Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Just Keep Swimming. And Learnding

Yesterday I humbled myself when, after writing the opening to what I thought was going to be a bold push to inaugurate an information literacy course at BYU-Idaho, I read an article that’s being pushed by our online education betters at BYU-Idaho insisting in part – and rather bluntly – that classes on information literacy aren’t really a great idea.

(Why not? Because, authors and scholars Robert Barr and John Tagg insist in their piece From Teaching to Learning that such courses become an end unto themselves, going only to satisfy some sage on the stage’s desire to fill in a whiny complaint (These students are information illiterates!) without really helping the students to apply what they might learn in such a course to real-life situations.)

I may be able to re-use part of what I wrote, and that’s because it wasn’t my own idea but something I quoted from Elder David A. Bednar, who agree with Barr and Tagg to the nth degree:
Academic assignments, test scores, and a cumulative GPA do not produce a final and polished product. Rather, students have only started to put in place a foundation of learning upon which they can build forever . . . The particular topics investigated and learned are not nearly as important as what has been learned about learning. As we press forward in life – spiritually, interpersonally, and professionally – no book of answers is readily available with guidelines and solutions to the great challenges of life. All we have is our capacity to learn and our love of and for learning.
So I basically have taken what I wrote and put it in the trash bin, realizing (yet again) that I am not a genius. I’m okay with that. I’ve known for a long time that I am not a genius. But sometimes I get a flash of what might be something, only to find out it’s really not all that nifty.

So this humility thing is a good teacher.

Where do I go from here?

Well, I don’t go where I went last night: Into a funk in which I lamented not knowing what I don’t know and cursing the darkness for not suddenly shooting rays of what I don’t know into my brain so I could know it.

I do go this way: I’ll read Barr and Tagg’s article again. I’ll remember what they said and take in a little comfort that as I learn to be a better teacher, the changes I’d like to see in myself and in my students will come. But slowly, because I’ve got a lot to learn. They start off their article by quoting Albert Einstein, who said “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

I’m reading now a biography on Einstein (again trying to fill in the vast gaps of knowledge I do not possess) in which the author, Ronald W. Clark, emphasizes that Einstein came up with his brilliant ideas by focusing on the tiny inconsistencies in theory that other scientists either ignored or allowed to exist because they appeared minor or solved certain problems extant in the theory. Einstein didn’t like the little inconsistencies, and thus tried to fix them, to great effect. That effort took a lot of time and a lot of reflection – something I need to find time to accomplish so that my blinding flashes of the obvious don’t come so frequently.

This reminds me of another Einstein quote: “I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details.” And finding God’s thoughts, I know, isn’t going to come to me in an afternoon pounding out a useless paper on an idea that’s already been tossed to the gutter. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to be bitter about the whole thing, but at least for the moment I’ve achieved that bit of clarity that says to keep on swimming.

And at least I read that touted article before I blundered into something and made a public ass of myself. That's a bit of knowledge and experience gained right there. Right?

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