Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Key - The Opportunity

How inspiring could something this simple be?
Based on yesterday's post, a coworker who wishes to remain anonymous emailed an anecdote to me. His Chemistry teacher used Hypercard or something similar to as a tool for the students to create a lesson of their choice, including using graphics and sounds. My coworker stayed after school to create a few more, motivated by the opportunity. This fellow is now the finest Flash designer I have ever worked with, and his skills go well beyond Flash!

There is much to be learned from this short story. In keeping with this group of posts, the teacher created an environement of doing. The doing involved practice, and feedback. I am sure that failure WAS an option, and in fact encouraged. Ultimately, both excitement and mastery were the result!

We see common elements in seeking mastery in a setting where students are doing. They are outlined above and can be concisely fingered: practice, opportunities to risk and fail, feedback, and challenge at the right level. With hands on labs, we have both the best of challenge and a risk of failure, but this mode has inherent limitations. Practice and feedback are daunting components of this important feedback loop!

Consider that most labs are not done but a singular student, but by pairs, or larger groups. Pair interaction has significant value, but you can imagine and have probably experienced that being one of four students in a lab, it is easy to "go with the flow" and allow others to do the work. Not a great setting for YOU to practice or learn what is really happening!

Also consider that lab chemicals and other materials are sometimes used up. There are limits to lab budgets, and replacing materials can be expensive. There is a practical limit to how many times a lab or other activity involving consumables may be done.

Other limitations exist as well. In my next post, we will begin to discuss some solutions to these limitations. In the mean time, what limitations do you feel are important that have not been mentioned here? There are so many settings for learning today, and I have discuused only the traditional brick and mortar classroom - in other settings what are the challenges and limitations?

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