I went to the CoSN Conference in Washington DC this week. In the course of two hours, I had the opportunity to see two diametrically opposed speakers, Gary Stager and Daniel Pink. At least they would have you believe they are diametrically opposed. I don’t really get it.
Gary Stager blogged this week about how Daniel Pink’s book, A Whole New Mind, is the worst book ever. Harsh words. He must have very good reason for attacking a man who in many ways embraces the same principles that Stager embraces. In his book, Pink talks about the need for more creative thinking, synthesis level thinking, and play in our lives if we are going to be successful in the future. Stager spoke about Why Papert Matters (referring to the great educator, Seymour Papert). He spoke about constructionism, the theory that students will be more deeply involved in their learning if they are constructing something that others will see, critique, and perhaps use. Through that construction, students will face complex issues, and they will make the effort to problem solve and learn because they are motivated by the construction. Sounds like they are barking up the same tree. If we are going to engage our students in tackling more complex issues, doesn’t it make sense that we should engage both sides of their brain so they can think both algorithmically and heuristically? Don’t we need to provide opportunities for students in the area of gaming if we are going to maximize their potential to think creatively, problem solve, and feel engaged? Stager might argue that it is the creating of the game that is more powerful than the playing of the game. I won’t argue that point, but there is room for both I think.
My point in all of this is that both men are arguing for change. Let’s stop teaching rote memorization and lower level thinking skills, and let’s start challenging our students to think deeply about important topics. Let’s help them solve complex problems that matter to the world outside the classroom. Let’s help them think, try new ideas, fail, rethink, and come up with new solutions. The message to get us there can take on many perspectives, but the message is still clear: We need to teach differently, with an emphasis on problem solving, constructing meaning, and effective communication.