How smart can we be?

While reading the Anti Education Era by see, I was intrigued by his thoughts. Although sometimes it may feel negative, he does not sugarcoat the problems that many of us ignore. After reading the whole book, the following quote struck me as a wicked problem  in education..

“For some young people, lack of meaningful learning in school can be ameliorated via learning out of school. For all children there are twenty-first-century skills that are, at least today, more often developed out of school that in it. These are skills like the following: ability to engage in collaborative work and collective intelligence where the group is smarter than the smallest person in it; creativity and innovation; ability to deal with complexity and to think abut and solve problems with respect to complex systems; ability to find and marshal evidence and to revise arguments in the face of evidence; the ability to produce with digital media and other technologies and not just consume their content; and the ability to avoid being a victim of social forces and institutions that are creating a more competitive, stressful, and unequal world (Gee, 2013, p. 202).

The skills mentioned are needed essential for our children to be prepared for the future. The world is constantly changing and how it will be in 10 years is a complete mystery. If we do not provided them with the skills for today, they will not be able to use the tools of tomorrow.  

What limitations prevent us from solving big complex problems smartly?

Not understanding how the human brain works is the biggest limitation that we have. The way we teach does not take in to consideration what the brain can and cannot do. Our brains are not programmed to memorize and regurgitate information, so why is this what we expect from our students to do exactly this. Brains are good at relating their thinking and problem solving, they are not good at thinking outside of specific contexts in terms of pure generalities and bare abstractions” (Gee, 2013, p. 40).  We are faced with complex problems every day, but we do not expose our students to complex problems. By gaining more experience, students will not be better at memorization, but will develop skills that matter such as being better problem solvers and critical thinkers.

How can an awareness of these limitations help us to behave more intelligently in the face of overwhelming complexity?

Knowledge of how the brain operates will allow us to no longer see the above as limitations, but more of a way to better structure our teaching and learning. There is no need for people to be experts of individual subjects. With such a global and interconnected world, we need to develop global minds in order to deal with the complex problems we face.

 How can we solve complex problems smartly?

“We have seen that humans can be smart for practical ends when they use the circuit of reflective action (Gee, 2013, p. 159).  By getting help from mentors and becoming a mentor to others, this reflexive circuit can function. As mentioned in the quote above, when in groups, the intelligence of group is better then all members, because it contains information and resources from all of them. People also need to see that our brains and tools only work to their greatest ability when we learn how to use them effectively and create what Gee calls a “synchronized intelligence” (Gee, 2013, p. 171). 

How do these idea connect to Wicked Problems and problems of practice?

We are not computers who can store facts accurately; therefore, we need to focus more on the thought of our students and not their ability to memorize. Our mind can help us make sense of the world through connections but only if we are able to explore and create. “The sorts of physical spaces that lead to creativity tend to be ones where chance encounters can take place, often from people from different unexpected backgrounds (Gee, 2013, p. 193)“ The space could be referred to as a MakerSpace, where people come together as a community to tinker and play. Learning together can help prevent many of the wicked problems we discussed in class such as lack of innovation and failure due to the way some classes and schools are structured.

We know why our schooling system can sometimes fail. Now we need to use what we know and change it. 

Gee, J.P. (2013). The anti-education era: Creating smarter students through digital learning. New York: Palgrave MacMillan

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