My project ‘its cool!’ is about replacing control with structure in education: based on research into values, the positive effect of autonomy on intrinsic motivation and the vital importance of social networks and connectedness in schooling.
In the last hundred years over 900 studies have shown that people learn best in situations of collaborative learning without the external control system of the traditional school that diminishes motivation.
If the evidence is so overwhelming, why is the method not more generally put into practice? Because school is not about education as I understand it: that is to develop autonomous free-thinking, questioning individuals, but rather to socialize individuals to accept their place within an existing system and to uphold the status quo.
The free access to unlimited information and social networks on the Web creates an opportunity to put in place a system where students become the central dynamic force, responsible for their own learning and power and control is replaced by a facilitating structure.
Dewey wrote that “there is no game without rules”. However those rules are those that allow the game to be played and are observed out of mutual respect and cooperation of the players.
He also wrote that “freedom is the operation of intelligent observation and judgment by which purpose is developed”; if the removal of a control system to which students have been accustomed throughout their schooling leads to them being dictated by their immediate whims and caprices, then they just fall into another dangerous form of external control.
Thus the emphasis of my system is on the harnessing of personal motivation, the power of collaborative learning and the potential of learning provided by the Web while providing the structure necessary for efficient advancement and putting emphasis on the development of the thinking skills necessary for developing the judgment and self-control that Dewey defined as the central necessities of learning.
The present system makes students the passive receptors of spoon-fed information, rather than the planners of menus and cooks. If ceasing to spoon-feed them only results in them eating McDonalds every day, then they are no better off; they have to be able to judge what is a healthy and varied diet and learn to prepare and digest the food.
To quote one of my students:
“I would like to encourage this approach because it is like a real group project in a real situation and we learned more in a week than we usually learn in a month”.