Exploring in Today's Schools

Learning by Exploring is usually implemented in today's schools by giving "research assignments" to students. Students are asked to go to the library, research a topic, and write a report. This is a good concept: Give students the opportunity to discover what they might find interesting, and then have them organize what they find into a coherent report. When students are able to research a topic they genuinely find interesting, this method works quite well. But students often are denied the right to pursue topics that might interest them and instead are told what books to read, or worse, what point of view to take. The topics they pursue are frequently assigned to them because of the content to be learned despite the fact that the act of discovery and reporting is itself the important issue.

Allowing students to discover and report has its flaws, but if it is employed correctly, it can be quite effective. However, the difficulty in accessing information is something that should be pointed out. For years, children were taught to memorize the Dewey Decimal System, as if the object of study were the library itself. Research methods are taught so students will become good at finding what they need. There is a place for this lesson, of course: finding what you need in a world where information in books is classified according to bizarre enumeration schemes is a tremendous undertaking. But why do you really need to know this?

We don't need to teach students the mechanics of finding obscurely classified information. We need to make information available, readily and simply. We need to create easily explorable video or text data bases. The idea is to get information to students in such a way that they can consider lots of ideas and not have to learn anything about the art of finding those ideas.

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What Is Next?

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