Every PaleoLesson meets the following three principles:
Principle Number One — Keeping It Simple
PaleoEducation is about removing the obstacles placed in-between the teacher and the student. Instead of the teacher putting a lap-top or iPad in front of the students in the hopes that the hyperlinks or apps they have provided will provide the instruction, PaleoTeaching advocates removing the middle man to have teachers deliver instruction themselves. Teachers can do things educational apps can only dream of doing. Teachers can gauge by students’ body language whether or not they comprehend the material. Teachers can stop instruction to answer questions. Teachers can immediately adapt and differentiate their lessons from class period to class period. Most importantly, teachers can connect with students on a personal level, and develop important, community-strengthening bonds with their students.
Principle Number Two – Focusing on what Students are Able to do
PaleoEducation was one of skills necessary for his survival. Modern education should be as well. The difference today is simply that the skill sets are different than they were ten thousand years ago. Of course students need content knowledge to make the best use of those skills. However, there is no significant value in memorizing facts without knowing how to apply those principles to life today. Lessons must focus on the skills students need to survive in our world. Many will say that Brett’s education, therefore, must be centered around technology, and students should be encouraged to interact with as much technology as possible. The reasoning behind this argument is that since so much of modern life is dependent on technology, schools must teach these technologies. This might be an appealing idea, but it is folly. As we discussed earlier, students come to school already technologically dependent. They have been exposed to technological gadgets from birth, and have a difficult time navigating their world without them.
Principle Three – Face to Face Interaction and Community Building
As with any paleo-society, social interactions are key. For 100,000 years of our history, Homo sapiens lived and worked in small groups of peers. They were forced to develop intimate relationships with other people. They learned how to communicate, and read each other’s body language and understand the nuances in their mannerisms. They grew to trust one another, and even depend on each other for their very livelihood. They had to work effectively in small groups. This made Homo sapiens by nature a social animal, and being accepted by his or her peers was a necessity. Even with the growth and increasing diversity of these social groups with the emergence of “civilization,” understanding how to positively participate in group settings is still just as important now as it was 100,000 years ago.
PaleoEducation is about redeveloping these seemingly lost social skills. Just like paleo-societies, it attempts to do this by making students to work in both small groups of their peers at times, and larger groups when appropriate. By making them put down the screens, and work face-to-face, students are developing critical and important skills. They are learning how to effectively communicate and read body language. It reinforces important social norms like what are appropriate and productive behaviors when trying to get something accomplished, and what types of comments will receive a positive response versus a negative one. It will instill in them a sense of varying appropriate relationships for their peers versus their tribal chiefs (teachers and administrators).
All of these things are best accomplished through actual, face-to-face interactions with others. Simply put, if students are on screens, they are not interacting with live human beings. If they are not interacting with live human beings, they are not building their school communities. One of the problems is that we are routinely told that there is a “digital community” to which students belong. Our school system is fond of calling students “digital natives.” That is fine. What is not fine, though, is that these natives are forgetting how to engage in actual face to face conversation. Encouragingly, though, when students are unplugged and detached from their screens, they are hungry for human interaction. Students devour well-planned, focused, high-value lessons that ask them to interact with one another. What is even more encouraging is that when students interact with one another in school, they continue to do so outside of school. Having these relationships and being accountable to one another increases student desire to learn and, as a result, student achievement increases. Relationships can be built and communities can thrive only when students are asked to work on relationship and community building skills. Fortunately, these skills are innate, and students are hungry to develop them.