Home Bob Lenz Go deep

Go deep

Teachers have long struggled with the tension between breadth and depth.
It’s a hard choice, hard enough that we are tempted to avoid it, dismiss it as a false choice, or contend that it is a dilemma we can dissolve through tinkering. Maybe we don’t have to choose between covering a lot of content and focusing on a particular concept or skill. Maybe we can find a way to do both at the same time.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves. The tension is inescapable, and the choice is unavoidable: go with depth.
Depth is what the world demands of us. The explosion of human knowledge is not a 21st century phenomenon; it happened in the last century. Today, in this era of Big Data, explosive can hardly describe the exponential rate of growth. “Every two days,” says former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “we now create as much information as we did from the dawn of civilization up until 2003.”
So the answer to exploding knowledge is not more schooling but a different kind of schooling. This is what the concept of deeper learning is all about and why it came to be. To pretend that we can “cover” everything that students need to know is to tilt at windmills. We must rid ourselves of any residual notions that education is the transmission of needed knowledge. Rather, we must embrace the reality that we are teaching skills, and one skill most generally: how to ride a tsunami of knowledge whose future content we can’t even begin to imagine.
What this means, ultimately, is that content, though still vitally important, is always a means to the end of some underlying, conceptual understanding. Decades of research bear this out: when deep, conceptual understanding is achieved, learning is enduring, flexible, and real.

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