So what does this mean for teaching?
First, everything we do as educators needs a larger goal (the big picture as it were). Too often we get lost in the minutia of of the project and forget the broader, overarching frame. The structure of our lessons, our semester, our mini-activities needs to have a larger narrative thrust, a dramatic flow. A beginning, a middle and an end. A good science activity can have them all. So can a well designed social studies activity.
Second, every thing we do as educators needs to be subservient to meeting that larger goal. The Blue Man group movie works because each frame (and musical note) is part of a larger story being played out in front of us. Not a frame is wasted. In contrast, you could take away a chunk of the second and I doubt anybody would even notice. This is design for anticipation. This is design for postdiction. As educators this means that we can’t give them stupid-work (like most seat work at school) but rather every assignment needs to inform the larger picture and in turn be informed by it.
Don’t you think that as educators need to pay more attention to building anticipation and suspense in our students?
Yes I do think that as educators we need to care more about building anticipation and suspense in our students… I feel that too often we try to fill them (and we are expected to do so) with nicely structured and pre-processed knowledge that hardly would correspond to real authentic problems… thus, instead of entertaining their curiosity and sense of inquiry, we entertain them, like TV does (in the best case), or we bore them to death, like a non-believing preacher would (in the worst case). In both cases, students don’t have to think too much, because they can do their part of the “job” by simply absorbing the pre-processed knowledge and will pass the exams (or what ever evaluation we have) by simply recalling what they have temporarily stored somewhere in their no-so-long-term-memory.
“We teach people how to remember, we never teach them how to grow.”
Oscar Wilde – Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 – 1900)
Supporting people in their own grow is certainly also a wicked problem, but at least it defines and serves a larger goal for education.