Am I going too?

I was pointed in the direction of Christian Long’s “Future of Learning Manifesto” and its subsequent additions and expansions by visitors and commenter to his blog. One part of it really stands tall for me and lends itself to my work:

10. Nobody Knows the Answer. Get Comfy with the Questions.

One of the most difficult things to do in life is to cede control of a situation for fear of ceding control of our classrooms. A common theme coming across the waves is that in order for us to provide a relevant assessment and a “school 2.0” environment, we have to provide environments that are not controlled in the traditional sense that educators have come to know it. (See also remote access “Chaos Theory”)

And I get it on both sides of the equation. On the traditional side, in order to do what the “Manifesto” points us to do, entire curriculums would need to be re-written, staffs retrained, and students empowered in a way that they have not been before. In my personal situation, the logistics behind doing that are overwhelming. I can’t imagine viewing the directive from the standpoint of someone who has been in the classroom for 20 years or more. This would be just another pendulum swing in the world of educational reform and theory. They have seen it before in the way of phonics v. whole language, or inquiry-based learning and PBL’s v. standards-driven curriculum. and any other of a host of attempts to change the environment in a classroom. How does that teacher become convinced? How does that teacher see value in giving up control in favor of becoming the driver of creative questions? And also, what if the students, they feel, are not capable of asking meaningful questions, or lack a solid enough foundation in basic terminology or facts to conduct relevat research?

What is happening in terms of the read/write web and collaboration is intense and unbelievably mercurial in nature. To be tied down to one method for too long is missing out on 4 or 5 others that pop up to supersede it (see del.icio.us v. diigo v. Google Notebook–diigo for me). And therein lies the key. There are more questions than answers now. Which is best of research?(digging on Grokker right now) What method can I use to find primary source material on a topic? How can I find relevant, credible resources out of the plethora of hits I get back on Google? When I saw Long’s #10 on the list, I sighed because I knew this was the way to go. Get cozy with the “I don’t know, let’s play around and see,” approach. That’s where we get the skeptics; Create a possible task and give them tools that make doing it unbelievably easy.

Malcolm Gladwell spoke about the ideas and actions that lead to a radical shift in social policy, design, and consumer power. That is what we are looking at here. Is it podcasts? Blogs? Wikis? Pink or red iPods? No.

What it will be is something that makes accessing information for classroom teachers accessible and safe, something that makes them fearless and confident in front of a roomful of connected students, and something that lets them be comfortable with “I don’t know.”

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