Many members of my digital PLN have a blog post category dedicated to thoughts they have in their head, that they need to just “get out into the open.” They need to write down their thoughts in order to know what they are even thinking. My friend Bo Adams uses Process Posts to collect his thoughts that he is still marinating on. Will Richardson has his On My Mind category where he writes about fresh ideas and things that are, well, on his mind! But often these ideas aren’t completely formed yet, and the post itself is like a testing ground to see if the idea will stick. Gary Stager uses Beta Posts as his trial run, with the disclaimer that he might change his idea later on as he thinks more about it, and gets feedback from his own digital PLN.
It is these kinds of post that I am collecting as Theta Wave Thoughts on my own blog. With a focus at my school on neuroscience, I figure a name that refers to the types of brainwaves researchers have found to be associated with creativity and daydreaming only seems appropriate :-)
How often do we ask students to think in bigger chunks of information?
“Deeper learning can be understood as the process through which a person becomes capable of taking what was learned in one situation and applying it to new situations – in other words, learning for transfer.” –James W. Pellegrino from the Foreword of Deeper Learning If education is talking about the idea of deeper learning, where the transfer of knowledge is a key component, wouldn’t asking students to classify their learning into larger sets be beneficial? Wouldn’t this be especially true if we thought about where those sets overlapped as areas that are ripe for seeking out transfer, and students identified that as the case?
I think of this like I think about how tags are used in places like Diigo, Flickr, Evernote, and even in blog posts :-) They create an organizational scheme that helps readers, and writers, find related content.
Let’s use a concrete example: a Diigo social bookmark. When someone saves a webpage to Diigo, they are asked to assign tags to the bookmarked page. Those tags are typically the topics that the webpage touches upon that stand out to the reader (see the image at the top of this post if you need a visual). Later on, when you return to your library of bookmarks, you probably will not remember the exact name of the page you saved. But you will probably remember the topic that the saved page was about, and you most likely saved it with a tag associated with that topic – as a matter of fact, in your mind it was most likely the topic that you recalled which initiated your search in the first place!
So you search your Diigo library for that tag.
Your result returns not only the page you wanted, but all the other pages you’ve previously tagged with that topic.
You’ll undoubtedly look at the titles in the search results and begin to recall elements from those pages. And if you don’t, you’ll probably click on a few – or read the description if you left one, or look at the other tags you labeled them with – to see what they were about. Quickly, your mind will begin to see connections that weren’t otherwise obvious to you. You might even have one of those enlightening epiphanies that people shout “Eureka” about.
You are experiencing what Steve Johnson would refer to as a “slow hunch” – when in idea lays semi-dormant in your mind until it collides with another idea, creating that “Ah-ha!” moment. Or what Clay Christensen and company from The Innovator’s DNA would call “association”.
Well associating and slow hunches aren’t just beneficial to innovators. They are a sensitivity towards transferring of ideas across domains, which is beneficial to all learners.
And if our goal in education is to help learners – educators and students – move beyond silos of knowledge to transdisciplinary webs of understanding, shouldn’t we be asking them to think more in terms of connectable concepts? Shouldn’t we be asking them to “tag” the concepts they studied so they can more readily apply that knowledge in new contexts? Shouldn’t we help them think in broader brush strokes, as well the fine lines when appropriate?
I’d be fascinated to see an experiment on this actually executed, with actual tags, on things like student e-portfolios. Imagine the insights into how a learner is thinking if we looked at the tags they used.
Images in this post, but not shown in the Image Credits section, are my own.