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The future belongs to the curious

Written by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl
July 24, 2012

An announcement that Skillshare would be on the Future of Education series reminded me to think more about Skillshare (which is an online platform for peer learning like P2PU). It is a project that aims to democratize learning by enabling “anyone to learn anything from anyone, anywhere.” Setting aside hyperbole and the questions about quality teaching which make us in the teaching professions say “hmmmm”, I find Skillshare a spirited and generous project to put people in touch with each other for learning. It fits the connected learning model and partially answers the question of how technology and connected learning can intersect. 

So I visited their site and watched this video: The Future Belongs to the Curious. I found it both moving (because I’m very sentimental and easily moved), and provocative in terms of raising questions of practice for me. I actually think that in an internet age, the future does belong to the curious in some sense. Better both to be curious and to have skills to pursue your curiosity. But skills with no curiosity (or interests or passions or need-to-know) is not very useful or fulfilling. In current-traditional policy, there is a whole standards and assessment apparatus around skills, of course. Not so much around curiosity. When alt-ed folks talk about school reform and improving practice, we talk a lot about how we might want to avoid killing curiosity. It’s the classic critique of schooling — youth come to school inherently curious and engaged learners then through mind deadening, extrinsically motivated, dummy routines we squash it.

But then there’s the other side…awakening curiosity and engagement. That’s the magic part. I have lots of questions about the magic part.

Question: Does the future belong to the one with the capacity to engage? Is the essential learner’s skill the ability to will oneself into the curious, inquiry mode that makes deep learning possible? Can we both work to figure out how to engage students (like artful teachers have always done) and work to figure out how to teach students to be ‘self-engagers” and to embrace the questions (as we say in teacher-research circles)? This issue seems to me to be central to the practice of connected learning.

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