Yorker blogger Michael Guerriero speculates that:
“Students may treat the MOOC as a resource or a text rather than as a course, jumping in to learn new code or view an enticing lecture and back out whenever they want, just as they would while skimming the wider Web.”
Could this be one of the ways that today’s technology transforms learning? It’s hard to remember what we did when we were curious about something before there was Google. I hope we will move in the direction of students pulling on learning because they have a personal interest in gaining the knowledge or the skill, sort of like when we type something into the Google search engine. How can we leverage technology to move learning more in this direction?