Monday, December 14, 2015

Future Wise

Sharing a few highlights from Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World by David Perkins.


Likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live: that’s a very useful phrase, but it’s also a bit of a mouthful. So let’s attach a single word to it: lifeworthy, that is, likely to matter in the lives learners are likely to live

The hard fact is that our minds hold on only to knowledge we have occasion to use in some corner of our lives—personal, artistic, civic, something else. Overwhelmingly knowledge unused is forgotten. It’s gone. Whatever its intrinsic value might be, it can’t be lifeworthy unless it’s there

Opportunity cost makes a fundamental point about decision making: when we decide in favor of one course of action, we forgo others that might have generated certain benefits. A cost of the path we choose is loss of benefits from the abandoned paths. With quadratic equations as with anything else, we have to ask not just whether they are nice to understand in themselves but what might have been learned instead

Meanwhile, biological research into the fundamental dynamics of life holds strong prospects of extending the human life span considerably in the course of the next fifty years. What sense would a K–12 or K–16 education make in a world where people live to be, say, 150 years old? Today we speak casually of lifelong learning, but in a few decades, it will likely be so much the norm as hardly to require its own label. Cycles of formal learning as well as enriched processes of on-the-job learning seem destined to become routine

To generalize, multiyear curricula tend to be constructed as journeys toward expertise, with little effort to ask what topics within the discipline speak most powerfully and directly to the lives learners are likely to live.

The bottom line is hardly subtle: the traditional hierarchical structure of education is a rather clumsy vehicle for engaging the rich information and communication affordances of the contemporary world and preparing today’s learners to thrive in that world. In contrast, a flexible network structure embraces the opportunities in a much more expansive and generative manner

We need to ask, for everything from democracy to quadratic equations and for many themes not typically taught at all, “Is this knowledge likely to go somewhere in learners’ lives?” We need to ask, when this topic comes up, “Does it offer insight, does it inform action, and does it inspire ethics?” And as to opportunity, “Is this topic likely to come up often and importantly rather than rarely and trivially

Thus, wondering at provides us with an inspiration and a compass for wondering about the unknown. After all, the unknown has no top and no bottom, no border to the North, South, West, or East

Understanding something means being able to think with what you know about it, not just to know standard answers or do routine procedures accurately and fluently