The End of the Introduction – Sorting Out a Starting Point

In the last full page of the introduction, Jacobs uses forms of the phrase “sorting out” a few times, and it is very curious how she slides it in there, and even slyly refers to the “principles of sorting out”.

It makes me think of the quote about how categorization should be the result of education, not the starting point.

What are the meta-skills we want to teach children, and we want adult learners to have – the skills that will allow them to “sort out” information and knowledge for themselves? The skills that will help them judge information with reference to the body of knowledge that they are exploring? Are we currently teaching these skills in schools?

And, for me the most important question is: How do we design this type of instruction with learner starting points in mind?

It’s the most important question for me because there are many fantastic ideas in the educational world today that are easily discredited when they don’t work initially or perfectly. There’s more to tweak, these days with online learning, and more dynamics to consider – Starting Points is one.

We still believe in building knowledge over time and generation, right? We don’t want every learn to start from nothing.

Jacobs describes a system where people contribute, they act with their own purpose – yet this isn’t completely from the ground up, there is planning in terms of the infrastructure (connections) that the city provides. Places and communities result, citizens categorize. Others act as example, hint, suggestion. There’s a fine line of providing too much or not enough. Maybe technology has enabled us, as educators, to start with less…

..but, the above is an important question because I also sense an unbalanced push these days to go too far, to equate education with everyday, every second of the day learning. It has created educators and course designers that are now too scared of creating any course structure at all for fear of imposing on learners.

Is it the case that adult learners are smart enough to know that teachers aren’t authoritative rock-stars, and that what educators say or design is suggestion not command?

Finding a balance in the tension between learning and structure (cities as is and city planning, as Jacobs might say) is a fine goal for modern education. The result will be a liberation of (not a shift in) education, one that takes guidance from, and is thus designed from, situation. It will choose from best options, not from the idea of progress. The underlying purposes will be Learner Autonomy balanced with Mutual Support skills.

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