Doing Things at School That Can’t Be Done At Home
Many kids and teens are spending a lot of their time doing solitary screen-related activities. This most often occurs at home with their own devices.
We are also living in an age where practically any and all content can be found via the Internet. The educator is no longer the gatekeeper to information. Internet resources can present and teach content better than a lecturing educator. Videos, demonstrations, and interactive websites and simulations are often more interesting, exciting, and engaging than teachers’ lectures . . . and the kids know it!
So what, then, becomes the purpose of school? School should be about doing things that aren’t or can’t be done at the students’ own homes. These things should be about interaction . . . interaction with other humans . . . interaction with the material and physical world.
Interacting with Adult Educators
The first type of human interactions includes those with adult educators and mentors. The key here is that they are interactions not an adult teacher talking at nor lecturing the learner. It involves building relationships with learners, engaging in coaching and mentoring functions, and modeling learning how to learn.
Educator as a Coach and Mentor
Coaching in the classroom environment is defined as working with students to develop their self-awareness and capacity for self-discovery, while motivating them to begin a process of continuous learning and development. Three key elements of the role of the teacher as coach are: relationship building, increasing students’ self-discovery and self-knowledge through co-inquiry, and combining theory with practice via a pragmatic orientation. (The Teacher As Coach Approach)
Educator as a Lead or Model Learning
I have written before about the educator as a model and lead learner:
The educator’s role has or should change in this age of information abundance or Education 2.0-3.0. The educator’s role has always been to model and demonstrate effective learning, but somewhere along the line, the major role of the educator became that of content and knowledge disseminator. Now in this information age content is freely and abundantly available, it is more important than ever to assist learners in the process of how to learn. (Educator as Model Learner)
Interacting with Peers
The second type of human interaction is that with peers. Human beings are social and naturally learn from one another, so the idea of preventing discourse between peers counters how people learn in the real world. Peer interactions don’t necessarily have to be learners of the same age. It could be people of similar abilities and/or interests. Face-to-face interactions within the school setting has a number of benefits.
Throughout childhood and adolescence, peer interaction is essential for language, cognitive, and social development. There are aspects of learning that happen best during peer interactions, rather than interactions with adults. Children acquire language and vocabulary during interactions with others. They learn how to argue, negotiate, and persuade. Fostering Social Interaction
Classes where students have opportunities to communicate with each other help students effectively construct their knowledge. By emphasizing the collaborative and cooperative nature of classwork, students share responsibility for learning with each other, discuss divergent understandings, and shape the direction of the class. (Student-Student Classroom Interaction)
Interacting with Materials and the Physical World
Interacting with materials in the physical world is another interactive element that should be integrated as standard practice in face-to-face education. The quality of interacting with materials should be considered. It needs to go beyond using manipulatives in predetermined ways. Material interaction should be open ended, allowing for learner experimentation and self-discovery. I recently learned about The Theory of Loose Parts:
In 1972, architect Simon Nicholson developed the Theory of Loose Parts; the idea that loose parts, materials which can be moved around, designed and redesigned, and tinkered with; create infinitely more opportunities for creative engagement than static materials and environments. Basically, the more materials there are the more people can interact. (The Theory of Loose Parts)
The loose parts theory suggests that when [learners] are given a wide range of materials that have no defined purpose, they will be more inventive in their play and have infinite play opportunities manipulating them in ever-changing ways that their imaginations devise. The more flexible the environment, the greater the level of creativity and inventiveness is expressed. (Loose Parts)
Here is Nicholson’s 1972 paper about The Theory of Loose Parts – 1204-5117-1-PB
Using loose parts for unique and personalized interactions support playful learning:
Playful learning is using play activities to immerse ourselves and learn, either on our own or with others in a space we feel safe. Play helps us go back to who we really are as human beings, full of life, curiosity and wonder. Creatures who are not afraid to be different, even silly at times and ready to try different things. In playful learning it’s ok to make mistakes when experimenting with new ideas, when challenging ourselves and others and doing things we normally wouldn’t do – which can lead us to surprising discoveries.
The resources we use might be low tech, such as everyday objects, games and materials, or high tech, such as specific software tools, social or mobile media and mobile apps. Often we don’t need anything and play happens based on pure imagination and we become play resources ourselves. (The Rise of Playful Learning)
I believe that the reason for the popularity of maker education is due to both educators’ and learners’ need for playful learning with loose parts.
The Role of Technology in the Interactive Environment
Because of the ubiquitous nature of technology, I do believe it should be integrated into school-based learning activities but not in the often passive and isolated ways that it is typically used by many folks. Technology can and should be used to reinforce and supplement the interactive activities – looking things up to support their interactive learning ventures, requesting advice and expertise via social networks, documenting their learning, and communicating directly with experts and peers via Skype and Google Hangouts.
Subscribe to comments with RSS.