From the Inside-Out...

"I never teach my pupils;
I only attempt to provide the conditions in which they can learn."  Albert Einstein

I have been listening to an interview with Oliver Sacks on his new book, Musicophilia. He mentions that much more of the brain is recruited for music than for language.  There is no one spot where a neuroscientists goes to access music from the brain.  Music pulls from many, many parts.  Music, Sacks asserts is innate, even for those who like myself, are musically challenged.

I recall hearing about a prisoner who kept himself sane by understanding the idea that "Once one gets deeply into a subject, he discovers that it relates to everything else in the universe."  In deed, this soldier's mind was able to take untold learning journeys that kept him not only sane, but enlightened under the most awful of external realities.  No one told him what to learn next, or how to connect. His mind took him on these explorations.

Both of these stories reveal the awesome innate abilities that each of us have inside us.  Yet, almost all schooling assumes that learning comes from the outside and fights its way into our brains so that we can grow up knowing what we need to know.  I claim that if left to ourselves, the best learning happens from the inside out and not the outside in.   Both exchanges are necessary of course, and healthy minds know how to utilize both,  bringing a synergy to the entire learning process. But I think we give very little time or belief to the inside-out part of learning.  I think this makes teaching and learning much, much more difficult than it needs to be. 

What if early curriculum was focused on music ... at least for one entire year? What if the way into learning was music? Music leads  into science, math, history, story telling, poetry, rhythums, all emotions, langage ... Can anyone say there is a diconnect ... a place where music cannot lead one to? Would an entire year of music engage young minds in discovering how getting deeply into a subject leads to other interesting things? If music is inate, would it not attract other learning into the core of a young child's mind? 

The quote by Einstein at the top of this entry is also interesting and essential understanding. Environment matters. The environment can facilitate or kill learning from the inside out.  Waldorf schools have this pretty well figured out realizing that the physical space invites the child to learn.   OLPC is attempting to create an environment within the computer for self generated learning because they recognize that in many developing countries, there are no schools. Under a tree is often the gathering place for young minds.  Therefore, they have crafted a screen that works in the sunlight and tools that makes learning with one's OLPC tool fun and rewarding. Each computer connects other connected users through a mesh network system and also made connecting to the larger world through the Internet a natural way of learning.  The OLPC  generates an automatic journal recording all explorations, lessons, and learnings so that the child can easily recall the work they have done AND of course this can be easily shared with teachers, parents and friends who want to know how to engage in the child's learning.   

What is a healthy curriculum for the 21st Century? 

"To hold an unchanging youth is to reach at the end the vision with which one started.  Ayn Rand, 1958, Atlas Shrugged