Sunday, June 8, 2014

Lifelong Learning & Summer Break

I just finished a rambling dinner conversation with my wife on whether and how students (and adults) like to learn. Earlier today, I wrote an e-mail to the parents of a number of my students letting them know about an online course offered by Stanford this summer, "How to Learn Math". While I was drafting the e-mail I kept thinking: "Most high school student are not going to want to take a class involving math over the summer. Will any of them (students or parents) actually see this course through to completion?"

This thought took me down numerous meandering paths of thought:
  • Lifelong learning is meant to be interesting, fun and rewarding. Why do some students find high school the antithesis of this?
  • Why are students fixated on getting out of school and doing anything but lifelong learning in the summer?
  • What do I mean by lifelong learning? Does this learning necessarily occur in a physical building or during an online course? If not, when does it occur?
  • Do students really shutdown for the summer or do they eventually get the urge to start structured learning before school restarts in the fall? Are they ready for school in the fall - even if they may not say it to a friend or an adult out loud?
  • What would students do to learn if left to their own devices - without the formal structure that school provides? What would motivate them to push forward?
  • With the Internet, there are many educational options available. I have shared numerous, interesting (to me) online course options for the summer with students in my upper level classes. Will even one student actually be sufficiently motivated to invest the time to complete an online course? Pessimistically, I am guessing not.
  • What do students actually do with the 2+ months of "free" time during the summer? Is it all about sleeping and various forms of mental and physical stimulation?
  • Do students still read books over the summer months?
OK, I know, there are not many tangible action items here, but it does provide some food for thought. I am genuinely curious about this topic and would love to put some more structure around understanding the role of summer break (or lack thereof) and how it relates to lifelong learning.

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