Connecting the Dots

In school, we often assume that students are connecting the dots.
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In school, we often assume that students are connecting the dots.

I recently came across a short blog post by Seth Godin around the topic of connecting the dots. He says, “Connecting dots, solving the problem that hasn't been solved before, seeing the pattern before it is made obvious, is more essential than ever before.”

Problem solving in today’s marketplace requires everyone to hone their dot connecting skills. With the vast amount of information available at the click of a search button, being able to prioritize and process data as well as see hidden patterns and connections within a system is invaluable. Design challenges rely on these dot connections to stay ahead of the curve and meet the oftentimes, undetermined needs of the user.

In school, we often assume that students are connecting the dots.We focus on handing out various dots; facts, timelines, grades, and we put them in neat stacks according to topic. Here are your math dots, here are your history dots, here are your science dots. Students walk out at the end of the day with a carefully labeled stack of isolated information ordered into binder sections. Do we give them enough opportunities to make the connections? Do we teach them the skills needed to see the patterns before they are made obvious?

Part of changing teachers’ mindsets is helping them understand that today’s students have access to many dots. No longer are teachers the primary providers of these dots, but we are responsible for helping students connect them. How might we make that the priority? How might we help them practice that skill?

As Seth mentions, “Their big bag of dots isn’t worth nearly as much as your handful of insight, is it?”

cross-posted at Innovate, Create, Educate

Kami Thordarson is a graduate of the 2011 MERIT program through the Krause Center for Innovation and has led classes on project-based learning, digital storytelling, and design thinking. She is the Innovative Strategies Coach for the Los Altos School District. Read more at Innovate, Create, Educate.