If we think that knowledge/learning is a process, a construction of information by the learner, and I do, then can we defend it as being better than rote memorization of discrete bunches of facts?
Not really. As I said a couple of posts ago, the world is divided, and this where agreement on how to teach the children falls apart.
However, the difference between taxon memory and locale memory should give us all pause before casting our lot with the memorization crowd. Here’s a quick question: what did you have for supper last night? Most people have little problem answering that question (unless it was a fifth of Johnny Walker), and yet none of us sat down and memorized that fact for retrieval today. How do we do it?
The answer is locale memory, which is one of our built-in learning systems. It’s survival-based and map-oriented, and it’s omnipresent. We don’t have to work at it. It works through all our senses as well as our emotions to sort information into sensible patterns that will help us live to the next meal.
Our locale memory forms its maps fairly instantaneously. Can you imagine how hard it would be to survive if every time you went into a new room you had to use trial and error to figure out how to get back out? That’s what makes the characters in the computer game The Sims so hysterical: they have no locale memory, it’s all taxon. Before they can learn the simplest things, like how to get out of bed, they have to do it over and over and over.
Complex maps take time to construct however. You have to live in an area for a while before you know all the “back ways” to get to where you want to go. If you’re learning a new piece of software, you now how frustrating it is to be tied to the manual or a Dummies book every time you want to accomplish something. But after a while, you know all the keyboard shortcuts and what all the tools are for and what’s hidden in all the submenus and palettes.
So what’s all this got to do with curriculum in general and with our new GPS curriculum in particular? Good question.