Curiosities, Passions, Interests

Are schools developing students that are taking control of their own learning?  What can be done to put students in the drivers seat when it comes to learning?  What barriers stand in the way of developing self-directed learners?

I recently challenged my homebase to spend one class period per week investing in something they were curious about, something they were interested in, something they were passionate about.  The original idea was based on Google’s 20% rule.  Google received a lot of press when it released it’s 20 time project.  Google effectively allowed employees to spend one day per week to work on a side project they were interested in creating.  As a result, Gmail, Google News, Google Talk and other Google products were created from the 20 time project.  I spoke to my students at length about what I hoped would come of our own little project.  Given some free time to discover, research, and invest in curiosities, I was hopeful that students would have something to show after a few weeks.  What I found was disturbing.  My students don’t have any passions, they aren’t curious about anything, and if given the time to invest in something of their choosing, the only thing they can think of is the sport they are currently playing.

Do these results surprise you?  If not, why are schools suffocating student passions, curiosities, and interests?  How can schooling change to support student passions, curiosities, and interests?

This next paragraph is for me as much as it’s for you.

I think this phenomena is related to the amount of low-quality activities we engage our students in throughout the course of the school year.  The pressures to meet the demands of the curriculum force teachers to race through and cover far too many concepts, providing low-quality easy to measure activities that don’t challenge students to think critically or deeply.  In fact, schools provide so many supports and modifications to keep students from failing, we practically forge a path for our students to get an A all the time.

Sorry, I guess I just needed to put my spoon away for a while.  I’m afraid the majority of our students are far underprepared for the competitive world they’re entering.

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