Recently I viewed a 2 hour archived presentation featuring Professor Eric Mazur. Mazur, a Balanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics at Harvard, had a great deal to share about the way we learn. One of his comments really resonated with me. He shared that years ago, when books were scare and only a few people had access to books, the lecture method “worked”. The professor owned the book, read it, and shared the information with his students. Listening to the professor was critical, because he was the one with the information.
Today, however, information is available on a person’s phone in an instant. Actually, waiting an instant can seem like forever in today’s world. Not only do you get one source, you can access tens and hundreds of articles, Wikis, pictures, and more. In reality, the problem isn’t getting access to information, it is trying to figure out which information is relevant, which the most recent, which supports your views and which doesn’t. The challenge is reading through pages of information quickly, identifying the main points, and then analyzing what you’ve read. One of the identified skills for the 21st century is the ability to access and analyze information. This includes the ability to understand what you know, what you don’t know, and how to determine what additional information you need.
So what do we need to do to promote learning if the traditional lecture method isn’t the ticket? I would suggest that all learning needs to include hands-on experiential opportunities. Program Leaders need to be comfortable with the role of facilitator or “guide by the side”, and realize that they don’t have to have all the answers and know all the facts. We know that the Learning in Afterschool and Summer principles apply in all we do. These principles include, learning should be active, collaborative, meaningful, support mastery and expand horizons. When we replace the traditional lecture with this type of learning what we know is that learning deepens, youth are more engaged, and the learning is connected to ensure understanding of the content and how the information is applied.
Check out the C4K video class for Site Coordinators entitled Project Based Learning