Andy Carvin posted notes from former govenor of Maine Angus King's aalf.org keynote about the state's 1-to-1 laptop initiative. King discusses the process he went through to get the project rolling and then shares some lessons learned. What really sticks out for me is this.
We should look at law school as a model, because there's too much damn law. Nobody can learn all of it. Instead, you learn how to ask the right questions, identify the issues, and find the law. That's a much better model for kids to learn in a knowledge-rich society. It's a different kind of learning.
This approach, central not just to law school but the entire practice of law, works in any field. It speaks to the whole notion of getting away from teaching basic facts and moving toward teaching ways of thinking. How do historians/scientists/writers think about their world? How do we, as teachers, guide our students through the process King is talking about?
The "Big Question" assignment is one I've used to move students toward this process. Students need to come up with a ridiculously BIG question, like "what is love?", and try to answer it using an I-search process. They begin by breaking the big question down into managable chunks--smaller, more focused questions--and start researching those. Once they have researched their small questions, they start looking at how the information they have found fits into their own experience. As they write their papers, I tell them it isn't about right answers; instead, the answers needs to be right for each person, at this moment, knowing what they know. They just need to support their versions of the right anwer with the information they have discovered.
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