Saturday, December 6, 2008

WHY ROTE LEARNING DOESN'T WORK ANY MORE

Times UK - Memorizing facts and figures is a waste of time for most schoolchildren because such information is readily available a mere mouse click away, a leading commentator has said.

The existence of Google, Wikipedia and online libraries means that there is no useful place in school for old-fashioned rote learning, according to Don Tapscott, author of the bestselling book Wikinomics and a champion of the "net generation".

A far better approach would be to teach children to think creatively so that they could learn to interpret and apply the knowledge available online. "Teachers are no longer the fountain of knowledge; the internet is," Tapscott said. "Kids should learn about history to understand the world and why things are the way they are. But they don't need to know all the dates. It is enough that they know about the Battle of Hastings, without having to memorise that it was in 1066. They can look that up and position it in history with a click on Google," he said.

Tapscott denies that his approach is anti-learning. He argues that the ability to learn new things is more important than ever "in a world where you have to process new information at lightning speed". He said: "Children are going to have to reinvent their knowledge base multiple times. So for them memorizing facts and figures is a waste of time."

Tapscott . . . bases his observations in his latest book, Grown Up Digital, on a study of nearly 8,000 people in 12 countries born between 1978 and 1994. . .

Schools are increasingly moving towards more independent study and so-called enrichment activities, with pupils learning at their own pace and focusing on what interests them most. At Wellington College in Berkshire, for example, teenagers are not taught from the front of the class, but instead sit around a large oval table for seminar-style discussions.

Tapscott believes that the model of education that prevails today in most classrooms was designed for the industrial age. "This might have been good for the mass production economy, but it doesn't deliver for the challenges of the digital economy, or for the 'net gen' mind," he said.

He suggests that the brains of young people today work differently from those of their parents. He argues that digital immersion, in which children may be texting while surfing the internet and listening to their MP3 player, can help them to develop critical thinking skills.

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