Curiosity as a Learning Outcome…Seriously?

I was thinking about Gradner Cambell’s viewpoint on how increased curiosity must be an important outcome of learning. I totally agree with him that skill mastery and especially successful recall of information are by no means (and have never been in my view) proper measurements nor outcomes of learning. I also share the same (pessimistic maybe!) view about our today’s neoliberal education system which under the name of efficiency is distancing itself from effective meaningful learning!

What I found crude in Cambell’s piece is when he argues that curiosity as an outcome of learning is possible if we invest in our increasing digital environment. To me it really does not sounds coherent with his previous claims. While technology can increase the quantity of interactions, it does not necessarily enhance the quality of those! Many of the statements he mentions as epitomes of increased curiosity among students, are merely achievable in the real-world with intentional (inter)actions. For example, the last phrase saying “I am the kind of person who embraces unfamiliar people, events, and places”, is somehow more achievable in a classroom rather than an online course for example. Since to me it seems very unlikely that in a learning digital environment, people share their personal life/stories as much/consistent as in a classroom where informal talks are usually prevalent and recurring!

In my opinion, here the more important question is not about what medium can encourage curiosity in the students, but rather how in the first place, one can be so engaged in the learning process that he/she feels the “need” of knowing more. While personal interest and preferences in the course content play a part (e.g. you are naturally more curious about your research-related issues), yet I believe teachers’ role, the class ambiance, informal interactions and so many other factors will effect the stimulation of students’ desire to know.

HPR 2154: Introduction to Harry Potter

Why is it that some books are so easy to read/follow while others (many of the text books) are mortally boring; Why can we remember details of a good story (e.g. Harry Potter) even after so many years, but there are tons of information we cannot recall from our last week readings?

Harry Potter and Ron Weasley in Divination class

Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown in their book “A New Culture of Learning Cultivating The Imagination For A World Of Constant Change” try to answer these questions by discussing the importance of modern learning processes:

They argue that in today’s ever-changing world, it is rather unproductive (if not impossible) to continue the traditional forms of learning/teaching-i.e. when someone (teacher) transfer the solid knowledge to someone else (the student) in a unilateral direction. while the unchangeable forms of knowledge are shrinking everyday, flexibility towards change and accepting new ways of knowing become more and more quintessential for humans’ learning process.

In spite of the fact that I agree with Thomas and Brown’s idea of making sense of the world through gaming (and internet being the adults’ way of playful sense making), yet I believe engaging solely new technologies in today’s classrooms is not the panacea for our ineffective education system! Many of us “Google” new terms, watch YouTube videos and try to understand the course materials with the help of world wide web, still we do not necessarily develop the vital connections needed for LEARNING process. That means, in most cases, we gain a rough understanding of the issue but we do not ponder enough (e.g. having no time or interest) to process the information into our knowledge.

While the authors believe, Harry Potter books’ success in sticking to readers’ minds (and hearts!) were due to readers’ “experiencing the unfolding of the story with friends, both online and offline”, I think there are other criteria that leads to such memorability!

First of all, the readers “choose” to read Harry Potter in order to “enjoy”. While in many cases, we do not have a “choice” over our course work, therefore having “fun” is less achievable. Second, reading Harry Potter is not an assignment and does not have a deadline to be finished/graded, hence the reader has all the time in the world to savour each line with full concentration (and no fear or pressure of grades and so on). As a result of passion and having the time to reflect on the book’s content, the reader can make sense of Harry’s world by connecting the author’s descriptions to his/her own life experiences-the process in which a co-creation of knowledge between the author and the reader happens!