Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Authentic Problem Solving

Earlier this week, my ceiling had a suspicious leak. Since my ceiling is sectioned with large wooden beams, the problem could cause some costly damage. When I discovered the problem, the first thing I did was open up my laptop.

Huh?

Yes, my laptop. I did not call up a plumber or a roofer. I called up You Tube on my laptop. After some serious searching, I was able to determine that the leak was actually caused by lint build up in my dryer vent. In about an hour, I had fixed the problem, stopped the leak, and improved the performance of my dryer. (Full disclosure: My husband helped. A lot.)

Now, I never took a "linty dryer" course. I know virtually nothing about fixing household problems or maintaining appliances. However, I do know how to access crowd-sourced knowledge efficiently. As I celebrated my victory against my leaky ceiling, I pondered the implications of this experience for education.

When it comes to today's students, it is highly unlikely that we will be able to provide them with the exact content they will need as they move throughout the stages of their lives. However, we WILL be able to provide them with effective research skills that can be utilized in almost any location. We should be focusing on providing our students with opportunities to solve challenging problems in a variety of curricular areas.

It's also important to note that I employed a lot of background knowledge about condensation, gravity, and heat convection to solve my problem. Some basic content and background knowledge are necessary for effective reading, understanding, and searching. We should continue to provide our students with opportunities to master this content as a "starting off" point for many other, more diverse learning opportunities.

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Lumax Art

2 comments:

  1. So true! And 99% of students appreciate me working with them to show them how I go about answering questions for info I am not sure about, or have no idea for.

    And that 1% who are miffed that I 'don't know everything' are also the one's who don't want to take self-responsibility for thier learning, well besides 'being told' and 'memorising' the 'right answers'.

    I used YouTube this week to get the mower started~ it's been a while ~:-) which way that bloody throttle to go????

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  2. I agree with you completely. Students (and future workers) who are interested in problem solving methods usually end up being very successful. I haven't framed the issue in that way before. I think you are ON to something!

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