In the Curiosity is the Cat post, Will Richardson makes the argument that curiosity is the only “C” that truly matters. Richardson alludes to the variety of authors who have pointed to 4, 7, or more Cs of 21st Century learning and suggests that without curiosity you wouldn’t have critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration. He also points to the reality that our children are filled with curiosity prior to going to school and by the time they are in their teens they have little curiosity for anything to do with the curriculum. There appears to be a correlation between the ages that children lose their curiosity and a number of questions that they ask.
Santana & Rothstein of the Right Question Institute have compiled a graphic from NCES data that shows children’s peak questioning happens at age 4 and then significantly declines as they progress through school.
Warren Berger confirms this correlation in his book A More Beautiful Question and points to our education systems that reward rote answers over challenging inquiry as one of the primary causes of this decline. Our educational system focuses on giving the right answers as opposed to starting with the right questions. And yet the most innovative organizations in the world like Google, Netflix and IDEO and most innovative artists, teachers, and entrepreneurs look to change the world by starting with a “beautiful question.” Innovation requires starting with questions and our current educational system is not preparing learners who are equipped to ask questions and innovate.
When we focus on the right answers instead of starting with questions we not only extinguish our learner’s ability to question, inquire and innovate we create an environment of rewards and punishment that fosters fear in the learner when they aren’t able to regurgitate the right answer. In my research into how to get adults more comfortable with using technology, I learned that in order to stimulate the natural curiosity that is extinguished by our educational system I had to first help the adult learner get over their fear of doing something wrong or the fear of not knowing the right answer. Once steps were taken to help adult learners deal with this fear then we could start working on rebuilding that inquisitiveness that would help them to explore and see “what would this button do” as they learned how to use technology. While my approach to adult learning called Inquisuitivism proved to be effective, I couldn’t help wonder why we had to reactively help people rebuild a natural disposition or mindset that we all have as children.
Instead of attempting to reignite our learner’s inquisitiveness wouldn’t it be much more effective to nurture that natural ability they have in abundance before they start school? When we ask this question we need to be prepared to do something about what our inquiry reveals. There is no doubt that if we continue to do what we have always done in school our passive educational environment of main lecture points, content delivery, step by step rubrics, individual competition and standardized testing will continue to efficiently extinguish our children’s natural inquisitiveness.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Like Santana & Rothstein, Richardson, Burger, I also believe that we can help develop connected curious learners who will become the innovators of the future. While reigniting the questioning spark is extremely important this is only one part of a bigger process. If we focus on just this part of the problem we can easily fall into a quick fix mentality which is another perennial problem that we face in education. There are no quick fixes; we have to purposefully design our learning environments. We have to stop doing what we have always done and start creating significant learning environments by giving our learners choice, ownership, and voice through authentic learning opportunities (CSLE+COVA).
Berger, W. (2014). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA.
Richardson, W. (2017, February 11). Curiosity is the cat. Retrieved from https://willrichardson.com/curiosity-is-the-cat/
Santana, L., & Rothstein, D. (n.d.). Percentage of children asking questions. Retrieved from http://rightquestion.org/percentage-children-asking-questions/
A recent trip to a Home Depot reminded me of why so many people despise having to find a specific item in a big box store. According to the Home Depot website, my local store had several sets of the rubber leg tips that I needed to replace a worn out tip on our bike repair stand. When I walked into the store I immediately went over to the information desk to ask it they could tell me or direct me to where to find the leg tips. I even had the name and product code so I thought that the person at the desk could at least look it up and tell me what aisle I needed to begin my search. Unfortunately, the best that they could offer is the suggestion that this item could be in the “Tools” or “Hardware” area of the store. Unfortunately, “Tools” spans almost 4 isles and the “Hardware’ section is another set of 3-4 aisles right next to the Tools. As luck would it have the leg tips were on the very last aisle that I walked down and after close to thirty minutes of fruitless searching I determined that the leg tips in the cooler and size that I was hunting for were out of stock—even though the website indicated that they have at least 10 sets.
Since I didn’t find what I was looking for at Home Depot and I didn’t want to wait to order the items from Amazon I decided to stop by Ace Hardware the next day. According to the Ace Hardware site, there were at least 6 sets of leg tips in the size I needed in two different stores that were close by. I stopped at the first Ace Hardware and I was only in the store for a couple of seconds when the guy at the help desk said hello and ask me how he could help. I said I was looking for 1.5-inch leg tips and before I could finish explaining that knew that they had to be in stock, he said:
Yup, we have those – go down to isle 28 here on your left and when you turn right into the isle the leg tips will be hanging on the wall just a few feet into the aisle on your right. The size you are looking for should be at the top of the display. You will find both black and white leg tips in that size.
It took me less than 15 seconds to follow his instructions and find the leg tips that I needed and in less than a minute I was back up at the checkout. On the way out of the store, I was thinking to myself that I wouldn’t even bother looking at Home Depot even though they are closer then Ace and usually have lower prices. It just doesn’t make sense for them to make it so hard to do business with me by making it so hard to find what I was looking for. In contrast, Ace helped me to find what I needed by giving me very specific direction and guidance. Both stores have clearly marked aisles and are very well organized the difference is that the Ace people created a context or a guideline for me to find what I was looking for.
Are you making the same mistake as Home Depot on your blog or website? Are you expecting your user to find what they are looking for without creating a context or providing the necessary guidance to find your valuable information? A well-built landing page, context page, or organizational summary for a section on your site can go a long way to help your user to find all your valuable information. Just pointing them to your main page and expecting them to find everything by looking at your menu often isn’t enough. If you a have a major section on your site that has lots of parts then create a page that will provide a context and help guide you the user to the information that they may be looking for. Don’t make your user work so hard to find what they are looking for.
If you think about my Home Depot vs Ace Hardware experience, I am choosing to go with the company that didn’t make it hard for me to find what I was looking for. The Ace people guided me directly to where I needed to go and as a result, they will have my future business. There are fewer options when it comes to buying hardware so I imagine I may find myself at Home Depot again but on the Internet, there are so many more options when it comes to information. If you make it hard for your user to find what they are looking for on your site—chances are they won’t hang around for very long and they won’t be back.