Time and experience are wonderful things. Learning is also a wonderful thing. My working definition of learning is ‘a permanent change in thinking or behavior.’ It turns out I never actually learned about photosynthesis.
And here’s why.
There’s an old saying about lectures. “A lecture is an event where the notes of the professor pass to the notebooks of the students without going through the brains of either.”
When I was a freshman in college, I had a course called BioSci 102. It was held in a big, two tiered auditorium. Probably 600 students at least. The professor was wonderful and engaging. That’s what I remember about him and the class. He was engaging. I can’t honestly say I learned anything that became permanent.
The students took notes as he lectured. It was in this class that I discovered I could pay $10 to buy official lecture notes. The university paid a former student in the class to attend, take notes, then make them available for other students. I signed up. I didn’t even have to go to class to get the notes anymore. It could hardly have mattered less. Come time for the test, I studied someone else’s notes well enough to do well on the test, then whoosh, the information was gone. A big part of the test was on photosynthesis. Like almost all of the test. The lecture notes were absolutely beautiful. Lovely drawings, arrows, quotes, fabulous. And nothing about photosynthesis became permanent in my thinking.
Fast forward to now. Did a google search on photosynthesis. Google reports, “About 19,800,000 results (0.63 seconds)”. Hmmm….that’s a lot more information than one professor talking and someone taking notes. Let’s narrow that search to just videos. “About 597,000 results (0.26 seconds).” 597,000 videos on photosynthesis….in .26 seconds.
If we decided it was mission critical in a class for kids to LEARN about photosynthesis, meaning the information became permanent in their thinking or behavior, I bet a lecture might be the last way to have kids learn. My college lecture experience was a perfect example of education as a distribution system. Professor has information. Distributes it. Students have it for awhile, then give it back via some kind of test. The end.
In a discovery system, probably using technology, students could be in groups of 4. The teacher has identified 4 excellent videos about photosynthesis. The students, with headphones on, each watch a different video about photosynthesis. They have a large piece of butcher paper in front of them, on which each takes notes as he/she watches her/his own video. When all videos are done, the students go around the table and share what each learned about photosynthesis. They generate a list of questions, honing their questions to their top three. Then each table shares its top 3 questions. The class finalizes a list of top 5 questions and kids find answers for those questions.
I bet I would learn about photosynthesis that way.