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Divergent thinking, constructivism and dentistry

Stolen from M. Guhlin's Around the Corner blog

From Will Richardson: Here are the new rules:

  • Create your own education.
  • Find problems and solve them. 
  • Be unique. 
  • Make beautiful, useful stuff. 
  • Build a network of really smart people who you will never meet. 
  • Be indispensable. 
  • Do real work that changes the world. 
  • Have a brand. 
  • Share widely and safely. 
  • Collaborate.
  • Add value. 
  • Be a voracious learner. 
  • Tread softly but boldly. 
  • Edit the world.

I don't think most of us want our dentists to be "out of the box" thinkers. I don't believe that when teaching a pilot to fly 747s we encourage a "don't memorize facts, look it up" training. Do we really want the accountants preparing our taxes to take a constructivist route to learning new tax laws? Do we really want an engineer learning how to learn when she designs the bridge we travel over for work each day?

I shudder to think of a world in which hospitals were run like schools: every doctor allowed to do her own "thing" with no accountability or practices based on the best research and information available. Every hospital does not need to be a rearch establishment, gathering data via "action research" related to any spurious brain-fart a teacher might have which could even remotely impact learning.

Children are not rats on which educational experiments should be endlessly run. Until we have a body of evidence, hopefully gather by lab schools or non-commercial researchers, we ought to be following best practices as outlined by our professional organizations.

Educational technology experts may be doing both students and themselves a significant disservice by advocating a single, unproven approach to educational practices.

Mr. Warlick and Mr. Richardson, I am a huge fan and appreciate the challenge. But don't discount the value and honor in learning a craft or a research-based profession and doing it very, very well. I want our schools so serve those who wish to be future plumbers, mechanics, and nurses as well as future politicians, bureaucrats and school administrators. Those folks who need a actual body of knowledge and skills that they can apply reliably and effectively.

Thus endth the rant.

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Reader Comments (5)

Every point made in this post, refuted.

September 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Downes

Thanks Doug!
As we muddle through this period in education, I am reminded of how far the pendulum swings, from a touchy-feely humanist approach to a hard-nosed data-driven approach. I love data, I use it every day in my library. I also love interacting with kids, from helping them find the "just right" book to assisting them in embedding a graph in a Prezi. My statistical data looks good because kids love coming to my library. They love it because they usually learn something new, they get to interact with the staff and their friends in a relaxed environment, and they leave with something valuable, either a new skill, a new book, or a new friend.
OK, so I am going to use Will's list with doctors, since the idea of doctors "doing their own thing" scares the crap out of me. There are a few bits from the list which doctors could certainly benefit:
1. Find problems and solve them - I don't want my doctor to assume he/she knows what is wrong with me; I want him/her to investigate and solve my problem!
2. Build a network - It helps to have a PLN you can bounce ideas off of - especially if you're in healthcare. Relying solely on information learned in medical school (or any school) will invariably leave doctors lacking when new forms of diseases rear their ugly heads or new forms of treatment become available.
3. Do real work that changes the world - Duh - Doctors Without Borders, working in rural, urban, or other underserved areas, doing some good with that medical degree vs. opening ANOTHER plastic surgery center focused on aging baby boomers, any of these efforts might come from attitudes learned in grade school, college, or med school.
4. Collaborate - See #2
5. Add value - hopefully, doctors add value to the hospitals/clinics/private practices in which they work.
6. Be a voracious learner - See #2
7. Edit the world - Medical knowledge is pretty well shared among richer countries, but what about folks practicing in the far flung corners of the world? If physicians took on editing the world (of medical knowledge), what differences could that make in places like sub-Saharan Africa?

Balance the touchy-feely with the data-driven, fact-based education many of us love, and presto! you have engineers, doctors, artists, 747 pilots, politicians, and teachers who value both a strong knowledge base AND the "New Rules".

Thanks for the rant Doug - I have been yelling for balance in an empty room for too long!

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLen

My thoughts are:

1. At the elementary level, I would argue that what is being taught (the ability to read, write, and solve basic math problems) is crucial, and Warlick's slide is less applicable.

2. At the high school level, if the content really isn't that important, and I would argue that in many cases it isn't, then why aren't we changing it to what IS important?? (One example is the current debate about getting away from Calculus and moving toward more widely applicable mathematics.)

September 24, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Hi Stephen,

I genuinely appreciate the comprehensive rebuttal and encourage everyone to read it.

My only reply is that I am happy to let you go to the creative dentists, fly with the constructivist pilots and have your children attend schools with teachers who love to experiment. Must be my suspicious view of human competence!


Hi Len,

See the problem with a rant is there is no nuance! Thanks for providing some balance to my little diatribe with your comment.



And where would put college and grad school about the importance of 'learning how to learn"?


September 26, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

This is nice information blog. Thanks for Sharing.

July 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRussell Mclain

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