Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Learning Creative Learning: Week 3: Constructionism and Making Part 2

I was swirling in so much reading between school, deadlines, book reviews, and this class that I am behind. I have not been able to fit the time in to do the assignments with Scratch and writing about my childhood object from last week. They will get done, but just not in the weekly manner.

I do want to make sure that I have time to type up my responses and ideas to the readings because I feel that is important.

Readings in Preparation for Session 3: Part 2

I have added my thoughts under each of the articles I read and videos I viewed. I was think about the following:

In preparation, please read the suggested readings (above) and discuss with your group:
* What ideas in the readings interested or resonated with you?
* How could you apply these ideas to help others learn in your own work, family, or community?

* Seymour Papert (1980): Mindstorms (Chapter 1: Computers and Computer Cultures)
I marked a lot in this reading. I won't go through it all due to space, but I have a few parts I want to discuss. 

Right away I was hooked by this passage:

In typical education situations it is "the computer programming the child." 

"In the LOGO environment the relationship is reversed: The child, even at preschool ages, is in control: The child programs the computer. And in teaching the computer how to think, children embark on an exploration about how they think themselves."

This to me is powerful. Not so much with programming a computer, but with helping children understand how they think. How many of our students could answer the question about how they think? I don't think many could. Perhaps if we could help guide them to understand themselves more about their learning then the classroom could become more powerful and influential. I don't know how to do this, but I am quite fascinated by this mindset in teaching students to see themselves in this manner and as a results teachers would gain a deeper understanding of the students.

"...our culture is relatively poor in models of systematic procedures." 

I don't know what to make of this. I kept reading and then it all made sense. We live in a society where things are either right or wrong. With a systematic procedure students could go back and work out the "bugs" in their thinking like in computer programming. Software is not wrong, but you have to find the bugs and work them out. The passage explains it best when it states:

"For example, many children are held back in their learning because they have a model of learning in which you "got it" or "got it wrong". But when you learn a computer program you almost never get it right the first time. Learning to be a master programmer is learning to become highly skilled at isolating and correcting "bugs", the part that keep the program from working."

This is the essence of what we should be teaching students, don't you think? The key is how to do this in a system and society so ingrained in "right" and "wrong". Many people believe that there simply cannot be another option. To change education to this model of thinking is a drastic change and going against society, history, government, and life. How does one go against the grain to reach these goals? It is not simply changing your classroom. It is an ebb and flow of ideals and systems that must change and that is not easy.

Reading this article felt so relevant to me despite it being written in 1980. The one passage where he writes, "Skeptics do not expect the computer presence to make much difference in how people think and learn."

I am not sure that computers do change our thinking. We change our modes of how we accomplish things, but I think that we still think and learn as before without all this technology, it is just that our order of operations depends on the tools available to us at the current time. My son watches Minecraft videos to learn how to do things in Minecraft. I used to read the monthly Nintendo Power magazine to study how to beat Metroid. Same ideas and modes of operations, but technology has changed the speed of feedback and availability.

To show that the article was written in 1980 I have to share this part because it is now true when speaking about the future of TV or the super TV.

The content might be varied to suit the tastes of each individual viewer, and the show might become interactive, drawing the "viewer" into the action.

We have this today with reality TV, voting for our favorite dancers, watching YouTube, etc. The future is here!

Later in the article he discusses how students who used to struggle with writing because it was laborious with pencil and paper can now eliminate the labors of writing with a computer. With writing by hand he talks about writing out a rough draft, writing it again to make it better, and to physically keep rewriting. With computers it can be fixed right away and not include so much physical issues. I would still disagree with this notion. A couple of things. The labor of writing is in the actual process of figuring out what to write. To edit on a computer is still not enjoyable. Many teachers still expect a rough draft hand written or typed up, then another document printed off showing progress. We still live in a system using old school methods with new technologies so the rule themselves out. Furthermore, most lower elementary students are not able to be on computers. My son is not able to type at school for his homework. Typing is becoming a lost skill as there is not enough time in the day to teach it and many think students can do it. There are still issues with typing and I don't think that the computer has improved the joy of writing for students.

I think that we need to adopt a line from the article which is not what it was intended for - "educational intervention means changing the culture, planting new constructive elements in it and eliminating noxious ones." I think we are at a time in education where we need to begin to do this process. Time to adopt to the new ideas and technology and begin to shift how we operate in public education. I think schools are working hard to do this, but we really need to look at what systems in place right now are not best suited for kids today. As educators sometimes the things we are most comfortable with are very things that need to change. I don't have the answers, but I sure wish I did. The conversations are starting and need to continue. I love networking with others to see what is going on because people are working to make positive change. Funny how he states in 1980 that "We are at a point in the history of education when radical change is possible..." I think we are at the point again.

To change is hard. When he states the QWERTY problem of the "tendency for the first usable, but still primitive, product of a new technology to dig itself in." For example, it drives me nuts that students cannot figure out different ways to present besides a triboard. When you eliminate triboards from a showcase you would think that were told students their dog died. We have to dig deeper and really think things through and begin to challenge ourselves and thinking.

Whew! That was some serious thinking.

* Dale Dougherty: The Maker Mindset

Another great article. As always, a few things really grabbed me. I liked how he writes that Makers are trying to reject the idea that you are defined by what you buy. I like this. How do we define ourselves? Can we do it without labels of society and instead true human qualities? Tough to do.

As I read this article it reignited the change of my school converting to a true Project Based Learning school. We need to teach students or help guide them to explore, create, discover, and engage in the world to create their own paths. We should not have classrooms with rows of desks where they sit and listen. Students want to be challenged. They want some say in their learning. They still want structure and guidance, but we must provide them some freedom as well.

I really wish I had my own classroom so I could create my vision of learning. I would love to write grants and create an amazing classroom of thinking and creativity. We need to study makerspaces and incorporate these themes into our classrooms of today. More economics  art studios, and science labs should be built into our rooms.

Last, I think the one thing that I will forever take away from this article is the question

What can you do with what you know?

This needs to be asked as educators. When finishing the plans for the day ask yourself this question. If there is not a good answer to your lesson plan perhaps you need to tweak things. Students need to ask the same thing and if they cannot come up with an answer then they need to pay more attention, dig deeper, and find ways to make it applicable. 

After writing all of this up I feel that I have some ideas that I can infuse in my teaching philosophy and I need to continue to fight for better educational opportunities for students. That is what I am going to do with the ideas from these readings.
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