Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer Unlearning

"At every crossroads on the path that leads to the future, tradition has placed 10,000 men to guard the past." —Maurice Maeterlinck

I've spent the summer reading, gardening, and enjoying the outdoors; now, there are just a few more unstructured days left until the new school year begins. How can I bring the myriad thoughts and ideas I've pondered over the summer back into the classroom? Simple in theory, but challenging in practice: I plan to unlearn.
Image courtesy: MorgueFile

Unlearn... ?

We no longer live in an analog, textbook world; we are digital, we are hyperconnected. Yet, much of our public school system is still structured according to outdated models and traditions, many of which are hopelessly broken. Institutional inertia is powerful, and change is slow and/or unwelcome.

To move forward in the 21st century will require tremendous change, a daunting and downright scary process. A good place to start is by unlearning—rethinking some of our "traditions," questioning their perceived validity ("Why are we doing this *this* way?"), and finally letting go of the past. To move forward it is imperative that we quickly unlearn, lest we become further mired in wasted time and energy.

On my personal list, I would like to unlearn (or continue unlearning) the following:
  • Technology restrictions and limitations
  • Grades: "Did I get an 'A'?" "Is this for a grade?" "Is this right?"
  • Staff meetings
  • Teacher-centered conference nights
  • 45-minute class periods
  • The "scientific method"
  • Memorizing and standardized testing
  • Homework

Is there anything you would like to unlearn? Will you join me in unlearning?

I was inspired into thinking more about unlearning after reading two posts on the What Ed Said education blog:

10 Things Teachers Should Unlearn
  1. Teachers know all the answers.
  2. Teachers have to be in control of the class.
  3. Teachers are responsible for the learning.
  4. Students are obliged to respect teachers.
  5. Learning can be measured by a letter or a number.
  6. Teachers should plan activities and then assessments.
  7. Learners need to sit quietly and listen.
  8. Technology integration is optional.
  9. Worksheets support learning.
  10. Homework is an essential part of learning.

10 Things Parents Should Unlearn
  1. Learning is best measured by a letter or a number.
  2. Product is more important than process and progress.
  3. Children need to be protected from any kind of failure.
  4. The internet is dangerous for children.
  5. Parents and teachers should discuss students without the learner present.
  6. Homework is an essential part of learning.
  7. The school is responsible for the child’s entire education.
  8. Your child’s perspective is the only one.
  9. Learning looks the same as when you went to school.
  10. Focus on (and fix) your child’s shortcomings, rather than their successes.

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