Information Age Education Blog
Can I Go Play Now?
Imagine that you are a parent with a grade school child. You have a very strange dream. In this dream you hear your child saying:
Can I go play now? I want to go do my homework, practice on the guitar, and read the book I just checked out from the school library.
In this dream you hear yourself replying in a stern voice:
No, you may not go play right now. You haven’t finished responding to all of your Facebook messages, and you didn’t post a selfie yesterday or today. Also, you need to post at least six more Tweets today—remember our rule about a daily dozen! And you still need to spend at least 15 minutes more on Minecraft. I really like what you are doing there.
A Dream or a Nightmare?
Did the dream scenario make you smile or chuckle? Or, did it seem completely outside your ideas of current realities in child rearing? Perhaps the dream struck you as sort of a nightmare.
Now, think about today’s schools and schooling. How much school time do students spend doing self-motivated activities that they find to be intrinsically interesting and enjoyable? Compare this with time spent doing what the teacher tells students to do, with students learning more or less in lock step.
For many students, school time is a major struggle between doing what they are “supposed to do” and following their natural inclinations and doing what they want to do. For Talented and Gifted students, school is apt to be quite boring. Many TAG students tend to put a lot of energy into circumventing the rules.
For slow learners, there is a constant barrage of information and required activities, many beyond their current capabilities. For many of these students, academic failure is a routine part of their lives.
For all students, there is a conflict between “the call of being a social human being” and the schooling processes designed to teach students to conform, be quiet, follow the school rules, and behave well in a constricted and restricted classroom of thirty or more students.
Using Scenarios to Promote Class Discussions in Teacher Education
I spent many years as a teacher of preservice and inservice teachers who wanted to learn more about the uses of computers in education. Usually these classes and workshops were small enough so that I could make substantial use of small group and whole group discussions.
In these teaching environments, I often made use of scenarios and/or posed questions for which I did not have good, well-thought-out answers. The dream scenario given above provides a good example.
After the small group discussions and some whole class sharing, I then provided some of my own insights. For example, in the original dream scenario, I note that many students voluntarily participate in sports. They have sufficient intrinsic motivation, plus encouragement from adults and peers, so they regularly come to practices and willingly participate in the training.
Today, we have the situation in which many children learn to play quite complex computer games. A combination of learning on their own and from their peers moves them from being absolute “bumbling” novices to eventually achieving a level of expertise that is personally satisfying.
We also have the situation in which children learn to read, and some become hooked on books. They are intrinsically motivated by what they find in physical and electronic books. For them, reading becomes a type of play.
Scenario: Learning On Your Own
We are all lifelong learners, learning all the time through the sensory information we receive and process. This occurs both inside and outside of school. Here is a story about a student named Pat. Participants in a computer-in-education course or workshop could use this scenario to share personal examples of learning on their own and share experiences of providing classroom environments in which students are given opportunities to learn on their own.
Music Composition Scenario
Pat has many Facebook “friends,” many who she has never personally met. Pat stumbles on a Facebook entry in which a person mentions composing piano music using a particular piece of free software. Pat thinks, “We don’t have a piano in my home, and I have never had a piano lesson. But, when I hear a catchy tune it seems to keep playing in my head. I’d like to try writing down some of these tunes, making them better, and then hearing what they sound like.”
Pat goes on to learn how to use the free software, learns the sounds of the keyboard notes and some chords, how to edit, how to have the computer play the emerging piece of music, and so on. Soon Pat begins to develop a level of expertise that is personally satisfying. She shares some of these compositions with Facebook friends and receives positive feedback. This success, along with a natural “ear” for and interest in music, may lead to an eventual vocation or avocation in music. Even if this does not happen, Pat has gained increased confidence in taking responsibility for her own education.
Education has many goals. Learning to learn on one’s own and taking personal responsibility for one’s learning are two very important goals. Some schools place a much larger emphasis on these goals than do others. My 10/30/2014 Google search of the term self-directed learning returned over nine million hits. This very broad search category includes a wide range of schools and ideas about giving more power and responsibility to students. The Montessori schools fall into this very broad category.
I know that both parents and teachers frequently encounter differences of opinion between themselves and their children or students. Adults tend to take the position that they know what is best for children, and are not too good at putting themselves into children’s shoes. So, conflict is common, and mutually satisfying compromises are difficult to achieve. If there were simple, easily implemented solutions to such adult/child education-related disagreements, we adults would just learn and apply them. Being a good teacher would be much easier. But such is not the case.
Right now, many schools and teachers don’t do as well as they might in capitalizing on students’ inherent abilities to be intrinsically motivated to take on and accomplish challenging learning tasks. Computers, the Web, and the growing capabilities of computer-as-teacher provide steadily increasing opportunities for students to find areas in which they are intrinsically interested in learning and will be able to succeed in learning on their own.
What You Can Do
Think about the opportunities you provide for your students and your children to learn by playing, and to select areas of playing/learning that are intrinsically motivating. Also, think about the opportunities you provide for your students and children to share their intrinsically motivated learning with others. Experiment with trying out various ways to increase the amount of time made available for such self-instruction.
Readings from IAE Publications
Moursund, D., & Albrecht, R. (2011). Using math games and word problems to increase the math maturity of K-8 students. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download a free PDF fie from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/211-using-math-games-and-word-problems-to-increase-the-math-maturity-of-k-8-students.html. Download a free Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/210-using-math-games-and-word-problems-to-increase-the-math-maturity-of-k-8-students.html.
Moursund, D. (11/4/2011). Play together, learn together: STEM. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download a free PDF file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/212-play-together-learn-together-stem.html. Download a free Microsoft Word file from http://i-a-e.org/downloads/doc_download/213-play-together-learn-together-stem.html.
Moursund, D. (2014). Empowering learners and teachers. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/30/2014 from http://iae-pedia.org/Empowering_Learners_and_Teachers.
Moursund, D. (2014). Self-assessment instruments. IAE-pedia. Retrieved 10/30/2014 from http://iae-pedia.org/Self-assessment_Instruments.
Moursund, D. (8/6/2014). Making school more relevant to students. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/30/2014 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/school-homework.html.
Moursund, D. (9/22/2014). School homework: Think outside the box. IAE Blog. Retrieved 10/30/2014 from http://i-a-e.org/iae-blog/entry/school-homework.html.
Brown, J. (10/29/23014). Kids pursue passions during ‘genius hour’ at Centennial Arts Academy. Gainesville Times. Retrieved 10/31/2014 from http://www.gainesvilletimes.com/section/6/article/105580/.
Quoting from the newspaper article:
For an hour a day at Centennial Arts Academy, a group of fifth-graders get to take a break from the usual structure to learn about anything they want to.
The students are part of teacher Dallas Thompson’s genius hour, where kids get to pursue a “passion project” that really interests them — no tests or curriculum, just the joy of learning.