University of Nothing – Part II

My previous post titled University of Nothing, generated a ton of meaningful, insightful, and thoughtful response.

J.T O’Donnell of adds some tremendous value and insight to this subject as she draws some parallels between my post and that of Sir Ken Robinson‘s new book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. In her post:

However, I put my money on those who understand the simple truth to getting on track professionally: a discovery learning approach to finding a career that leverages a person’s own unique intelligence is the best way to find what they’re looking for. When put together, Reich’s and Robinson’s thoughts on learning and intelligence unlock the secret to finding professional success.

While I completely agree with this assessment, I would take this one step further:

When put together, Reich’s and Robinson’s thoughts on learning and intelligence unlock the secret to finding professional and PERSONAL success.

So what would the University of Nothing actually look like? I briefly outlined how the process might look if it were applied in an institutional setting:

Here are a few common themes I’ve noticed and how they could be applied to my University of Nothing (commented in Seth Godin’s Triiibes):

  1. Identify a general area of study (math, electronics, science, English, etc)
  2. Define a project, task, or end goal that is too hard for the students. (ie. prove a math theorem, build a robot, write a simple web application, write an essay using certain allegory or prose, etc)..just make it hard. And if they don’t like it, let them suggest a different end goal. One that intrigues them (within the same subject)
  3. Outline certain checkpoints for the students, and have them work towards each checkpoint (proof, concept, approach, methodology, etc). Build the approach so it forces analytical thinking and independence.
  4. Meet with the students at each checkpoint and discuss how they got there. Offer multiple suggestions for next steps without giving them a definitive answer.
  5. Review final product and discuss the various elements. Once the student has reached this point, you can take a more traditional approach to teaching (what I call cram-sorption), because by this point, the student will know the pain points, and will look to learn what they lacked in the process. They will most likely retain the information at the end of the process, than from the initial onset.

Teachers can help facilitate the learning process, and guide along the way, but at the end of the day, it’s all on that person to know how to get things done.

Bottom line: Education reform is needed and with question marks lingering over the economy, government, or society as a whole, 2009 may be the year that we see some of this reform. Whether or not it comes directly from government and the new Obama administration, private schools, or new and innovative startups, a change will occur because it has too and because people are fed up with this broken system.

Bailout in the financial sector, bailout in the auto sector, next…bailout in the education sector.

A complete revision of how we teach our children is long overdue. Whenever I go to school events I can’t help but notice what an unispiring environment these buildings are. – Bodo Albrecht

For those of you that haven’t seen Sir Ken Robinson speak, I highly recommend watching this:

My primary teaching goal is teaching folks how to think. I don’t care what they’re learning; the process is the real value. – Joel D Canfield

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