This is part of an ongoing exploratory series on Educational Ideas
The basic idea behind ThoughtfulRecommendations.com is to create a website where people list off everything they’ve discovered in the world that they would recommend to anyone. This could include books, movies, restaurants, articles, activities, etc.
As someone builds up a list of everything amazing they’ve discovered in life they create a profile of themselves that describes who they are through their interests. You can see mine here: Jared Cosulich. Without ever discussing one’s own skills/experiences/etc this profile still paints an intimate picture of someone.
From an educational perspective there are multiple goals:
- Allow students to see adults from the perspective of their interests / hobbies / entertainment / etc. Too often students see adults as superficial caricatures of real people. They are a scientist or a teacher or an athlete or a doctor. In real life people have diverse interests, enjoy diverse forms of entertainment, and often move in between professions throughout their life. Seeing the diverse recommendations that each person has may help students connect with adults in their school and community in more meaningful ways.
- Allow adults to learn about each other in more meaningful ways. Parents would be able to learn more about their children’s teachers (or the staff in a school) through their interests. Similarly colleagues within a school would be able to learn more about each other.
- Allow both students and adults to learn from each other. If someone finds a resource (an article, a book, etc) so valuable that they are willing to attach it to their profile, then that is a very high recommendation. If a student finds someone who shares their interests then they’ll discover a wealth of resources they can explore and someone they can connect with that shares their interests.
This one may be a bit controversial for a number of reasons:
- It looks like a commercial website and it could easily be a commercial website. This might distract from the idea of using the website in an educational context or may make it seem like the educational goals are really just an excuse to create a profitable website.
- I don’t think many people pay close attention to the books, articles, movies, etc. they discover along the way. They may read something, get excited about it, and share it with others, but they will likely forget about it soon after as life is busy. I found that once I started saving these discoveries in a single place it became both easier to identify them and my profile quickly built up to something substantial. If someone is asked on the spot to create a profile, though, they may struggle to remember everything they find interesting. This may discourage people from ever getting started creating a profile.
- Many people will not appreciate the idea of putting their opinions about books, restaurants, etc. out in the open. It may be too much to ask people to be so public with their opinions leading to potential criticism. I don’t think it would happen often (most people simply don’t care that much about your interests or opinions) but it likely would happen and I can’t blame someone for being concerned about it.
These concerns are valid I think. They may significantly undermine ThoughtfulRecommendations.com or something similar. At the very least the controversial aspects may really distract people from the underlying goals.
That said, I think the goals are valuable and important. A primary goal of The Puzzle School and, I believe, education in the future, should be to facilitate the exploration of a far wider range of interests / skills / knowledge than traditional curricula allow. Another primary goal should be to connect people who share those interests (both young people and adults) so that they can learn from and support each other. A website like ThoughtfulRecommendations.com will not achieve these goals on its own, but it does seem like a quality resource with regard to these goals.
It also has the added benefit of helping people in a community learn more about each other in an asynchronous manner. This may be a small thing, but I think it is much easier to create a supportive environment when people in the environment know more about each other, their motivations, their interests, etc. Despite the amount of time people spend in school they often don’t know much about their colleagues, peers, or students. A profile of each person’s recommendations could help bridge that gap.