Thursday, March 23, 2006

Telling the New Story Post 3: Push Versus Pull Education

I’ve talked a little in our sessions about this idea of push versus pull education.
We are on the cusp of a shift to a new common sense model that will re-shape many facets of our life, including how we identify ourselves, participate with others, connect with others, mobilize resources and learn...Over the past century, we have been perfecting highly efficient approaches to mobilizing resources. These approaches may vary in their details, but they share a common foundation. They are all designed to “push” resources in advance to areas of highest anticipated need. In education, we design standard curricula to expose students to codified information in a pre-determined sequence of experiences...In the past decade, we have seen early signs of a new model for mobilizing resources. Rather than “push”, this new approach focuses on “pull” – creating platforms that help people to mobilize appropriate resources when the need arises...Rather than seeking to constrain the resources available to people, pull models strive to continually expand the choices available while at the same time helping people to find the resources that are most relevant to them. Rather than seeking to dictate the actions that people must take, pull models seek to provide people on the periphery with the tools and resources (including connections to other people) required to take initiative and creatively address opportunities as they arise. Push models treat people as passive consumers (even when they are producers like workers on an assembly line) whose needs can be anticipated and shaped by centralized decision-makers. Pull models treat people as networked creators (even when they are customers purchasing goods and services) who are uniquely positioned to transform uncertainty from a problem into an opportunity. Pull models are ultimately designed to accelerate capability building by participants, helping them to learn as well as innovate, by pursuing trajectories of learning that are tailored to their specific needs.
In a rapidly changing world, where new information is quickly discovered and then just as quickly abandoned as new and better information comes along, giving students a set, “prescribed” curriculum with a 7-year (or more) revision cycle seems ludicrous. If we focus on the “bunch of facts” model of education for 13 years (K-12), how will our students be prepared for a world where a majority of those “facts” are wrong (or at least irrelevant)? In a world where the facts are almost instantly available to anyone, why do we spend so much time “pushing” them into students’ heads and then asking them to spit them back out, hoping that they might need them sometime in the future? I’m not saying that facts aren’t important – they are the building blocks for all the higher order thinking we want our students to do in all subject areas. But we need to give them the opportunity to practice “pulling” information, discovering how to discover the information themselves, and then giving them the tools to dissect, analyze, and then “remix” the information and produce it in a new form themselves – with value added by them – instead of spending the majority of our time “delivering facts.”

From that post by David Warlick referencing the podcast:
I really liked his reference to push/pull learning, and it speaks pretty effectively to the difference between industrial age learning, and creative age learning. When people contributed their muscles to the economy, you wanted to be able to push them along. But when our contributions come from our adaptability and innovation, then you want people who can teach themselves — pulling learning from their experience . . .

In Conclusion:
  1. What we need, is a new vision about education, one that reflects our increasingly digital and networked information environment, with new notions of the basic information skills — literacy,

  2. That reflects a future of vast opportunities, and untold challenges, for which we are preparing our children — where their economic activities will be based far more on their inventiveness, than their ability to perform tasks and retain knowledge,

  3. That reflects a new breed of children, with amazing new learning skills, who are adept at technology, but who desperately need us to teach them how to work the information.
We need to have our students doing science, not learning about how it was done by others. Doing mathematics, not learning about how others did it. Doing reading, writing, history, geography, etc. – not learning about how others have done it. Sure, learning about how others have done it is part of learning how to do it yourself, but it’s not the whole thing. Only if they have practiced and know how to do all these things will they be successful in a world where what needs to be done is constantly changing. Our students need to “know how to know” and “learn how to learn.” They need to be able to pull the information they need, when they need it, and then know what to do with it. We can’t possibly push all the information they are going to need into them – most of it hasn’t been discovered (or invented) yet.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I thought my To-Do/Wish List was a tall order! I completely and whole-heartedly agree, but I know that it's a mixed bag of emotions to get teachers "there." So many people are comfortable doing what they love doing, what they've developed that is so much fun, that they don't want to move outside of that comfort zone. I know I do this at times, as well. Even if we want to move forward and really use technology, but also assess our students so that my teaching is more tailor-made, where do I begin to assess what they know...that matters to me?

    I love these questions. Keep them coming!