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How can we best engage college students in the idea of learning instead of just getting a degree?

I work at a 4 year, public university and I see a great deal of students who come to school to get their degree (which they equate to money/success) and do not care about learning. What are your thoughts on the best way to engage them in the actual process of learning. I have my thoughts, but would love to hear my fellow TEDsters thoughts.


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  • Mar 27 2013: The raison d'etre and modus operandi of colleges mitigate against a desire to learn. These institutions are designed to deliver a series of studies some other person has decided should be of interest to a student and the mastery of these subjects is but a step toward a goal of employment that a student needs.

    Furthermore, these studies proceed at a pace that may not even closely approximate the learning abilities of the student. Today that student has far more efficient, specialized, and relevant means to acquire whatever knowledge that captures his interests or needs.

    We must differentiate between "formal" learning and practical individualized education. Everyone is learning in every moment of their waking, and sometimes even their sleeping, hours. Much of that learning is incidental to their everyday environment, but they are also acquiring knowledge that satisfies their curiosity and the incidental encounters that spark their interest. Look at how rapidly students learn the skills, niceties, and accepted language distortions of texting and tweeting, for example.

    Unfortunately, with the explosion of information and the burgeoning of tools that replace once required learned techniques much of formal education has become irrelevant.

    Software can design a building to my liking and guarantee it will meet all physical constraints required as it complies with all codes. Word processors can guarantee correct spelling and acceptable grammar in what I write. Calculators can apply geometric, algebraic, and calculus operations without my needing to know how those things are done. Google can translate articles written in any foreign language. Even my cell phone can translate conversations I may have with others who do not speak my language. Formal education need to be modernized to the world in which it operates. Otherwise it is just a ticket an antiquated system forces one to buy to get many jobs in the work place.

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