Designing curriculum for people doing stuff, not people passing tests

Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab, posts a personal essay called "Reading the dictionary," which describes the traditional school curriculum as equivalent to asking students to read the dictionary or an encyclopedia from cover to cover. He contrasts this with his own style of learning, "interest-driven learning" ("code for 'short attention span' or 'not a good long term planner'") and ruminates on what a curriculum designed for people like him would look like.

Personally, I find the dictionary, the encyclopedia and videos online as excellent resources when I need to learn something. I find the need to learn things every day in the course of pursuing interests, preparing for meetings and interacting with exciting people. I'm extremely motivated to learn and I learn a lot.

I love the videos of professors, amateurs and instructors putting their courseware online. They are a great resource for interest driven learners like me. However, I wonder whether we should be structuring the future of learning as online universities where you are asked to do the equivalent of reading the encyclopedia from cover to cover online. Shouldn't we be looking at the Internet as an amazing network enabling "The Power of Pull" and be empowering kids to learn through building things together rather than assessing their ability to complete courses and produce the right "answers"?

This is really similar to my own approach to learning, and Joi's description chimes with me and recalls the best learning experiences of my own life.

Reading the dictionary