Although a la Feynman, Aristotle and Yousafzai, seeking knowledge is the joy of what makes us human, we’ve somehow managed to make learning at school boring. This is because subjects are taught in siloes, and teachers usually tell students all the facts before they ask students big questions that peak their curiosity and make them want to know and understand.
Free learning is a movement that emphasizes curiosity-driven learning in an effort to bring joy to learning, and to create world citizens who contribute to human progress, arts and knowledge.
In Free Learning, learners pursue their interests. They start with a passion for something and some curiosity about it. This can be any topic: poetry, geometry, astronomy, anything. Then they rabbit hole and go on a journey to learn that topic. This is just like how kids start with a passion for music or sports, join a band or a sports team and end up learning everything there is to know about the music or sport. That strategy of leveraging passion and an encouraging community to drive knowledge can be applied to other categories as well. That is what Free Learning is about.
Free learning is not only for kids, it’s for all learners. To be a free learner, you begin by asking interesting questions that are hard to google. Then, you go on a learning expedition to seek the answer, and you end up learning hard skills along the way.
As a parent or educator, you can help your child or student be a free learner by encouraging them to ask questions, and by answering their questions with more questions. To inspire a free learner, a proper response to a question such as ‘why is the sky blue’ could be ‘that is a great question, how do you think we should go about figuring it out?’
Why Free Learning
To borrow from Picasso, all of us are born curious, the challenge is to remain curious as we grow up.
In the George Land experiment, 98% of 5th graders score in the genius level of creativity, but only 2% of adults do. The core idea behind free learning is that if we teach by letting learners direct the learning by asking questions, we may be able to hang on to our sense of curiosity well into adulthood. (What is creativity if not applied curiosity!)
The core problem in traditional public schooling is that we go through the motions instead of using kids’ natural curiosity and question asking to drive the learning. For example, rather than describing calculus through the lens of 2500 years of human history grappling with how to explain curves, change and motion, we tell students what to look for on the calculus test to decide which method they should use solve a given limit. We’ve somehow managed to take all of the joy and wonder out of learning. Free Learning aims to bring that back.
Why is it called Free Learning?
Just like Free Climbing, Free Diving, Free Skiing and Freestyle are joyful, self-directed and free-form Climbing, Diving and Skiing, Free Learning is that for learning.