I recently attended the ECIS (Educational Collaborative for International Schools) Educators Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, with the theme, Cultivating Curiosity.
“Curiosity drives what and how we learn.”
It is through curiosity and personal relevance (another ISP strategy!), that all students, young and old, will be deeply engaged in the learning process. For students to take their own personal paths to learning in school, teachers must create rich environments and multiple learning paths to encourage and nurture curiosity.
The first keynote speaker at the ECIS conference, Dr. William Rankin, highlighted the paradigm shift schools need to make: From teaching and learning as a linear activity, to contextualizing learning within an ecosystem.
In his talk, Rankin pointed out that the more educators and schools try to reduce information into easily “manageable” and discrete chunks, the more we actually reduce engagement, because this “goes against the way our brains were formed to work.” Rankin argues that learning requires an ecosystem, which similar to the world of nature, is Diverse, Relational, Balanced, Torsional, Dynamic and Substantial. Such a learning ecosystem is where relevance serves as a catalyst to stimulate curiosity and engagement.
To illustrate how the lack of relevance can be a mind-numbing experience, Rankin demonstrates how not to teach cooking. Each week the class is informed that they will learn about a different cooking tool: Week one is spoons; week two is knives; week three is pots and pans etc. By the end of the semester students don’t have the time to actually cook. Rankin asks his audience, “How many of you have been in that course?” Sadly, many hands are raised.
So “How do you learn to cook?” Rankin asks, “By cooking! You learn all that information, not first but while you are doing it.”
In the school of the future?
“Always cook from day 1!”