Friday, October 15, 2010

Micromanaging Outcomes

One thing I've been grappling with is how much to scaffold, model, instruct for my students.  I'm beginning to wonder...do we overdo it?  I'm a constructivist at heart.  Some may say that constructivism is only about having parameters for which children construct their own meaning.  They say that you should have a clear measurable goal in mind & scaffold their experiences so that they meet the desired outcome.  There are others who believe that if they wonder, they will construct it.  I am of the latter, but understand that I work in a professional institution that demands the former.  Yet, after watching this TED video, I am forced to reflect on constructivism & how it is applied in classrooms.

After watching, I reflected back on what my own students have done this year & in previous school years.  Now, while they may not be teaching themselves or each other biochemistry, they are able to teach themselves & each other quite a bit with limited instruction from me.  Most of the time, they just need me to show them how to turn on the computer or how to access something.  After that they can work it out on their own.  Last year my students created Power Points, websites, & glogs.   I showed them how to copy/paste, drag & drop.  From there, they came up with ideas of how to present their work, played, & figured it out.  As they shared their works in progress, they became curious about how to put in a video, set up columns, resize, link & then gave each other quick tutorials.  This year, my students have figured out quite a bit on their own, much which they are teaching me!  Connecting to another wireless network when theirs isn't working, using the Nook, mastering blabberize, Google Apps tricks, & Weebly tricks.  

Did I plan for them to learn all this?  Yes & no.  I didn't expect for the wireless to be glitchy.  I knew I wanted them to use the Nook, but I was bored by it & just could not force myself to learn all of its capabilities.  I knew I wanted them to use weebly, but have not needed to try out every new feature.  So, how do they learn?  Simply.  They see something, wonder how it works / what it does, play with it, & figure it out.  Then, they get so excited by what they've just done (turning a picture upside down, embedding a picture/video) that they show their friends who show their friends & so on.  Or, something goes wrong (like when they were using blabberize & the mouth wasn't working quite right) & they keep trying until they figure it out.  Then, when their friend comes across the same problem they show them how to fix it.  Imagine, kids actually creating "how to" manuals for each other without being asked to do it!

Yes, we should know what we teach.  Yes, we should have goals in mind for our students.  But...we have to also have faith in children.  We have to remember that they enter school with something special: insatiable curiositiy.  It IS our job to provide opportunities that will tap into this, but we don't have to over-teach to get them there.  We don't need to enable them; spoon-feed them to get there.  So, after watching Sugata Mitra's experiment I wondered...do we REALLY need to micromanage our students' learning?  I'm thinking (& re-thinking)...