Brian Lamb has a new post up that was inspired by meeting Dr Sugata Mitra. For those who’ve not heard of Dr Mitra’s “Hole in the Wall” project, Brian has the best links (including the TED Talk on the subject).
This is the interesting point for me:
Dr. Mitra is convinced that these methods cannot work for adults. Based on my own instinct and experience, I have to reluctantly agree with him. Why not? And what would adults need to unlearn in order to learn the way these kids do? I again find myself thinking that the teaching of skills is less important than changing attitudes – but I have no idea how best to do so.
Abject Learning: The hole in the wall: the holes in my thinking and my life.
I think this does work for adults, but perhaps we don’t recognize it. If there’s a difference between kids and adults, it’s the driver. A kid sees something new and says “Ooo, what’s this? Can I play with it?” An adult says, “Oh, great. Can I avoid this for the moment while I deal with the urgent problems of the day?”
The difference is that a kid will see how this new thing — whether it’s an idea, a device, or a process — can be adopted, adapted, or otherwise integrated into his or her life. They’ll poke at it a little bit to see if there’s anything interesting there and then make a decision. An adult will have to be shown that it’s useful before they’re willing to invest the time to learn about it. For many adults (and I’m not sure that maybe it’s “most” adults), the demands on time and attention are so overwhelming that they just can’t add another thing without dropping something. Yet, when they need to know something new, they need to know it in a hurry. How to buy a car? How to finance a house? What are the employment regulations in my new state? How can I cut calories, reduce fat, get the doctor off my case, and not want to lay down in traffic?
I’m not sure that Brian isn’t right about the dichotomy between skills and attitudes, but I also wonder if the issue is that we’re so tied up in teaching “core competencies” and “required knowledge” that we forget to teach people how to learn and how important it is to be constantly scanning the horizon for new things to learn about.