Learning Or Memorizing? How to Teach In the Innovation Economy

Aaron Saunders
2 min readFeb 17, 2016


I am about six weeks into teaching an iOS mobile development class at Howard University and I am starting to recognize an interesting pattern that I have seen over the last three classes that I have also taught; this extreme focus on testing and memorizing.

There is this desire from the students for me to tell them exactly what I want them to know so they can copy it verbatim and then when I give a quiz, they can just regurgitate exactly what I taught them. This is not an indictment of the students because they are just doing what they believe is is expected of them… this is a learned behavior that most likely started long before they got to Howard.

I say this because I have a son who is in middle school and I often ask him about school and what he is learning and unfortunately, his focus is not on what he is learning, but what his grade is. Is this what we really want our children and our future to be based on, how well someone can pass a test?

I teach iOS concepts in the first ⅔ of the semester with the hope that in the last ⅓ of the semester the students will create something with the knowledge and concepts I have covered, something that came from their mind, some innovation that cannot be spoon fed to them by me and my perspective on the world which is limited and constrained by individuality.

I do have hope, my TA is a student from Howard and he is working hard to be a better all around developer, thinking of apps and products to build. One of the students in the class took advantage of a link I sent him for purchasing the Udemy class on iOS9 development and comes up after every class with a question about the videos or something he read ahead in the text and is trying to figure out.

Testing and measuring are important but I hope it doesn’t overtake or dim the energy or the fire of innovation burning inside the young child that has grown into an adult and only cares about the grade and not about the next big thing.