Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Curiosity Did Not Kill the Cat. We Are Killing Curiosity.

Have you ever traveled on public transportation with your head buried in your phone the whole time? I like to sit and look around for awhile. I'm aware of the people with whom I am traveling. I note things about my surroundings. What colors are around me? Is it hot or cold on this bus? Does this train sound like my beloved Boston (subway) T or Amtrak? I look at the ads. I decipher what I'm seeing. Then, I may bury my head in my phone or a book for awhile.

When I was in college, I remember constantly exploring. I'd walk through educational halls reading posters. I'd stop at professors doors and read quotes they liked to hang up. I actually put quotes on my own office door in my library as a professional, but I rarely see anyone reading my Calvin and Hobbes comics or my Teddy Roosevelt sayings about believing in yourself. If students wait outside my door, their heads are usually buried in their phones. How much are they missing about their surroundings?

According to the American Library Association, "Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." For the school librarian, the process of cultivating curiosity is part of the teaching of information literacyThe goal of the school librarian should be to encourage students to slow down, look around, think, and ask questions.

When one passively absorbs information, one is not truly engaged with the building of knowledge. Passive absorption of information, such as when one reads though Twitter posts or snapchats, can discourage a holistic view of knowledge. Teachers must encourage students to absorb and decipher information. This involves helping students to be curious about everything that they encounter. This involves asking questions.

I recognize that I need information about the people and places around me so that I better understand my own place in the world. I submit that my students do not recognize this in themselves. Information literacy is endangered in this modern society because of multiple factors:
1. Too much information is overwhelming and tends to shut down one's desire to decipher what is really happening.
2. The ability to disseminate information is so easy that poor quality information abounds, making it more difficult to decipher good information from bad.
3. Modern technology encourages us to bury our heads in devices and to passively swipe left, burying our curiosity.
4. The fast pace of life, encouraged in part by almost instantaneous access to information, discourages people from listening attentively and slowing down to be fully present. 

Answers sometimes kill questions. When answers come to quickly, we forget to ask questions.

I want my students to ask as many questions as needed to ensure they fully understand the information in front of them. We should add our questions' answers to our store of knowledge. Shake them up inside of us and then thread a needle in and out of new knowledge to stitch the information to our sense of self. What do I know? What do I not know? What else can I learn? How can I make myself better through knowledge? How can my own knowledge, skills, and ability to learn help change the world?

Scientists don't fully understand curiosity, but curiosity is a rich subject for research. I do know that curiosity does not always come naturally, it can be killed, and it must be encouraged. Teach your students the 8 habits of curious people and help them cultivate them through continual inquiry. Curiosity won't kill you. It will only make you stronger.