First Year Student Questions: Learn without Cheating, Taking Notes, and Types of Thinking

Senecio-1922 Klee

  1. Exactly how are we going to learn how to get correct answers without cheating?

You are going to learn by thinking critically.  I am going to show you the process of how to be curious and skeptical.  I am going to show you how to verify answers you get from sources so that you will know when they are right, or you will at least of good reason to believe that they are right. That’s the thing about cheating; how do you know the answers you have are correct? They might be correct or they might not, but the cheater cannot tell. He/she is only going on faith that this information is correct.

Imagine that you broke into a home in the dark.  You might know that there are some valuables in the house, but unless you know for sure what they are and where they are, you run the risk of getting caught or stealing some worthless object or both. If you knew what you were looking for, you would have a greater chance of success. Heck, you might be smart enough to get your own valuables so you don’t have to steal from someone else.

Questions for the syllabus.

  1. What is the difference between Divergent thinking and Convergent thinking?

Divergent thinking is being able to think in different ways or to think of lots of possible solutions to a problem. Convergent thinking is bringing many ideas together to create, from the best options, a good solution to a problem.  Really great places to learn or work seem to have a nice balance of both things. My opinion.

  1. Do we have to take notes the same way that is shown in the syllabus video, or can we take notes however we like?

You can always use notes in any way you like, but if you only have one way to take notes, there will be some times when that one way is what is called for and another time that it is exactly the wrong thing.  Think of note-taking as a tool. The more kinds you have, the more likely you will be able to complete different jobs. If all you have is a hammer, everything is a nail.

A Student Question: Is public education a lost cause?

confused-freshman

I want to ask you if you see our primary public education system as a lost cause?  Do you feel like our government policies are enforcing rules to create drones rather than free thinkers?

Great question. I actually think that we do a pretty good job in elementary school, if that is what you mean by primary. If you mean the “main” or “typical” education system, I think that the job of a public education is more it’s implied education and less about the overt subjects that are taught.

For example, we teach English in the same 55 minute period in high school as we do for field hockey as we do for chemistry as we do for introduction to Spanish, right? So the subjects we are to be learning are implicitly contextualized to be of the same importance. Another way of seeing it is that nothing is important if all things are the same. We must want people to accept this method as “learning” even though most of the important things we learn are outside of school and don’t follow this pattern.

We must want drones. Free thinkers are a pain in the butt, frankly and the school system, as I see it, even though it claims to want “free thinkers” or “critical thinkers,” would be loathe to accommodate the thinking that would happen and the ideas that such thinking would bring with it. So we want to have students who are compliant and dissatisfied with themselves and waiting for an expert to show them the way. What great consumers that lot would make.   No, I think we have the system we have for a reason.

New Qestions About Learning from New Students

too much tech

Question: Aren’t most college classes geared towards correct answers just like middle/high school?

Answer: No. The difference between college and K12 is like the difference between the K12 school cafeteria and working in a restaurant. In in the cafeteria, you show up with your tray and expect to have mediocre food plopped upon it. You’ll complain, but wind up eating it anyway. In college, the chef calls you into the kitchen and says, “You are working at this station and you will need these tools and skills to prepare this food, and it better be GOOD.”  The higher you go in education, the more is this is true.

In my experience, schools focus on getting the correct answers to limited questions. They rarely ask students to come up with questions. Often the reason that school is considered “boring” by many students is that no really important questions are asked and none of the answers seem to connect to things that people care about.

If you think about it, most of the really important things we learn in life are done outside of a classroom. Correct answers come with experience, failure and demonstrations. Whether we are falling in love, making a cheese cake or learning to drive a car, we know we are getting it right because we had to do something to get there. We had to perform and not just with little tiny facts on multiple choice tests. And yet schools and education has been reduced down to passing one or two tests.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in correct answers sometimes, but I am careful about the things which cause me to feel that I am “right.” If I am right about something, I lose my curiosity about it. I stop looking for answers. If I am curious and skeptical and I have just a little bit of humility, I am able to know, and I mean really know, just a little more everyday. Curiosity welcomes good answers because they always bring 3 more good questions with them to the party.