Posted March 18, 2014on:
Sometimes I wonder if the conversations that my wife and I have over dinner and YouTube videos have any impact on my son.
Yes, we watch YouTube videos and not television programmes over dinner. We talk about them and we unconsciously model communication and thinking skills for our son. This was not obvious to me until a recent father-son chat.
Every weekday I ask my son about his school day and his homework. Practically every day the answers are the same: Meh, boring, and arrgh!
Except one day. My son asked me why he had to perform science experiments to answer questions they already knew the answers to.
How many teachers or research scientists ask themselves this question? It was a particularly good question because it critiqued the purpose of doing experiments and the strategy for teaching science.
The standard response to this question might revolve around learning or practising the scientific method. But the core issue is really about whether the focus is developing a discipline or being driven by curious discovery.
Any good teacher would want his/her students to have both. That said, I would wager that most teachers would err on the side of content delivery and disciplined thinking. But what if the teaching of science as a discipline takes out the joy of discovery?
This is one reason why we have the dichotomy of formal learning in school and informal learning elsewhere. There are rules, methods, and objectives in school, but they typically suck the life out of learning.
Outside of school the learning is looser and practically undisciplined in the sense that it does not start or end with subject silos, specific instructional objectives, or time-tested strategies.
The latter sort of learning is like how a child catches values, listening skills, and thinking skills at a daily setting like dinner conversation.
We need both formal and informal channels, of course. But I would err on the side of the informal if they are going to help my son develop the mindset he needs for his future.