I was thinking about connectivism and classical pedagogy. We’ve all suffered through the boring class with the boring topic with the boring teacher, boring us to death. I’m an engineer and in my youth, my experience with history classes was just that. Boring. As I get older and closer to the end, my fascination with history has become much greater and I find myself reading and studying all kinds of history. What’s different? I want to study history and as with any self-directed learner I choose topics that interest me. The important comment is I study, sometimes intently and deeply, topics I want to learn about, but I’m not learning history in a complete sense. In fact, my history interests are focused on what happened in the US and Europe from about 1890 to 1920. That’s pretty narrow and I at times feel quite ignorant of the history of the rest of the world and the rest of time, but not guilty enough to do anything about it. My little world of history is fun, engaging and important to me and that’s why I do it.
That’s great, but I wonder if the educator who selected what should be studied in history in my classes, the person who designed the text book that covered those topics, and the teacher who tried to get us to learn those topics had something up their sleeve. I wish they had some skill in teaching the subject, but I do believe they were trying to get us to know enough to be dangerous about history so that at some time in the future we would at least remember why World War II started or why Constantinople is now called Istanbul (I’m currently in Turkey on holiday!).
My question is not that self-directed learning is bad or wrong or doesn’t lead to rounded well educated citizens. My question is how do we ensure we have well educated students when they are creating their own paths of learning? I don’t know the answer to that question. I’m not even sure if it’s a valid question.
Wouldn’t we rather have engaged and excited learners even though their breadth of knowledge may not be as broad as classically has been expected? Would those excited and engaged learners who have acquired a narrow but deep understanding of some topic or topic area be less educated than our classical students who slept through most of the history classes and were tested on the dates of events?
p.s., I’m not picking on history and I ask the reader to insert their favorite boring topic in high school or college.