Posted in Collaborative Learning, Tips for Students

How to Maximize your Education, Part 6 of 6

This series of posts looks at six vital principles for getting the most value out of your education, regardless of how you go about pursuing it.

Principle # 6: Participate in the flow of information: continually practice communication.

I’ll say it again: learning is not a solitary activity.  Knowledge can be gained in two ways, through experience and through communication.  Experience is magnified when it is shared, and communication can only take place when there are at least two of us involved.  Knowledge is proportional to the ability to communicate, and communication is one of the best ways to develop knowledge.

Learning from a book is communication between you and the author.  Writing is communication between you and your reader.  To learn actively, continually communicate what you are learning by directly teaching others or by simply sharing it with the world.  Write about what you are learning, talk about it, make art or music about it, start a youtube channel or a blog about it.

Study groups with classmates or other independent learners are a great way to practice communication.  Engage each other in the learning process through conversation and presentation, and help fill in the gaps in each other’s comprehension.

Think of it this way: anything you learn is not yours to keep, it is yours to pass on.  The more you help others by sharing your knowledge, the more you will be rewarded by your education.

Posted in Collaborative Learning, Online Tutoring, Tips for Students

How to Maximize your Education, Part 5 of 6

This series of posts looks at six vital principles for getting the most value out of your education, regardless of how you go about pursuing it.

Principle # 5: Cooperate, don’t compete.

Learning is not a solitary activity.  Any activity is made more enjoyable by engaging with others in positive ways, and active cooperation provides multiple benefits for learning, including engagement, accountability, and support.  We are at our best when we are part of a great team.

Outside the traditional classroom, there are unlimited opportunities for cooperative learning, and the principle “many hands make for lighter work” is the norm.  Inside the traditional classroom, cooperation (defined as “cheating”) may still not be the norm yet, but this in itself provides opportunities for leadership on every level.  As a student in such an environment, you have the opportunity to reach out to your classmates to organize collaborative study sessions and engage with one another in the learning process.  It helps to make a point of getting to know and network with as many of your classmates as possible, not with the aim of cheating of course but with the aim of facilitating everyone’s learning process.  Organizing a regular study group for each class you take is likely to pay off well in terms of enjoyment had and knowledge gained for you and everyone else involved.

A corollary of this is get help when you need to.  If you find yourself struggling in a class or with your education in general, figure out what you need to do to get the support you need.  Classmates can often provide valuable types of support, as can professional helpers like tutors and counselors.  And of course, your actual instructors may or may not be able to provide the kind of help you need, but you can always ask.

Posted in Books, Collaborative Learning, Educational Reform

Rifkin on Schools

Excerpted from The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, by Jeremy Rifkin:

“Collaborative work environments have long been standard fare in commercial fields and in the civil society.  Scientists, attorneys, contractors, people in the performing arts, not-for-profit organizations, and self-help groups traditionally engage in collaborative work environments.  School systems, however, have been slower to catch up.  That’s now beginning to change.  Although not yet the norm, an increasing number of classrooms at the university and secondary school level, and even in the lower grade levels, are being transformed into collaborative work environments, at least for small periods of time.  It’s not uncommon for large class groups to be divided up into smaller work groups, who are then given an assignment to work on collaboratively.  They then reconvene in plenary sessions where they share their findings, generally in the form of group reports.  The teacher’s new role becomes less that of a lecturer and more of a facilitator, charged with the responsibility of establishing the context, explaining the nature of the assisgnment, recording the various groups’ reports, and serving as a referee of sorts in an effort to reach a class consensus.  While the teacher is expected to share his own academic expertise and to point out the similarities and differences in points of view between the academic disciplines to which he is a part and the students own insights and beliefs, his input is seen as an important contribution to the dialogue but not the definitive last word on the subject matter under discussion.”

Posted in Collaborative Learning, Educational Reform

Can Younger and Older Students Work Well Together?

This is how Brightworks, an extraordinary private school in San Francisco, answers this question in their FAQ:

“Yes. We find that segregating children by age can pathologize normal, developmental differences and deprive children of the opportunity to bond with, teach, and learn from each other. Our low student-teacher ratio (6:1) allows parallel learning across our age groups, even within the same physical space. Our most developmentally-mature students are able to tackle projects that challenge and engage them, while the younger children work in a more play-based manner.”

This school demonstrates the principle that children need to be grown, not manufactured, into adults.  Remember, the literal meaning of “kindergarten” is “garden of children”!