This young man is an inspiration clearly to many of us! Over 930,000 have viewed this video on TED as Thomas shares with us his journey finding a way to learn how to do something new in his world -- with the help of his family and computer store employees.
He says to the audience "Sorry, but I could not find an adult who could answer my questions about how to make an app!" This is a great moment for us all to think about -- on many levels -- but here I want to focus on just the level of teaching and learning...and the idea of teaching as the best way to learn:
Students need to be in touch with THEIR reality. As Eleanor Duckworth (a teacher leader) in her book The Having of Wonderful Ideas, Chapter 10 Teaching as Research espouses if knowledge must be constructed by each individual, then we must first "put students in contact with phenomena related to the area to be studied - the real thing...to help them notice what is interesting." She continues that we then need to have "students try to explain the sense they are making, and, instead of explaining things to students, to try to understand their sense."
Students can be partners with us in teaching and learning. Jim Knight in his book Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction, sets the standard we all know so well for adult to adult instruction: we must collaborate to learn together, rather than listening to an expert to teach. When learning together, you'd want to have the other person "ask your opinion and listen to your voice, to talk with you in a way that encouraged thought and dialogue about your real-life experience."
I love the thought of Thomas teaching a class now -- at the encouragement of his teacher! This is a true story, and one we could all have happen in our schools all over this country - and imagine what we might learn if our students were given just the chance to explore what they want to know, learn what they don't know and then share what they learned as the guide!