Creating A “Choose Your Own Adventure” Education

By AJ Juliani, 18 comments

I remember devouring “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid. I’m sure many of you had the same experience as the “hero of your own story” making choices that defined your personal path. Over 250 million books were printed in 38 languages, making Choose Your Own Adventure the fourth best-selling children’s book series of all time.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 6.19.44 AMWant to know why I loved these books so much as a kid? Because I felt like my choices mattered on the tiniest level. Even better, I could go back and make different choices that impacted my path, which was the best fiction lesson in cause and effect. I was empowered by the ability to choose, even if it was a small choice.

Now as I see my daughter growing older, I realize how important choice is for kids. When that choice is tied to her learning something new, it happens quicker, and with more passion. It also creates more failures, because there is no script to follow. This type of “choose your own adventure” learning is filled with problems that she has to solve, failures she has to overcome, and bad decisions she has to learn from.

As an adult, I’m living in a “choose your own adventure” world. My decisions are constantly forcing myself, and my family, down various paths.

When I fail, the journey does not end. When I succeed, the book is not over.

I have to consistently re-start, re-think, and re-learn. Are we preparing our students to live in this world?

A few years ago I tried 20% Time (like Google) in My Classroom. It was one of the most rewarding experiences I ever had with my students. Since then I’ve been part of an amazing group of teachers and educators who are bringing inquiry back into the classroom. Our goal is to empower students, the way they should be empowered. The name of the projects don’t matter: Genius Hour, 20% Time, Passion-Based Learning, Choose2Matter, Problem-Based Learning, Innovation Days/Weeks, Fed-Ex Day, etc. Instead, what really matters is that students are given a choice. It’s that simple.

Yes, there are many other reasons why inquiry-based education needs to happen in every classroom around the world. But it really boils down to the same premise as choosing your own adventure.

We don’t know what the world is going to look like in 5, 10, 15 years. We don’t know what jobs will exist, what systems will be set up, and what our students will be doing. But I do know they’ll have a choice in what they do. They will still have to fail and recover just as we do now. I hope you understand as a parent or educator that inquiry should not be a cool “option” to have in a child’s education. Giving our students choice is the only thing that will prepare them to handle the future. Whatever it may bring.

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