Monday, December 7, 2009

Returning to my happy place...

     Okay, I've read as much of Bauerlein as my heart can take and I need to return to my happy place...the Ito et al paper.  (At least this paper encourages me to think about something productive) Reading this piece only strengthened my awareness of the importance of the child/student to be motivated in their learning experience.  
     Like Mike, through out the Bauerlein article I kept thinking this is boring to them, they don't want to learn history, math,'s not important to them.  They can look up facts on the internet, who needs to commit all of this to memory? many times can you be interviewed on the street by Leno?? (Unless you set up camp outside the CBS studios in Burbank) Then I thought of an earlier conversation and how much of this is necessary to learn?  Do we need to learn every fact, since more history is made every single day?  This is a bit insane!  It seems more productive to teach children how to look up and sift through information so they can find it, analyize it for authenticity, than to commit to memory every historical event.  Afterall, they have the world at their fingertips...or through their peers.
    Which leads me to peer-based learning...a topic I'm really interested in that kept reappearing in the article.  In both of my research studies, QA (informal setting) then CT (college setting), I've come across this in both and I'm always amazed at how easily & naturally this can occur and be taken up by all of the participants, yet it seems it's rarely mentioned in studies although it yields wonderful results.  Both of the settings situations could be termed as "geeky", the first had to do with expertise in how to maneuver and explore areas of QA outside the formal storyline and game they were suppose to be playing : -)  The 8-11 year old boys decided it was more fun to create their own clubhouse in Qville above the clouds (where they could fly), and explore Egypt than to stay on task and read the text based storyline.  They set up their own social norms and would share their coordinates with others, tell them where & how to find the secret passage ways, then someone else would make a discovery and share it, they would exclaim when they discovered the moving vehicles or the space ship!  An interesting aspect was the expert changed to whoever made the discovery and alerted others.  This wasn't a competition, just cooperation and fun exploring and learning about the new space and the affordances of the game.  There was more interaction with one another and excitement in the days they could play and explore than in any other time during the observation. When we made them return to the task at hand (the "do this, read this, then this" instructional model), I felt as if we were the ones putting up a barrier to their motivation and enthusiasm.
     The second time, in my current observation project, one of the Fine Arts grad students had experience in Arduino, so he taught other grad students on multiple days about electricity,  sensors, resistors and pure data programming.  This student prepared & presented talks then helped them trouble shoot as they tinkered and explored the program or part. Others would input their expertise and again it was as if everyone was equal, even though one had more expertise.  There were no power plays, no authority figure, just open sharing of information.
     I would have to admit the second experience did learn more "facts" than the first, yet both were learning how to engage with one another socially, explore a medium, both were definately interest-driven and I would guess the club boys may have been more friendship driven. Yet, some would say the first group was wasting time...why?  I have to wonder sometimes if an activity is labeled as "wasted time" if it looks like the children are having too much fun...if they are at play?  Because play means the child is engaged and motivated.  And who can learn anything under those circumstances?

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