Continuous Learning

In the United States, students attend school six hours a day, 180 days a year. At most schools many of those 1,080 hours are lost to assemblies, frazzled teachers trying to get students’ attention, and myriad other miscellaneous distractions. Some researchers suggest that at some schools as much as half of that time is lost.

Conventional thinking about student learning, that it takes place almost entirely in schools, is terribly limited because students spend the vast majority of their time outside of school. How can we promote informal, natural, day-to-day learning over the other 185 days?

Here are some suggestions:

1) Spend time together outside. And pose questions about the natural world. About plants, animals, insects, the weather, the natural world more generally. Watch Animal Planet. Plant a garden. Ride bikes. Continually ask questions that defy simple yes or no answers. Why do teens swear so much? What purpose does it serve? Why do people litter? What’s the best way to prevent people from littering? Why?

2) Go to the closest public library and check out whatever books strike your fancy. And then read. Tell others about the books you most enjoy. Right now I’m digging The Little Way of Ruthie Leming by Rod Dreher. And I’m excited about what’s next in the queue, Nate in Venice by Richard Russo. My students often tell me they like to read, but not what’s assigned in school. Remind young people that the summer is a golden opportunity to decide for themselves what to read.

3) Encourage young people to write about what they’re doing or reading in a diary or in letters to extended family members. Or to write poems, stories, whatever’s most fun.

4) Plan a camping trip and thereby combine one and two—unplug and read in a natural setting.

5) Work some of what’s going on in the world into dinner conversations. Talk about Nelson Mandela’s fragile health, why young adults are cycling more and driving less, and the pros and cons of the evolving immigration bill.

6) Pose word problems in the car. The total distance of our trip is x, we’ve gone y, how much further do we have to go. If gas is $3.70 and we get 40 mpg, how much is this trip costing in gas? What if maintenance adds 10% more, then what’s the total? If I make $18/hour, how much time will it take me to pay for this car trip? Of course, adjust for age. The kitchen is a primo place for informal math learning too. Teach fractions while baking. Ask a young helper to write down what the recipe would look like if it was doubled. Or halved.

What other ideas do you have for promoting continuous learning that is a natural part of day-to-day life?

Of course the other option is to continue delegating teaching and learning to credentialed teachers. In which case you can just count down the days to the start of school in September.

February 2013 Awards

Improbable sentence. “Ex-NBA star Dennis Rodman hung out Thursday with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un on the third day of his improbable journey with VICE to Pyongyang, watching the Harlem Globetrotters with the leader and later dining on sushi and drinking with him at his palace.

Personal finance vid of the month. Helaine Olen, author of “Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry“.

Apocalypse sign. CTA Digital’s iPotty with Activity Seat for iPad.

Noteworthy death. Mr. Matthew Crowley.

Weightroom t-shirt. “Gardening. It’s cheaper than therapy.”

Non-conformist. Photos.

Wasted talent. Professional sports division. My favorite excerpt, “Justify My Glove”.

Word—sequester.

Social media app—SnapChat. This news story gives it real cred. Maybe they’ll make a movie.

Consumer purchase, minimalist division.

IMG_0212

Nature pic—Holden Village (taken by La Fuerza)

Near Stehikin, WA

Near Stehikin, WA

Weekend get-away—Holden Village

Sitting in the bus I was flashing back to when I was a high school water polo legend traveling to away games.

Sitting in the bus I was reminiscing about when I was a SoCal high school water polo legend traveling to away games wit da’ boys. Lake Chelan water visibility, easily 25′.

Most widely read post. The Link Between Walking or Cycling to School and Concentration.