Posts Tagged ‘discovery’

New Discovery – The Joy of Learning

October 17, 2009

The Exploratorium

The Exploratorium

We are geared to teaching what we can measure, and we can’t measure the joy of discovery. These words are paraphrased from an interview of K.C. Cole on her book entitled, Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and the World He Made Up. Frank Oppenheimer helped develop the atomic bomb. He was a pacifist and felt betrayed when it was later dropped on civilians. He felt he had a responsibility to show how to make sense of the world through discovery and went on to develop the Exploratoriumin San Fransisco. He hoped to rekindle peoples’ childhood search for enlightenment, a quest for discovery and a confidence in problem-solving things (typically brushed off) too difficult to understand.

How can teachers provide students with the opportunities to make their own discoveries and follow their innate curiosity? Do we provide too much guidance in guided learning? Is it too contrived? Can we replicate an Exploratorium feel in the classroom making discovery an individual and not a group think kind of activity? Science is sight-seeing! That was Frank’s message as a teacher.

Teachers walk into a museum expecting a guided tour. It is an efficient way to cover a large area in a reasonable amount of time while absorbing research based information. Is that what we want for our students? It this the learning process? I wonder. When I consider adults seeking professional development there are several different approaches people take in pursuit of learning. Without reaching for any statistical documentation I think it’s safe to say that most teachers expect to have the learning delivered to them in the ‘guided-tour-style’ of learning as seen in museums. This is a relatively passive activity. They expect a modicum of exploration (a chance to practice and converse, socializing) and then they expect to produce a lesson based on the content.

What do children expect from a classroom? I think perhaps they expect exactly the same thing. They expect an organized, guided introduction to knowledge, a time to socialize and play with concepts and then to apply the knowledge to their seatwork in hopes of attaining good grades. Hmmm, I’m very interested in ways to give students more of a responsibility for their own learning. If I expect them to rely on me for what they know, or even on their parents then they will not have the skills to make new discoveries. What are the ways teachers turn on and turn over the learning to the students? How do teachers create the sense that anything is possible? How do we celebrate a students joy in even the smallest discoveries?

Can learning develop naturally in a contrived classroom setting? How can a classroom become an Exploratorium? Is there a way to blend more opportunities for authentic discoveries to develop among students? My favorite teacher was Miss Papora, my 7th grade science teacher. When I think about why I enjoyed her class so much, it was the excitement of making discoveries. I had the sense that every time I entered her classroom I would be given the task of making a discovery, with a lab partner and I couldn’t wait. We were on a journey of discovery.

This is exactly the feeling I get when I go onto the internet in search of new ideas, materials, and tools for teaching and learning. People ask me why am I so motivated to learn all these things on my own. Why when I don’t get any PLUs (credits) do I spend time discovering new ways of doing things? The answer is simple. I don’t want to be hindered by anyone else in my personal discovery process. I don’t want to wait for a certain date and time or for someone to tell me what to do. I do want to be given clues, encouragement and take the time to share what I’ve learned with others who are following their own paths on my own time. I love the process of discovery and it frustrates me that I still haven’t found a way to truly incorporate this process into my students’ learning. Discovery is messy, a bit chaotic and unpredictable. It can be time consuming. My mission is to add the element of discovery into each new day for my students. I am on an endless quest for new ideas. Fortunately, the world is full of them!


uStreaming, Listening and Blogging

January 25, 2008

Alan Taylor is now talking about Moodle. I have been trying to uStream when possible but I have some technical limitations. I think I’ll take a photo of my set up and you will understand. Alan seems to be very knowledgeable about the Moodle but he actually likes LoTi as an assessment of teacher tech skills. Personally I haven’t found it to be very accurate. People either over state or understate their abilities. He is giving some excellent reading resources materials which are listed on his website.

Prior to this I was a in a Discovery Ed session with Hall Davidson. (Link contains his ppt which is a large file)He wants teachers to create 2-5 second sound bytes of critical info so that like commercials, if played frequently the students will retain the information. He thinks multi-media is the key to retention and keeping students engaged.

Yesterday, the e-mission group staged a mission to evacuate Montserrat. It was a wonderful simulation using teams, roles, communications, math, LA skills. I don’t know how much it costs but at first glance it’s just a wonderful program for 3rd grade and up. They offer a variety of modules.

Six rows of separation!

January 23, 2008

I was very inspired by the welcoming address this evening. Discovery TV star, Jeff Corwin poured out heart and soul from the stage. He described the movement he became a naturalist at age six bonding with a small garter snake in his grandparents backyard outside Boston. Later when he was just beginning to create projects for Discovery, he bonded with a baby elephant in an elephant orphanage and he relived the feeling of connection he made spending the night with the baby elephant and years later experiencing a similar connection with his 2 year old daughter as he comforted her after a bad dream. He conveyed a deep abiding passion for ecology, and conservation in hopes of making the world a better place for all of our children. He was in constant motion across the stage, animated, humorous and serious but always sure of his purpose. I was touched by his ability to paint pictures with words and stories. My hat is off to Jeff. Reading the Lorax to my students will have an even deeper meaning for me after his story about a seemingly ordinary bird, the very last of it’s kind on earth. It brought home the plight of extinction and the need to pay attention to these critical signs and how they will impact the future.