Why Question?

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Ah ha! Now I have now finished “Step 1: The Art of Questioning” in The Falconer! 

If I am to honestly think about the most meaningful thing I have learned while in high school, I would say hands down that it is the knowledge, dare I say the wisdom, of knowing how important it is to ask thought provoking questions.

Questions run the world; they spark thinking and lead to discovery. A good question can kickstart more learning than most textbooks because with every question comes a million more possible questions with just as many possible answers each.

School is always focusing on answering questions, but who cares about answers that anyone can find simply by searching on google?

Mr. Usher told the Children today that “it is time for some tests” (37). Now let me point out to you that Mr. Usher does not say, “it is time for you to take a test” or “we are going to have a test today” or even “everyone sit down and clear your desk except for a pencil” (which everyone associates with “it’s test time”). No, Mr. Usher doesn’t say any of these sentences which all mean the students will be taking a test today. Mr. Usher quite purposely says, “it is time for some tests”, because what he means is that it is time for the Children to create a test.

“Coming up with questions for a test is a lot harder than coming up with the answers, you know” (37). The Children start with predictable questions:

What are the three states of water? 

How does water evaporate?

What happens when water vapor comes into contact with a cold surface? 

What two elements make up a water molecule?

Why does water evaporate?

Where in nature do we see examples of evaporation? 

These questions all begin with the words

Who

What

Where

When 

Why 

How

However, all of these questions could quite easily be answered if you only look them up in a textbook or online. These questions don’t require you to “think in the process; all you have to do is remember” (39).

I thought this quote was beautiful because it is so true! In school, more often than not, we are asked to recall information that we could just find. In the real world it really doesn’t matter all that much what information you know off of the top of your head as long as you are proficient at finding that same kind of information: the kind of information that answers questions that someone else has already found the answer to.

“What if” questions though, they lead to all sorts of weird thoughts.

What if water did not evaporate?

What if water evaporated at really cool temperature instead of at warm temperatures?

What if water molecules were made up of four atoms instead of three atoms?

In ID we have a bit of a running gag where Margaret will say something sarcastic, but I’ll take it literally and together we end up with something that actually makes quite a bit of sense. (Of course with the help of others along the way. Such as Mr. Adams and Ms. Cureton giving us some facts to actually support what we are saying with evidence.)

Today (this is about to come full circle and be mind blowing) I had started by trying to figure out if we already have a speaker coming in during the morning of January 15th for what some of us are now calling a “Consultivation” (*consulting innovation). For second semester we already have a few people scheduled to come talk to the Disney Cohort about their business, and then they will tell us about an actual problem they are working on in search of ideas and solutions from us. #rentastudent

Now I was concerned about this particular date in the first place because Kat and I are trying to schedule a time to have a google hangout with Mr. Lichtman. While I am yet to get a “real” response on this question, Margret told me:

“Yes I invited Walt Disney himself to come speak that day about aquatic mammal species communication”

And this is where I come in and take it literally. (My Challenge Weekly post on the ID blog was also inspired by this.) I thought about what I had been reading today about questions, so I decide to ask Margaret if she has any questions planned for Mr. Disney. When she tells me that she thought we would save the questions for the end, I ask her why we wait to ask questions once a speaker is “finished” and what if we started with questions instead? What we were lead to was questions like

What if we didn’t ask speakers to speak about anything specific, but just to answer questions? What if speakers were almost interviewed? Imagine the stories

What if speakers weren’t told the time constraints? What would they say then without knowing when they would be cut off?
What if there was an event like TED but instead of pre thought of talks, speakers were given a question when they got on stage and told to talk about it? That would be cool
 
What if class didn’t have a time constraint and students stayed in the classroom as long as they felt they needed to? Teachers would be more like fellow learners of discussion. (Obviously there would be the time constraint of when school actually ended at 3)

How do you ask a question to a person you know nothing about? So are you suggesting as well, what if we actually researches speakers before they came????? I mean think about it. Why have them come and talk about things we could just as easily look up and read about. Why not ask them about something they haven’t already talked about?

(Notice any connections to what Mr. Usher was teaching today?)

We continued this conversation of questioning assumptions we have made as a society around the idea of a speaker coming and it was awesome! We got lead to ideas about inviting other teachers and students to join in our Consultivations to then hopefully spread out into the rest of the school and also share our story. We talked about the idea of bringing multiple speakers in at a time to have a discussion where everyone learned and thought about things they didn’t already know the answers too.

This conversation was awesome to me because it related to everything I had been reading about today! It showed how “what if” questions can lead to great ideas. How asking a good question means asking a question that you can’t just easily look up, but it makes you actually think. How we need to constantly go back and check our assumptions to make sure we are staying on the right path. Also how your questions need a scope.

In our ID conversation, we understood that some of the questions we were asking weren’t ones that we needed to continue on with this second. We talked quite a bit about things the entire high school does that we would like to change, but we kept in mind that what we can change is what we do. And we can invite other people in so that they can see our example and we can slowly find the crack where we can help spread the ideas. The truth is that some questions will always be more prevalent and important to answer before others.

Questions lead to great things if asked correctly.

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2 thoughts on “Why Question?

  1. I love your ideas about asking speakers questions, and then listening. I do this when I am asked to skype in to a class; it often throws the students for a bit of a loop at first, but I just start by saying: “Who has a question?”, and then waiting! What if all teachers did this? It really is not that hard, but it is uncomfortable for most. What if MVPS had a day next semester when all teachers did this, when students had to ask questions related to the subject area and teachers responded? And then maybe one day a week? That is how we develop students agency and ownership of the learning process (and also teacher as co-learner!)

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