Independent Learners

Perhaps the most profound and lasting effect of the Covid Virus pandemic on our economy will be in the change in the way people work. Companies large and small have moved much of their workforce from office to home for the duration of this epidemic. Though some view this move as a business experiment, forced on them by circumstances, fully expecting to return to the old form after the magical elixir in the form of a vaccine becomes available; others see it as the future, a trend, already in progress, now accelerated. Enabled by the Web, workers and companies are weighing the cost of commuting time, office space, and watercooler office chat against the disruptions typical of home offices. For some managers, the home office conjures up a supervision nightmare, with the lack of synergistic interactions suggests lower creativity. But many are finding that work from home actually increases their efficiency and effectiveness, and changes how people interact. Zoom technology is already becoming ubiquitous. It is clear that this trend will only continue and almost certainly accelerate, its current limitations in form, equity, and bandwidth will become things of the past.

The key to the success of this new business format will most certainly be workers who thrive on independence. Companies will hire those who demonstrate an independent work ethic, who can manage and complete projects on their own, who can solve problems that they meet in pursuit of such projects, and who can independently collaborate with others within their group and outside their sphere to think critically and creatively. We will all have to learn to take more responsibility for our time and for our work, to husband our energies and make efficient and effective use of our time. That being the case, we should obviously be looking to our schools to ready our children to join this new workforce with an ethic that promotes independent work and independent learning.

Independent learning requires more than telling students that an assignment is their responsibility. It is more than adding new grading heuristics to report cards. It is more than treating high school students with our expectation of college students. Independent learning requires us to rethink the kind of assignments we give students and the kinds of interactions we expect from them. These assignments will have to excite imaginations, engage concentrations, and give students the ability to choose by using real-world Web links and tools. And as teachers we must have the patience and fortitude to not “tell them what to do”, to let them fail, and to grade products and not process. This is the goal of every Exploration, to make every learner a creative independent problem solver.

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