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If you have to learn it NOW, you don’t HAVE to learn it.

25 June 2013 4 Comments

1) Nobody knows ahead of time how long it takes anyone to learn anything.

2) If you put an arbitrary time limit on learning something, you are ensuring that some people will not learn that something.

3) If you are willing to cut people off from learning something by imposing an arbitrary time limit, then you must also be willing to admit that not everyone has to learn that something.

“If you have to learn it now, you don’t have to learn it.”

4) If you’re teaching something that everyone, in fact, must know (a bold claim), you must not put an arbitrary time limit on learning that something.


  • Ross Patel said:

    I understand the sentiment. But life has timelines. For example: my game ships at some point, and I have to learn to optimize the shaders before it ships, or the art assets won’t be completed by our deadline.

  • Dr. Tae (author) said:

    I don’t understand how saying “life has timelines” or your example contradicts anything I’ve asserted. Going point by point:

    1) Still true.
    2) An arbitrary deadline was imposed and you could miss it (learning is no longer the goal).
    3) Not everyone has to learn how to optimize shaders.
    4) If optimizing shaders is something that everyone, in fact, must know (a bold claim), you must not put an arbitrary time limit on learning how to optimize shaders.

  • Douglas W. Green, EdD said:

    I agree completely. The big problem with our one-size-fits-all approach to education is that it leaves some behind and bores others. There is no reason why learning can’t be self-paced. Modern technology can help. The only test a student should take is one they are ready for. Customized testing with retakes until the content is mastered would allow students to take as much, or as little time as needed. This is already happening in schools using the “flipped/mastery” model. See my summary of “Flip Your Classroom” http://bit.ly/LfEr63 and “The Myths of Standardized tests.” http://bit.ly/lJLUNR

  • Dr. Tae (author) said:

    The “flipped/mastery model” in its current state is also a one-size-fits-all approach to education as far as delivery formats (usually videos), content (usually a standard curriculum), and even time (school terms implicitly impose constraints on time). “Leaves some behind and bores others” still applies to the flipped classroom.

    Once we get past the time issue, the important question is “What should people learn?” and according to Paul Tough in How Children Succeed the answer to that question has very little to do with developing academic skills (the main focus of most classroom flipping). It’s not clear what role technology plays in helping people develop non-cognitive skills.