Connected learning is good learning. . .

One of my favorite edubloggers is Patrick Higgins—who writes over at Chalkdust 101.  Earlier this summer, Patrick described a new course that he’s helping to develop for the middle school where he works.

While describing the strengths of a set of standards that defined the work of a school he’d once been a part of—and connecting that experience to his work in his current position—-Patrick wrote:

Designing this class forced me to think back to the most effective of those standards, and by far it was connections, and the name for the class was born. In light of reading Siemens post, and in conversations with the teachers of the class, I can see that the term fits. We need students to create links, both mentally and digitally, from what they know already, to what they are trying to know. We are stressing “cognitive leaps” and learning by doing as often as we can, but there are inherent problems with that.

Patrick’s emphasis on the idea of making connections and cognitive leaps in classrooms rang true for me.  Connections are easily the most valuable learning experiences in my own growth—and something I work to make real for my students every day.

Here’s the comment that I left for Patrick:

Patrick wrote:
We need students to create links, both mentally and digitally, from what they know already, to what they are trying to know. We are stressing “cognitive leaps” and learning by doing as often as we can, but there are inherent problems with that.

Oh man, Pat—All I can say is every time I read about the courses that you’re helping to design, I end up more and more jealous of what you’re getting to do!

This statement was absolutely brilliant—stressing the cognitive leaps and connections that students must make between content and ideas is nothing short of best practice and pedagogy.

I know that my mental work is always the most energizing when I can find links between topics of interest to me—and I also know that those links leave me better prepared to function in a world where overlap and “tweeners” are the most successful employees.

Doesn’t Pink talk about this in A Whole New Mind? 

Here’s a quote:

“While detailed knowledge of a single area once guaranteed success, today the top rewards go to those who can operate with equal aplomb in starkly different realms. I call these people “boundary crossers.” They develop expertise in multiple spheres, they speak in different languages, and they find joy in the rich variety of human experience. They live multi lives—because that’s more interesting, and nowadays more effective.” (Kindle Location 1692)

So my question becomes what do you do if your courses—which are unarguably well designed and reflective of the kind of work that should be done to prepare kids for tomorrow—don’t produce immediate results on standardized tests?

Will your school leadership rethink their decision to move in a progressive direction?

Either way, I’m enjoying watching your progress…
Bill

What would your answer be to my critical question?  Would your school leadership support progressive moves in the kinds of learning experiences that you give to your students if there were not clear evidence that those moves had a direct impact on standardized test scores?

Has your work been limited because of our overemphasis on testing as an indicator of effectiveness?

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