itscool!: a new approach to learning
itscool! is about replacing control with structure in education: based on research into values, the positive effect of autonomy on intrinsic motivation and the vital importance of social networks and connectedness in schooling.
What, When and How?
“Student development is multidimensional rather than sequential, and prerequisite learnings cannot be conceptualized as neatly packaged units of skills or knowledge”. Sadler (1989)
Research clearly shows that people do not learn in the same way, at the same speed or in the same order and yet we seem to apply the metaphor of the assembly line to learning in school dictating what, when and how learning is done.
Also a wide range of research demonstrates that autonomy increases intrinsic motivation and that grading is a block to this and yet it remains the central focus and mechanism of school.
Further research also shows that learning is richer, and goes deeper when approached in collaborative groups while much school focus remains on the individual
Freedom or Control
Thus there remains a wide division between what research shows creates the best learning conditions and what is applied in many learning institutions. My conclusion is that school is about control: to create obedient citizens in order to maintain the existing structure, rather than true education that will create autonomous, free-thinking, creative individuals who can help the evolution of society.
The Aim of Education
For me, one of the central aims of education is to develop personal freedom: to provide the tools that allow students to question, articulate ideas and compare viewpoints: to articulate and communicate thoughts. This requires personal engagement rather than passive acceptance. School may encourage passivity before the system, but digital tools and the Internet can also create passivity with the seduction of constant novelty, diversion, amusement and infinite quantities of information without structure.
Thus itscool is about replacing control with structure and developing personal, rather than external, discipline. To provide the help and guidance to choose relevant information of good quality for what they need to learn for the aims they have in life and to clearly articulate these aims and to pose the relevant questions.
“Here is the point: once you have learned how to ask questions – relevant and appropriate and substantial questions – you have learned how to learn and no one can keep you from learning whatever you want or need to know” Postman, Weingartner (1969)
To quote one of my students:
“I would like to encourage this approach because it is like a real group project in a real situation and we learned more in a week than we usually learn in a month”.