Teaching operational knowledge

I wonder whether there are ways we can encourage people to learn the difference between having knowledge you can reason with, and just having isolated and unconnected facts. The first gives you real power. The second doesn’t give you much of anything.

For example, the student I discussed yesterday who knew that the Sun is about 8 minutes away from Earth — in terms of the speed of information in a vacuum — had a solid basis for working out solutions to interesting problems. The fact that she didn’t need to look it up meant that she had that knowledge available at her fingertips.

Perhaps we should refrain from teaching “facts”. Instead we can focus on encouraging students to think in terms of working toolkits.

Ultimately, I suspect the best sort of education is one where we learn to work creatively with some set of tools. It’s ok to be able to follow a recipe, but far better to understand how to create one.

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