Not a huge fan

For someone interested in learning, becoming an expert is a very dangerous thing. I the words of Frank Lloyd Wright “an expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’”

Yet the education and learning experts are occupied trying to measure and compare ‘what we know’. Is that the right approach? We will have aquired some stock of knowledge by the time we are tested - at age 5, 10, or 15 - but is our performance truly a reliable predictor of our future learning? I am more interested in what someone is capable of knowing in the future - a function of our a ability to ask questions and pursue their answers. A function of our curiosity. Trying to do well on the standardized tests might diminuish our sense of curiosity, because instead of following our own passions, we focus on mastering a stock of knowledge that others decided was important.

This is where the whole learning analytics and measurement frameworks come crashing down. Because it isn’t even possible to “measure” curiosity. The simple attempt makes it disappear.


I was inspired to write about amateurs by today’s brainpickings post and by my experience speaking at the congress of the German Association of Learning Sciences (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Erziehungswissenschaften). I started off by saying that I was not a huge fan of experts and went on to talk about peer learning. Some of the experts in the room didn’t agree and we ended up having a great conversation about the pros and cons of having experts involved in the work of learners. My take aways are that it is important to distinguish between subject matter experts and facilitators, and that I need to set up my definitions of experts and amateurs earlier on in the talk.

Here is to asking more questions. As Esther Dyson’s email footer used to say “Make new mistakes every day”.