Monday, June 03, 2013

On Learning How To Learn

One of the folks I follow on Twitter just posted a link to a great article by scientist Carl Zimmer.  It's on the topic of students e-mailing Mr. Zimmer questions relating to his field of expertise, obviously trying to get him to do their homework assignments for them.  He shares a few of the e-mails he's received, and several things stood out as I was reading the article:

1. The Internet really can encourage laziness.  Strangely, I've found that it's had the opposite effect on me, as my natural tendency is to be lazy and not look anything up, but when it's just a few keystrokes away, I can't justify that attitude any more, and so I do more research than I ever used to. But for the average high school student, not the least bit interested in the topic he or she is studying in school, the Internet holds out at least the possibility of learning absolutely nothing while still achieving a grade that would seem to suggest that some smartification did occur.

2. People (not just kids) continue to struggle with remembering how they began a sentence by the time they're writing the end of it.  Or, to put it in modern terminology, like they do.  (Ha.)  So, for example, you get the kid who writes, "I am doing a research paper on evolution and how evolution and the Galapagos and evolution are related."  Had this teenage really tuned out between typing "how evolution and the Galapagos" and then "and evolution are related?"  Is the attention span really that short nowadays?  It seems like it might be.  And speaking of that...

3. Wow, did this part ever resonate with me: "Once you find an article on, say, carnivorous plants, you need to read it deeply. Let the ideas sink in. The first time through, you may not appreciate how all the pieces of the story fit together into a whole. Read it again. Resist the urge to click away to Facebook after every sentence."  I've witnessed the context switching to Facebook every thirty seconds phenomenon first hand over the past little while, and it's scary to consider where that sort of thing is going to lead us, as a species.

Anyway, it's a great read, especially for anyone who's a parent or teacher.

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