"Cracking the 'Native' Information Experience

David Warlick’s “Cracking the ‘Native’ Information Experience” at the District 219 Technology Conference in Skokie, Illinois today offered educators insight into working with the amazing young people who are coming into our schools. 
These kids amaze the old teachers because they have abilities and dispositions unknown when the teachers were students. The kids have expertise on devices that only existed in science-fiction a generation ago. Even Generation Y teachers are amazed at the skills and attitudes of the next generation, which does not know a non-wired existence. What should educators do to help them learn? AS he put it, how can schools “hack” into their culture to create “effective and relevant learning experiences”?
Warlick offered four traits that an effective 21st century should have to connect with this generation of learners. The successful curriculum will:

  • feel responsive (in which the learning “talks back” to the learner; as in writing with a real audience or projects with actual application, I think Warlick is saying that students need to feel as if it’s worth responding to when he describes their native experience as “responsive”
  • provoke conversation  (with information abundance, human inquisitiveness is properly at a premium; we need to let students direct more of their learning); “Google has transformed us into a question-asking culture,” he avers. Life is a game to them, with goals and rules. How can I use rules to achieve goals? is a question they like to be asked.
  • demand personal investment (learning should be worth something to learners. They were weaned on games, today’s learners need to see how they can “fail forward” and “level up” as they do in their video games; learners need to be motivated intrinsically to put forth their best efforts since they are used to seeing how time invested leads to goals; examples include flash mob performers and WoW players or students contributing to a book from which they can gain value–he used a biology teacher’s classes who created an expert guide to a dissection activity)
  • be guided by safely-made mistakes (Educators need to “dare students to make mistakes” because without them, there can be no learning. And yet traditional educators are mistake-phobes, precisely the wrong stance when you wish to promote growth in cognition and creativity. A resonant question of Warlick’s:  “can we be playful enough to give ourselves permission to get it wrong?” If so, we can look forward to  more inventive thinking and consequent productivity growth.)

At the end of such a curriculum, Warlick states, learners would be “educated” to teach themselves and team up with others to accomplish great things. This education, he said, is not “a race to the top,” but “joyfully mastering the future.”

“Joyfully mastering the future.” I’ll take that over the zero-sum games of Obama/Duncan. Their “Race to the Top” has much in common with The Hunger Games when you think about it.  Warlick’s vision, on the other hand, is humane and practical.  

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