Media-rich can = learning bonanza (so can teaching from the child’s environment)

I tend to learn better and have things sink in deeper when I see real-live examples of things. Call that a failing of my generational learning style.

Now, I happened to wander over to Allanah K’s podomatic site, and I was able to see some examples of students learning using web media such as podcasting and blogging that were inspirational. It’s really nice to see children being stimulated to learn or even apply what they learn. They are being encouraged to engage in web media-rich environment and even reach out to people all over the globe, and therefore learn from them. I believe in America we are so bent on teaching to tests (due to political influences and the obsessive desire to quantify learning via numbers and stats) that it’s difficult for teachers to have the freedom or ability to use new media to teach.

I recently debated with a boomer member of our family over the need for students to learn the old-way… the rote way at our “4th of July” gathering. He insisted that the reason why they pushed the testing is because of the experimental failures in education during the 70’s and 80’s. So we need to make sure that student’s learn the basics. I replied “…and then what…?” I said, failure aside, the testing is doing more harm than good because you don’t have rich curriculum which creates a learner who can successfully think or think creatively.

Being creative isn’t just about being spontaneous and helter-skelter. It’s not just about being free-form and spirited and unconventional. Being truly creative requires discipline. But we can’t even begin to marry the connection between discipline and creativity when we are teaching to tests. I love to learn, and sometimes I have to push myself a little harder in the motivation area than say a seven year old, but I realize that if I don’t put my 2-3 hours a week of learning Flash Action-scripting, I’m never going to be able to make the things I covet on other people’s websites. (Though I may never make them perfectly, at least I’ll understand what went into making them). If I learn from others and try to apply what they learned, I may make something good or I might help myself and others make connections into what they wouldn’t have seen on their own.

If the US wishes to truly take advantage of the creative economy we are really going to have to get our butt into gear and make sure our children are learning to be creative, and think creatively. More we have to wash ourselves of this notion that creativity is for ‘free-spirited’ social anomalies. My greatest fear that this drive to test will continue to hinder us. Testing was there when I was in school and I fear it will always be there, but I suspect that over the decades schools and districts have learned to “duke their stats” in order to survive. That’s human nature – play the game (and cheat at it if you must) in order to win/survive.


3 Responses to “Media-rich can = learning bonanza (so can teaching from the child’s environment)”

  1. 1 vivkhemka July 7, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    I think that the entire problem starts with seeing NCLB the wrong way. I wish assessments had been the focus rather than Tests. Assessments are a feedback mechanism- they point out where the student is going wromng and what can be done to bring him back to speed. Tests are just dipstick studies to check how much the kid knows. Unfortunately no data to guide us on how to get the kid to improve. If NCLB has to work, assessments have to too.

  2. 2 nkilkenny July 8, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks for the comment. Alas, if they only did focus on assessment, though tests are so ‘easy’ to gather data with and they make the test-providers so much money. If you can gather the ‘data’ you can show the politicians that you are making progress. Again, what bothers me about this is that they always take the easy approach out when it comes to education. They never stay focused on one thing or at least a core of approaches with a well-centered set of educational goals that take ‘learners’ and their progress in account. Perhaps if the parents were educated and it was possible for them to participate more in educating their children or being aware of the choices for support and participation they could assist with the assessment. I believe Regio Emilia might provide a decent example of an approach to education which would help students teachers and parents participate in a more holistic approach to education, though the absence of curriculum might frighten most traditionalists, bureaucrats and polit-heads. However, in this system teachers do focus on more assessment and developing alternative plans for children if they are not succeeding. Also, parents are involved in curriculum planning and educational planning for their child. I’m actually, interested in learning more and observing how this system works.

  3. 3 nkilkenny July 8, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    Forgot to mention that RE is an early education approach. However some folks are actually trying to apply it to the higher grades.

    By the way, the second link is a great example of a rich ‘sychronous’ chat. See, it is possible to have learning happen with virtually. I’ll try to consolidate links and findings on this topic into one posting.

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