What I believe now

Turns out, things are simpler than I thought.

I used to think that education and schooling was an unimaginably complex system.  I used to think that because no two people and no two brains and no two circumstances are alike, education, which is a fundamentally human endeavor, was essentially un-replicable.  You couldn’t do it the same way twice.  And you couldn’t predict outcomes (because the starting conditions were so varied).  And you couldn’t plan for it with any real surety because the fact that learning ever happened at all, was a miracle, so unlikely as to be unexplainable and totally unique.  Like magic.

I think I used to think that teaching was magic in some way.  Like prestidigitation.  Conjuring.  Alchemy.

Don’t get me wrong, learning still impresses the hell out of me.  Sometimes, I will be watching something simple happening – my son learning to juggle, my daughter taking free throws – and I still find myself in awe.  She misses the first 3, makes 2 of the next 4, and then makes 3 in a row – and I find myself in total disbelief.  What the hell just happened?  I mean, actually.  Literally, what changed?

Learning makes things different now than they were before.  And that is like magic.

So I am still impressed with what learning is and how fast it happens, but the conditions necessary for learning no longer seem unknowable or mysterious.  Whereas once, I thought what conjured learning in each individual was unique, I now believe that there are only a handful of design principles that set the conditions under which learning happens:

  • Relevance
  • Utility
  • Connectedness
  • Competence
  • Autonomy

Each has subtlety and nuance, and I will try to break it down for you.

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