Thursday, February 9, 2012

On curiosity and the joy of learning

I love learning. I find it to be a truly joyous experience. I wasn't always this way though. If you ask my friends from college, they will laugh, and tell you what a miracle it is that I managed to graduate (cum laude, no less) while attending so few classes, and doing so little work. So what changed? Obviously I'd like to think I just got older and wiser, but evidence suggests otherwise. Personally, I think what happened to me was the internet.

The internet has obviously drastically changed the way we interact with information, by making so very much accessible to us, almost anytime, almost anywhere. But that, in itself, is not enough to make us *want* to seek out that information. To read it, to synthesize it into knowledge, into our world-view.

Working in the realm of education (and being a pretty much life-long student who is almost done with her third masters degree), the answer to this little riddle is of vital importance to me. I feel we're on the cusp of an educational revolution, and I want to help shape it. I want to help us storm the right castles, and march on in the right direction.

I recently read an article about Michael Wesch, a professor at Kansas State University, where he talks about fostering a sense of curiosity in students. Let's skip over the part where he coins the term "knowledge-able", which, while cute and fitting, brings back library school nightmares of reading article after article from researchers using quirky acronyms to build their personal brand. (Just "ask" Nick Belkin about "ASK". UGH.)

Aaaaanyway, this article really struck a chord with me.

"It's just not enough anymore to know a bunch of stuff... Instead, we should be concentrating on making them truly knowledge-able. Imagination and curiosity are the heart of that idea; if we have those qualities, learning becomes joyous."

Right? RIGHT?! Many teachers fought (and still fight) the use of calculators in math classes. But others saw this as an opportunity. If students spend less time doing simple calculations (after they truly understand *how* to do them, of course), there's more time to delve into more complex problems and ideas. Graphing calculators especially, can allow for more creative and imaginative assignments, assignments that might actually grab the students attention.

So back to the internet, and why it helped me learn to love learning. Social networks have added something into the information mix, something that is vital to a lot of people: context. Instead of information existing in a void, we can now see who's reading what, and what they think of it. The information now has a personal aspect for us. And also, there's the joy of finding something on our own that we know our networks will enjoy. We like seeing our content shared by others. And it's exciting when discussions happen around that content.

I have so much more to say about this, but I think I may save that for part two, where I can get into what I think the implications of all this are for education. I have thoughts, people. Copious amounts of thoughts. I'm excited for all of us in academia. Things are about to get SO COOL.