Sunday, April 12, 2015

Play will find a way!

Image result for creative commons flower on sidewalk

        I recently spoke with an administrator who was telling me about an outcome which surprised him. Some of his teachers were seeing greater engagement of students when programming, such as the hour of code, was brought into the classroom.  I have heard other adults express similar surprise over makers classes, 3d printing classes, and other things.  What is the common factor that is causing kids to want to learn?  Authentic-Organic learning is occurring.

          The teacher is engaged in the learning process.  The topics are new to her and many of us who are over 40. She is undaunted. Even though she may use a resource from the internet, the lesson is designed by her.  It is not scripted.  She must plan the lesson, find the resources, tie it to the curriculum. Sounds like a whole lot of work.  Why would any teacher do that?  She does it because it's fun for her and it's fun for her students as well.

          This is the moment she signed up for. She is using this moment in her classroom as a canvas. It is a moment of joy and PLAY.  Great things are happening right now.

         The teacher likely does not have a degree in coding/ programming so she has to be willing to be vulnerable enough to share with the student that she may not know everything about the subject.  They can figure it out together.  When they hit problems, everyone engages to solve it. 

          Sometimes, once the students have the fundamentals they are allowed to explore the programming/ maker environment and self direct their learning in a process called play.  Play is the first form of self directed learning and the most important job of a child. Play is the most powerful learning engine known to humanity. When a child learns through play, learning is fun and memorable.

        Unfortunately, play has become rare in school because it is very hard to script.  It's difficult to generate profits for textbook and testing companies by 'creating play'. Inventiveness and creativeness is tough to measure on a commercialized bubble sheet test but these traits are vital to creating success here in the US. 

        So much has changed since my parents were teaching.  When the commercial achievement tests first came into the market it was considered unethical to teach to the test.  Now we spend weeks of the school year teaching to the test through multiple commercial practice tests, score conferencing, and a month of review before the TCAP.  When I was a student if a teacher did this level of prep I know the principal would conference with her.  Her high power prep would skew the scores of her students so no one would know what part of the education was retained in long term memory.  Students were given time every day to go outside and play when I was young unless the weather was poor.  Sometimes we evened played and explored in the classroom. 

         Finland seems to have revived the best parts of the former US educational philosophy.  Last weeks article touched on Finland's remarkable success through educational freedom for teachers, civil rights for student and play.  Here is a link:

        When my parents were teaching the only nations that scripted teachers were over in the Eastern Block.  Teachers here were trusted to develop the class curriculum and were trusted by the parents as professionals.  Now there are profits to be made.  The cost of education is higher without offering attractive to pay to professional teachers and without the joy of learning through play. 

        I have seen the power of play and I know play is natural to children.  The makers/coder events give me hope that authentic-organically grown learning is not a museum relic.  PLAY will find a way!

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