Don’t Lead the Horse to Water. Tell Him to Get There Himself.

freeimage-874037I want to go to China. So what should I do? Well, 10 years ago I would have contacted a travel agent and relied solely on her expertise. But today (on my lunch break), I pop onto Google and do some initial research, then I click on Expedia.com to find my cheapest airfare, and then I hop over to Trip Advisor to make sure the hotel I want to book isn’t seedy. And viola! I’m going to China.

We are living in an age of informational abundance. And because of this, our necessary skill-sets are rapidly changing. In Daniel Pink’s new book, To Sell Is Human, he explains, “In the past, the best salespeople were adept at accessing information. Today, they must be skilled at curating it–sorting through the massive troves of data and presenting to others the most relevant and clarifying pieces. Second, in the past, the best salespeople were skilled at answering questions. Today, they must be good at asking questions–uncovering possibilities, surfacing latent issues, and finding unexpected problems” (132).

And the same goes for our students.

Back in the day, students learned by tapping into their teacher–the well of knowledge, the infallible omniscient source. Nowadays (Sorry, teachers), Google works just as well. So how do we maintain a teacher’s importance in the classroom? Quite simply, our teaching methods must change. We can begin weaving these principles in our classroom with 2 simple action steps from Pink:

Turn your students into curators.
Since information is ubiquitous, the question now becomes, “So what are you going to do with it?” Beth Kanter, expert in non-profits, technology, and social media, states, “Putting content curation into practice is part art form, part science, but mostly about daily practice” (148). Here’s her easy process for novice curators: Seek, Sense, Share. Students largely do not know how to seek because they are constantly given information and answers, rather than encouraged to find it, or figure it out themselves. For more information on Kanter’s Content Curation Primer, click here.

Teach your kids how to ask better questions.
Voltaire once said, “Judge a person by their questions, rather than their answers.” Ironically, schools tend to work the opposite way. Try to right that wrong in your classroom by using the Right Question Institute’s Question Formulation Technique:
1. Produce questions: In a brainstorming exercise, write down any question that comes to mind. Remember, do not judge. Basically, just mentally throw up on your paper.
2. Improve questions: Make them more specific. Produce a nice mix of open-ended and close-ended questions.
3. Prioritize questions: Choose your top 3 questions. Why did you choose them? How can you make them even clearer?

So what’s the moral of the story? Don’t drag the horse to water and force him to drink. Instead, give him a map, a compass, and encourage him to figure his own way to the well.

To view the book trailer for To Sell Is Human click here.

Related post: Questions Are the New Answers

Image Credit: © Dizajune | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

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