Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Real Learning

"(Real learning) does not look like 6-year-olds slumped in chairs . . . staring at iPads . . ." ~parent's testimony before Cambridge School board

This is the problem with letting dilettantes, even well-intended dilettantes, lead when it comes to education policy. They don't have the experience to recognize what real learning looks like, and since they tend to come from the world of business, they don't trust mere "employees" (teachers), especially if they belong to a union, so they come up with arbitrary data points that carry with them a hint of education-ness, then subject children to their amateur hour. I don't think that most of them want to be cruel to children and their parents, but in their ignorance they believe they know better because they've managed to make money off selling software or hardware or something, so they conjure up education-ish sounding ideas and, because they can, they impose them, despite the objections of those of us who do have the experience to know what real learning looks like.

Anyone who has spent any time in a classroom knows that real learning does not look like children slumped in chairs staring at iPads. Real learning looks like stepping in a puddle you've made with your friends, then sinking in until the water tops your boots.

Real learning looks like pouring water through systems of funnels and tubes.

Real learning looks like mixing a whole lot of stuff together with your friends to see what happens.

Real learning looks like negotiating how to share scarce and valuable resources.

Real learning looks like children imitating one another . . .

. . .  then taking it to the next level.

Real learning looks like testing our physical limits.

Real learning looks like performing experiments.

Real learning looks like trying on costumes.

Real learning looks like princesses and fairies.

Real learning looks like figuring out how to make something new from unfamiliar materials.

Real learning looks like conflict and resolution.

Real learning looks like hanging out with a friend and talking about the world.

Real learning looks like engagement in a process one has never tried before.

Real learning looks like children cleaning up after themselves.

Real learning looks like children doing things for themselves.

Real learning looks like preschoolers in a brewery carrying kegs.

Real learning looks like children playing in a concrete pond in the rain.

Real learning looks like animals lined up in a row.

Real learning looks like patterns made from goldfish.

Real learning looks like keeping track of important things like how many bowling pins you've knocked down.

Real learning looks like hands covered in purple paint.

Real learning looks like standing in play dough with your friends.

Real learning looks like creating great beauty with your friends.

Real learning looks like doing any project with your friends.

Real learning looks like being together, doing things together, figuring things out together.

Real learning looks like children carving out their own space in the world.

Real learning looks like children following their own path.

This list only scratches the surface of what real learning looks like. I've been teaching at Woodland Park for 15 years. It would take at least that long to give you my full list. But I assure you, one thing that real learning doesn't look like is children slumped in chairs staring at iPads.

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Anonymous said...

I wish we had a school like this where we live. I would guess you get that a lot. Sigh.

Greg said...

Thank you for sharing all of the wonderful real learning at your school. The children look to be having a great time and very engaged in their work.

Anonymous said...

WOW! Perfect timing, Teacher Tom! I tagged this blog entry to this FB post on my FCC page, as well as 3 local community pages. Thanks for all you do! You have many times put wind back in my sails. ;)
'We do lots of 'real learning' here at Beth's House.
There is lots of 'real learning' in many preschools.
And even many after school programs at your local public school has lots of 'real learning'.
Sadly, in today's world, you parents of the young children have a war on your hands. You will be told by 'experts' that your child(ren) are at risk for 'falling behind'. You will be told, and will be peer-pressured into believing many lies about the risk of letting your child 'just play'. You will be told that your child needs to be reading by age 4/5, will be told your child needs to be memorizing and calculating number tasks by age 5/6, will be told that your child needs to be tested in Pre-K and all through their early childhood years...
I plead with you, for the sake of your child(ren)'s development and well-being; PLEASE educate yourself on what 'real learning' REALLY is... listen to child development research that has proven, over hundreds of years, what 'real learning' really looks like.
I'll be the one standing right next to you, along with Teacher Tom and many others...

Helen Knaggs said...

Thank you... Real open ended learning . I love that there is no fake grass and no manicured gardens.

Helen Knaggs said...

Thank you... Real open ended learning. I love that I see no fake grass and no manicured garden ... It is truly child friendly and often drives the landscaping gurus to despair.

greyhoundgirl said...

This is the crux of learning and what every child needs and deserves. I live and work in Cambridge. We held onto play and authentic assessment far longer than many cities--it's sad that we are embracing the tide of over-testing now. It's great that parents and teachers are speaking out.

Unknown said...

And where/how do I learn how to make real learning happen? I want to be a real teacher, but I'm not even a "fake one", and I don't see any real learning happening around me. I'm in a rut of not wanting to do things the "normal" way, not knowing how to do it the real way (or what is needed) and not even knowing how it would look like for kindergarteners and beyond. How do they learn, for example, to read the real way?
Sofia Ruiz

Sadie said...

Sofia, have a look at the resources of the New Zealand Playcentre Association. Only here in NZ, unfortunately, although now reaching into Japan. Playcentre is a family cooperative early childhood service where parents work together to "teach" the kids...although we wouldn't call it teaching as it is child-led learning. The children will teach themselves -- adults just need to facilitate and extend activities where appropriate. I see the website http://www.playcentre.org.nz/ is not fully functional right now, but they have a range of books for sake about this approach which may help you. Perhaps you could contact them for a booklist. :-)

Unknown said...

Yes,yes,yes. Real learning is open ended experiences with children engaged in their own learning. Wonderful photos which clearly demonstrate this.