Who dares to teach must never cease to learn. ~ John Cotton Dana

Are we asking our students to STOP learning?

I’m sure the immediate response of every educator would be a resounding  NO.  Our job is to foster learning, move learning forward, create learning environments …we are about starting, and continuing learning not stopping it. 

However we work in classrooms where resources are limited.  Often there is only 1 teacher available for 25 plus students.   There are only so many books.  There is only so much time to cover the curriculum.  There are often demand on our attention and time that fall outside of the learning agenda.  For all of these reasons we are often forced to ask students to put their learning on hold…if not stop it all together while they compete for resources.  

That is a topic for next year.  STOP

Today’s lesson is on page 43.  Turn to that page and do only questions 4 and 5.  STOP

We will not have time for you to explore that.  STOP

If you want to borrow that book put your name on the request list and when it is free you can borrow it. STOP

You will have to wait until I have time to come sit with you.  STOP

As long as student knowledge acquisition is limited to books, and the one teacher in the classroom there will always be a need for learning to STOP.   Students will need to stop while they wait for the attention of the teacher.  They will need to stop while they wait for the book.  They will need to stop when they get to the end of the book.  They will need to stop because learning is too big of a job for students to do completely on their own. 

In my video interview with Dean Shareski last week he mentioned what I believe is a monumental change in learning today- it no longer has to stop.  It no longer has to stop because the way the world contains our information has changed.  No longer are books, or the single teacher in the classroom  the only containers of knowledge students can access.  The internet can instantly connect learners with ideas, knowledge, and people in ways that were not possible in the past.    In his  book  Too Big to Know, David Weinberger states that “our medium can now “handle far more ideas and information, and now that it is a connective medium (ideas to ideas, people to ideas, people to people), our strategy (for acquiring knowledge) is changing.” (p.21).  

As our strategies for acquiring knowledge change, we as teachers need to change the way we look at learning.  We can NOT limit it to us or the books. 

Technology can allow our students to continue, extend and connect their learning every day.  They can posse questions and instantly access information.  They can watch videos, read websites, and connect with others around the world. Technology can completely changed the way our students can access information and acquire knowledge.  We as educators need to reflect that change in our classrooms, in the way we teach and in the opportunities we provide our students.  By so doing we will allow our learners to GO!

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Comments on: "Does Learning Have to Stop?" (9)

  1. Nice post on an interesting perspective. Whenever we control learning, we are not just guiding it — we’re guiding it away from where it would have gone. And who knows where learning might lead if we trust our students to take us there? We’ve long asked our students to trust us, that we know what we’re doing and we’re going to take them to a good place. Perhaps, now, the question is being turned back on us as educators. The learner can legitimately ask, “Will you trust me? Follow me? I’ll take us both to a good place.”

  2. Sounds like you would like to come down to the other end of the hall and enjoy the philosophies and direct of the other learning priority of our division. ;)

    • I am hoping that I can do both. I would love to hear about what is going on down the hall. Then I can try to find a way to make it work in my elementary world.

  3. I’d argue that many of the practices which would let our students continue learning do not depend on technology, but more specifically on our use of it. We give students a textbook, and use it almost exclusively for passive learning opportunities, but what if we had a library of textbooks available in any course, and we let students continue learning on a particular point, if they were so inclined? Obviously today, this library of textbooks is the Internet, and the ability to find additional information on practically any topic is unparalleled, but we could have quite easily built different systems with our old pencil and paper technologies, but we simply chose not to.

  4. Trying to encourage students to explore reading and writing when school naturally stops – a.k.a 11 days from now. One student started a horse blog. Another started one from the perspective of her dog. But the reluctant writers…

    • Hi Janet, are you thinking about encouraging your students to comment on each others’ blogs? What are their thoughts?

      I know that pageviews and comments are highly motivating when I blog. The conversations and thinking sparked by commenters get me and other readers thinking as well, so I also get to think critically about others’ perspectives.

      • I agree that comments and discussions can be highly motivating. I also find that having an authentic audience can sometimes make even the most reluctant writer want to write. There is something empowering about knowing that your thoughts matter to others.

  5. So true! As long as we (teachers) hold onto knowledge as something only we possess we deprive our students of the excitement of searching for answers to the questions they have, which are often different from the questions we ask. As I read your post, I was thinking: “Yes, this would be very easy to implement in a middle or high school environment but what about in the early grades?” How do we support teachers who believe their job is to train, train, train those little ones into schooling? How do we reinvent our role as more of a guide that provides the tools and the encouragement (and I see this as an active not a passive role) to help our youngest students develop and sustain a passion for learning? What are some small steps teachers of young children can take to help their students become independent learners who recognize that knowledge is everywhere? Make sense?

  6. Too often, we act as a funnel or a filter for our students when we need to act as a facilitator instead. Thanks for a thought-provoking post.

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