Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Myth of the Solo Scientist

This weekend, I read a great piece by Jonah Lehrer in The Wall Street Journal (link to title). Essentially, Mr. Lehrer posits that scientific discoveries are no longer happening in isolation, by young geniuses. Rather, "If America is going to "out-innovate" the world, it's not because we have more youthful geniuses, toiling away alone in a lab. The age of the great scientific thinker is over" (WSJ, Feb.5,2011). He refers to Da Vinci, who made vital contributions to broad areas like medicine, civil engineering and geology. In today's academic world, future scientists will spend years in graduate school developing a specific expertise. In the real world, teams work together now, with integrative connections powering innovation. Hmmm---doesn't that sound like how teaching and classrooms should be? Of course, students need to learn their content (math/science/LA), etc., but how do they learn to collaborate? Much eduspeak is involving PBL, "problem-based learning", but the testing/data drive takes up much of the day. We just finished a big collaborative unit in fifth grade, and students answered questions as a reflection component. Three of the questions: "What did you like about this project?"; "What didn't you like about the project?"; "How would you improve the project?". An overwhelming majority of the answers sounded like the following (in order of the questions): "I liked everything!"; "Nothing, this was fun!"; and "Let's do more stuff like this." In our tech-savvy students' world, it is all about collaboration, and I just think we need to put more PBL into our curriculum for our future innovators. CMS Wire has an interesting article defining 3 types of collaborations:1)"Peas in a pod", 2)"New partners in crime", and 3)"Challengers".

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The Sketchbook Project: 2011

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