What are the Challenges in Shifting Content from “What” to “Where” and “How”?

what where how

I have had great difficulty coming up with a blog post for this week.  I am not certain if I am just too busy with other things in life or if I am having a difficult time wrapping my head around the essential question: what are the challenges in shifting from “what” to “where” and “how”?  After grappling with this for a bit, I determined that I needed to first define and think about the “what”, “where” and “how”.

Defining the what, where, and how is fairly simple.

The question of “what” is easily testable.  The two types of “what” are the facts being either true or false, or the beliefs which must be explained or justified using the content being studied (Thomas & Brown, 2011).   In the past and even now educators fall into the trap of teaching students “what” they need to learn based on the curriculum.  Certainly not all teachers simply teach the “what”; however, I have seen many teachers who do just this, and I am certain I have done this before as well.  The goal then is to move beyond simply teaching the what.  There is a need in today’s ever changing society for teachers to move students into the where and how of participation, thus teaching students how to learn.

The “where” encourages the learner to determine where to find the information?  Sometimes students may not know, for instance, where Iraq is if you point to it on a map.  However, if you ask students where to gather the information to find Iraq many will be able to do this using things such as Google Maps (Thomas & Brown, 2011).  This idea reminds me of using Wiki as a resource.  Wiki is a great resource because it allows users to manage knowledge in one location; additionally the way the knowledge is managed is recorded through discussions and activity on the page.  I will be the first to admit that in the past I have never been a fan of wikis, and honestly, I find them difficult to use at times.  It is important, though, to note the value a wiki can possess.  Sheehy speaks about some of the benefits of using Wiki with other educators.  Using a wiki allows teachers to collaborate when they might otherwise not have time to “meet up” to discuss strategies or lessons (Sheehy, 2008).  Similarly, wikis can allow students to connect and share information in an organized fashion.  In the past it was difficult to find ways to organize information that students found on a particular subject; now, students are able to gather information on subjects such as serious games and put all the information in one location.  No longer do students have to wonder “where” they will locate information.  Now students and teachers can move into the “how” of participation.

The “how” of participation asks us how we can judge and evaluate the information that we gather?  Mizuko Ito discusses this in her ethnographic study shared by Thomas and Brown.  She discusses “how” we judge and evaluate in three ways: by hanging out, messing around, and by geeking out.  Mizuko explains hanging out as just “being” by learning the social practices and social norms that make one media literate.  Once students and teachers develop this social agency then they can move into “messing around”.  One of the critical pieces of messing around is that the student or person messing around develops a personal interest.  Getting students to take a personal interest will help them learn how to learn.  Finally, Mizuko explains geeking out, which means extending the social agency of hanging out and the personal agency of messing around.  People who “geek out” think, “How can I utilize the available resources, both social and technological for deep exploration?”   (Thomas and Brown, 2011)

Challenges of shifting from the “what” to the “where” and “how”.

The “what” of learning is often defined for us in the field of education.  I am reminded of something a fellow educator has mentioned in class before.  Often times as educators we feel bounded by the curriculum; still, sometimes it is important to use our professional judgment and not teach everything. Now, I don’t mean we should leave out crucial areas of study, I just think we should look at the curriculum and pacing guide with a critical eye.  If our students take a pretest for instance and already know the “what” then we should have the freedom to move right into the where and how of participation. 

One of the challenges of moving into the “where” and “how” is feeling like students don’t know the “what”.  I think this is a common feeling among educators; this may be where we, as educators, need to shift our thinking.  Perhaps students can learn the “what” by moving into the “where” and “how”.  By letting students take charge of their learning we allow them to “own it” in a sense; students will feel more involved in their studies if we give them the chance to locate information and play with it.  As I begin to think along these lines I am reminded of Wiggins article on shifting from teaching content to teaching learning.  When we encourage students to take charge of their learning we also have to take time to show them how to learn. 

–“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.”—

Benjamin Franklin


Sheehy. (2008). The wiki as knowledge repository: Using a wiki in a community of practice to strengthen K-12 education. Retrieved from http://ateacherswrites.wordpress.com/2009/02/02/the-wiki-as-knowledge-repository-using-a-wiki-in-a-community-of-practice-to-strengthen-k-12-education/


Thomas, Douglas & Brown S., John. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

Wiggins. ().  The Shift from Teaching Content to Teaching Learning. Retrieved from http://www.teachthought.com/teaching/the-shift-from-teaching-content-to-teaching-learning/

Wiki. https://www.wikipedia.org/


2 thoughts on “What are the Challenges in Shifting Content from “What” to “Where” and “How”?

  1. I had trouble with this week’s thoughts too. My braincells are all used up on Minecraft now for this class and 693 too. You did inspire me to go looking in other blogs and make some more connections since my brain is in plateau mode and I could use a boost right now as well! Great thoughts though on the reading!

  2. Sara,

    Thanks for the post. I agree that a lot of educators feel bounded by the curriculum. I always try to find ways to do things my way, but sometimes it is just too scripted. I also think it is important to give students ownership of the classroom. I find that this can sometimes mean the actual classroom layout, rules, and sometimes even group placement if you have the right mix of kids. When students are in charge, they care more about their learning.

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